Smog fails to mask optimism of Team GB

As some of America's cyclists arrived here yesterday in black respiratory face masks because of concerns about pollution, the performance director of British cycling – likely to provide more gold medals than any other sport for Team GB here – said the smog will "have an impact" on his athletes' ability to compete at their best level.

"It's undeniably going to have an impact, but it's there for everyone to deal with," said Dave Brailsford. "It's been part of our forward planning. Some people are more susceptible than others. We've done tests on all the athletes. It will play a part but I don't think it will be decisive."

The positivity in that conclusion was echoed by the International Olympic Committee's chief medical official, Arne Ljungqvist, who said the Committee is evaluating the city's air quality based on standards set by the World Health Organisation.

"Those standards are fairly tough to meet, but in many respects the Beijing area does so," said Ljungqvist. "I'm confident the air quality will not prove to pose major problems to the athletes and to the visitors in Beijing."

The air quality improved here yesterday on a bright if hazy day when a light wind seemed to help disperse the smog.

The US cyclists who arrived in masks comprised about half a dozen members of their team, male and female. One was identified as Mike Friedman, a track cyclist who competes indoors.

"I suspect it was their choice, you would have to talk to them as to what prompted them to do this," said Darryl Seibel, the chief communications officer of the US Olympic Committee. "I will say this: I am not a scientist, but in my view that was unnecessary," he added.

"I don't believe there was any statement trying to be made," said Andrea Smith, spokeswoman for USA cycling.

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