Australian athletes can go home if they don't like the smog

Nick Friedell

When you type "Beijing Olympics" into any search engine, a story about the smog in China inevitably comes up. The air is bad. In fact, it's been bad for a while. This is not a new development.

What is new, is that the Australian Olympic Committee has told its athletes they can pull out of events, if they don't feel like competing in the smog.

"If they don't want to compete that is fine. They will be under absolutely no pressure to compete if they feel uneasy or don't want to compete -- we won't be demanding that they still compete."

The AOC has its athletes' best interests at heart here, but I still can't understand why they decided to make this proclamation. Does anybody really think that an athlete would train all their lives for the chance to compete in the Olympics, and then walk away from it all a few days before the Games because of smog concerns?

To me, this smells like a bit of a publicity stunt by the AOC. Nobody can believe that the smog in China is still as bad as it is, but the Australians decided to make their feelings public, by offering athletes this option. Peter Montgomery, the AOC vice president even admitted that the chances of an athlete actually taking them up on this offer are slim.

"It will be extremely unlikely that an athlete won't want to compete. Most of the athletes have been training for 10 years for this moment."

Exactly, Peter. So, why make the announcement at all?