IAAF chief urges China to improve air quality amid marathon boom

Beijing, Jan 2 : IAAF president Lamine Diack has urged Chinese authorities to curb air pollution amid a boom of marathon races in the country.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Xiamen International Marathon, Diack said Thursday good air quality is of vital importance for the health of distance runners.

"Xiamen is well known for its natural environment. It is Xiamen Marathon's unique resources to step to the top-level," Diack told Xinhua.

"Not all the cities share the same good environment as Xiamen."

Official data showed that 2013 has had the most smoggy days of any year in China over the last 52 years. Since the beginning of December, at least 25 regions and provinces across the country have reported high pollution levels, particularly of PM2.5, which are tiny floating particles measuring 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter.

PM2.5 particles are especially hazardous as they can settle in the lungs and cause illnesses such as respiratory problems.

"Marathon is innocent," said Diack. "As an aerobic exercise, it has high demand for outdoor air condition.

"We believe China's government will make more efforts to control the pollution, focus on air surveillance and forecast the weather for local people. The haze should not curb the marathon race and the cities' managers should not slow down the pace to promote the sport."

Diack also expressed his surprise about Chinese cities' interest in hosting marathon races.

"It was in 1970s when I came to China for the first time. All these years passed, I'm a witness of China's development of sports, especially in city marathon," he said.

A total of 44 marathon were staged in China in 2012, up from 22 in 2011. And even more races are slated for 2014, according to the Chinese Athletics Association.

"The increase of races and participants shows that the sport has become more and more popular," Diack said.

--IANS (Posted on 02-01-2014)

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