U.S. Athletes Given Secret Beijing Pollution Masks

There’s a reason that whenever you see photos of the Chinese masses heading through the city, every single one of them is wearing a medical mask: The air quality there sucks.

Beijing masses in masks

Which is why it’s not surprising that the U.S. Olympic Committee is apparently developing a high-tech mask in secrecy to be used during the Beijing Olympics. The WALL STREET JOURNAL has the specifics after the jump.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL reports:

U.S. triathlete Jarrod Shoemaker has a decision to make at the opening ceremony of the Olympics next month in Beijing: Should he strap on a mask?

Chinese officials insist the notorious Beijing air will be cleaner by August, making such contraptions unnecessary. Concerned about the pollution, the U.S. Olympic Committee is distributing a high-tech mask, developed in secrecy, to its more than 600 Olympians. If athletes deploy it, they risk insulting the hosts. Then there’s the geek factor.

“I probably will want to wear it,” says the 26-year-old Mr. Shoemaker, who plans to have his mask on nearly all the time he’s in Beijing when not competing. “Whether I will be allowed to is a different issue.”

Later on in the story Shoemaker admits that a few of his competitors have already started teasing him about wearing the mask, saying he looks ridiculous in it. Luckily for Shoemaker, by the time the Olympics begin, most of those mocking him will have already died of exploding lungs.