Smog Masks a Political Issue?

Four U.S. Olympic cyclists had to apologize to Chinese officials after wearing smog masks when they arrived in Bejing at the airport. I can see these masks as toeing the line between what athletes should be doing in Bejing, and what they shouldn’t be doing. Now, wearing masks, especially for aerobically inclined athletes, in a city that can often look like this, is understandable.

However, gratuitously wearing them at the airports, or other areas where they may not be necessary, can be viewed as a subtle political statement about the backwardness of the host nation (their inability to regulate pollution or even a response to China’s insistence on controlling the image of Beijing). Any thoughts?

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3 responses to “Smog Masks a Political Issue?

  1. polisciafterparty

    Glad you saw this story. I side with the athletes. If you gave everything over the last few years to get to this moment, the last thing you would want is your chance at a medal getting screwed up by bad air quality. As one of the athletes quoted it the Times said, it’s better to err on the side caution and make sure you dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. Sure it looks silly (and perhaps mocking) to wear them in an airport, but I’m glad our athletes put their performance before their pride.
    -The Bureaucrat

  2. polisciafterparty

    Yeah, that’s pretty much my take on it too- though with seemingly everything charged with a political undertones (I think China is the one that makes it worse with its image control- everything becomes a political issue), little things like this get my attention.

    – Legal Eagle

  3. Actually I think the athletes were wrong. Maybe because I’m not an athlete, but seriously, the air in the airports is probably fine – it’s air conditioning so it goes through many filters and whatnot. Plus, I’m sure the air in Beijing isn’t incredibly harmful every single day at all hours of the day. Like here in New York, I would venture to guess that there are days (hotter ones probably) where it is very dangerous and other days where it is breathable and within reason. Nevertheless, even if it was the worst of days, it seems unnecessary in the airport, and what it does is send a preemptively insulting message to the Chinese government and people. Imagine I came over to a party at one of your houses and insisted on wearing a mask the whole time? Even if I explained that your house was probably fine, and I was just kind of a germ freak or whatever, you’d probably still think I was kind of a jerk and making a subtle comment on your own personal hygiene/house cleanliness. Bottom line, I respect their desire to be careful with what they’ve worked so hard for, but it is also the Olympics, which in large part is about an international coming together and fostering of goodwill over sport. In the interest of improving relations between nations and people, I think they could’ve thought twice about the masks.

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