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Green lights for Beijing, IOC monitoring smog

BEIJING, Oct 25 (Reuters) Chief Olympic inspector Hein Verbruggen foresees no ''risks or dangers'' in the preparations for next year's Beijing Games, although the problem of air pollution was being closely monitored.

Speaking today at the end of a three-day visit by the IOC's inspection team, Verbruggen said he was confident the Games would be of the highest standard even if there was still much detailed work to be done over the remaining 288 days.

''There is nothing, and I repeat nothing, that is any risk or danger for the organisation of next year's Games,'' the Dutchman, who is chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s coordination commission, told a news conference.

''We look towards a lot of green lights as far as the preparations of these Games for next year are concerned ... our friends here (in Beijing) are doing a perfect job to make these Games a great Games.'' A report by the United Nations Environmental Programme released on Thursday said Beijing was on course to hold a Green Olympics but air quality remained a problem.

Verbruggen said it was a concern and the IOC and Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) were monitoring the situation ''from day to day''.

HEALTH ISSUE ''Let there be no misunderstanding,'' he said. ''This is a health issue, it would be almost insulting that we would not take this seriously, we remain confident that this will be addressed sufficiently.'' BOCOG executive vice president Jiang Xiaoyu said Beijing would continue its multi-billion dollar project to clean up the city's smog but had also planned some contingency measures for Games' time.

These could include taking 1.3 million cars off the city's roads, as happened during a test project in August, and tackling big polluting factories in the suburbs, he said.

''If air quality fails to meet the standards, then we will take some measures to limit their production,'' added Jiang.

''We have to analyse the test data then make proposals and submit it to relevant government departments.'' Verbruggen said there was ''not a remote chance'' that any events would be moved away from Beijing but IOC President Jacques Rogge later reiterated that some competitions might have to be rescheduled.

''Time may be running out and the conditions required for the athletes competing in endurance disciplines might not be met 100 percent on a given day,'' he told the opening ceremony of the World Sport and Environment conference in Beijing.

''For this reason, we may have to reschedule some events so that the health of athletes is scrupulously protected.'' Verbruggen said the IOC was also monitoring delays in the construction of the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) on the Olympic Green.

''The failure of one supplier delayed the construction of a wall which in turn put us behind schedule,'' Jiang said.

''But we believe the construction of the IBC will be completed by the end of the year.'' Reuters BJR DB1827

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Story first published: Thursday, October 25, 2007, 19:09 [IST]
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