British team dismiss smog fears

Beijing's notorious pollution is not having a serious impact on athletes, according to British Olympic chiefs.

The Chinese capital was swathed in fog today after a spell of four clear days but no British competitors have felt the need to resort to wearing face masks which will be made available on request.

Instead the heat - routinely over 35 degrees - and humidity looks to be the more important factors.

Simon Clegg, the British Olympic Association's chef de mission, said: "It's not a concern to us. The expert advice that we are getting is that the situation continues to improve and the measures [shutting factories and limiting traffic] they put in place are still having a positive effect.

"We have had three or four days of outstanding blue-sky weather, and we do not think it is going to be an issue.

"No athletes here have been using face masks."

Clegg said the quality of the facilities in the Olympic Village surpassed anything from past Games.

He added: "There's a really positive atmosphere in the team, people are really excited. They have trained for their whole lives for this moment, and they are like coiled springs waiting to explode.

"The Village is fantastic, absolutely unbelievable - athletes have never had such good conditions as they have here in Beijing."

Ben Hawes, captain of the British men's hockey team, confirmed the smog had had no apparent effect during training today.

He said: "The smog did not seem to affect us when we trained this morning. We have no issues with that - it's mainly the heat and humidity.

"We have been training in Macau for a couple of weeks where it was hotter and more humid so hopefully by the time it comes to the matches we will be used to it.

"It has been 43 degrees (Celsius) pitchside which has been pretty tough but it gets easier every day. You can never cool down due to the humidity so we are using every technique we can to cool players when they come off the pitch, even ice blankets."

The British men famously won gold in 1988 - famous thanks to Barry Davies' unforgettable 'Where were the Germans... and frankly who cares' commentary - but the sport in Britain went backwards during the 1990s and early years of this decade.

Hawes insists that the situation has now changed again for the better.

He added: "Hockey in Britain has changed a lot but we are on an upward spiral now. We have beaten teams consistently that are ranked around us, it's just bridging that gap with the top four.

"We came ninth in Athens in 2004 which was pretty disappointing, so realistically we are aiming for top six this time - and hoping we can go beyond that."