Bad air and the 2012 Olympics

Posted on 17.01.2012

Scientists are warning that should this summer bring hazy days the air pollution will affect athletes’ lungs. This was the theme of Faisal Abdu’Allah’s Double Pendulum film as part of ‘Invisible Breath’ shown next to the Olympic Site last June.

Both athletes and visitors to the games will encounter East London’s polluted air, visitors are likely to contribute through arriving in cars and coaches and athletes are likely to have their performance affected. High level performance athletes need good air quality to race as we take more pollution into our lungs when we exercise. Also a high proportion of athletes have asthma which will be aggravated by the poor air. This issue was raised at the Beijing Olympics and the London Authorities have had four years to do something about it.

Unfortunately the reality is that a study published last autumn ranked London’s air some of the sootiest in Europe in terms of a category of “particulate matter” mostly disgorged by motor vehicles. London had the opportunity to make the capital cleaner through extending the Congestion Zone to West London but Mayor Boris Johnson rejected the extension as one of his first acts and traffic has increased.

Apparently the next 800 buses added to London’s fleet will include only 52 diesel-electric “hybrid” vehicles despite pledges that all newcomers would be hybrids by now. The extension from large lorries of the Low Emission Zone (which requires vehicles to fit filters onto their exhausts to reduce pollution) to white van size vehicles was delayed by over a year. Action is urgent as even the GLA’s own study confirms that polluted air shortens the lives of 4000 people in London each year.

View Faisal Abdu’allah’s film on the Guardian website

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