The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has fitted its latest air quality monitor at Sydney Olympic Park Athletics Centre as it continues its drive to measure air quality at a host of stadia around the world.

It marks the third such monitor to be installed at athletics venues after devices were last year fitted at Addis Ababa Stadium in Ethiopia and Monaco’s Stade Louis II. It also marks the IAAF’s first air quality monitor in the southern hemisphere.

The monitors form part of a pilot programme to measure air quality at stadiums around the world. It has been launched as part of the IAAF’s five-year partnership with UN Environment, which is designed to create awareness of, and promote action against, air pollution.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe said: “We are all advocating and promoting more active lifestyles across the age spectrum and in all communities in order to fight the increasing sedentary lifestyles which in themselves cause heart disease, diabetes and other prolonged medical illnesses.

“But with over half the world’s population living in urban areas in 2015 and rising to a predicted 60 per cent by 2030, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) – that is double the 30 per cent of the world’s population who lived in urban areas back in 1950 – it is vital that we ensure we are not swapping one set of serious health risks for another. In the same way as the quality of water we drink is vital, it is high time that we are all equally demanding about the quality of air we breathe.”

Athletics Australia Mark Arbib added: “We are very supportive of the IAAF’s decision to make the Sydney Olympic Park Athletics Centre the third stadium around the world to receive an air quality monitor.

“Air quality is something we mostly take for granted in Australia, but air pollution has a direct impact on the health of our population and as we have seen globally, the consequences can be dire if pollution reaches high levels over prolonged periods. We welcome the leadership of Sebastian Coe and the IAAF on this important issue and urge all governments and sporting federations to keep environmental and climate challenges at the front of their minds at all times.”

The IAAF is seeking to install a clean air monitor in all 1000 of its certified tracks around the world over the next five years in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme.

“It’s a big ambition and we have started small,” added Coe. “We are installing air quality monitors in six athletics stadiums in different parts of the world – in Monaco (installed in September), Addis Ababa (November), Sydney today and Mexico City, South America and Japan being installed over the next two months. We will run this pilot for the best part of a year to understand more about the data we can collect and, in that time, we hope to conduct one or two controlled studies on athlete performance and how their performances correlate to the quality of air they are breathing.

“The sport of athletics is run through member associations based in 214 countries. We are bigger than the United Nations. We want to use our know-how, our voice and our athletes to bring this issue to the forefront of both policymakers and the public. We need to act now. We need more awareness based on solid facts, we need more education on the impact of poor air quality on our communities and our children and we need more voices to demand better policies around pollutants.”

Image: Simon_sees