US Athletes Weigh Wearing Masks in Beijing

Specially designed masks would blunt smog—and irk hosts
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2008 11:34 AM CDT
China's National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, is seen a month before the opening of the Olympic Games, in Beijing Tuesday July 8, 2008.    (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
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(Newser) – To protect its athletes from Beijing’s polluted air, the US Olympic Committee has secretly developed a mask for them to wear during next month’s Games, the Wall Street Journal reports. But if the 600-plus American Olympians decide to wear the high-tech filter, they risk insulting their Chinese hosts—not to mention looking like geeks.

“I probably will want to wear it,” says triathlete Jarrod Shoemaker. “Whether I will be allowed to is a different issue.” Adds a team official of the cultural ramifications, “When you're walking around with a mask on, you're basically saying, ‘You guys stink.’” Some point out that all athletes face the same air-quality issues; the top Olympics official, meanwhile, says masks will be “totally useless.”