Wednesday, August 06, 2008

American Cyclists Apologize to Beijing for Wearing Black Masks

BEIJING — "A group of American cyclists has apologized to Beijing Olympic organizers after arriving in China's capital wearing face masks.

Michael Friedman, Sarah Hammer, Bobby Lea and Jennie Reed released a statement Wednesday, a day after they caused a stir by showing up in the protective gear.

"The wearing of protective masks upon our arrival into Beijing was strictly a precautionary measure we as athletes chose to take, and was in no way meant to serve as an environmental or political statement," the athletes said. "We deeply regret the nature of our choices. Our decision was not intended to insult BOCOG or countless others who have put forth a tremendous amount of effort to improve the air quality in Beijing."

The host city's air remains a concern with the start of the games approaching. Beijing has put into effect long-planned pollution-control measures, such as taking cars off the streets, and American officials are cautiously optimistic.

Jim Scherr, the U.S. Olympic Committee's chief executive officer, said his organization didn't ask the cyclists to apologize.

"I understand that about 200 of our athletes received those masks through the national governing body, not directly from the U.S. Olympic Committee," Scherr said. "Hopefully they won't have to use them."

Right. And "Hopefully", the skies will part and reveal a perfect shade of the prettiest blue ever seen, and the air will be crystal clear.


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