After four American track cyclists arrived at the airport in Beijing Tuesday wearing masks over their noses and mouths to protect themselves from pollution, they apologized for any offense that they might have caused the host nation China.
"We didn't realise the impact that wearing the masks would have," cyclist Bobby Lea said according to Reuters. "From our standpoint, it was to take care of a perceived health risk. In reality it came across as offensive. We don't want to insult BOCOG (Beijing Olympic Committee) or the Chinese public."
Lea was joined by fellow cyclists Mike Friedman, Sarah Hammer and Jennie Reed. Two of them wore the masks on the flight, while the other two put them on before exiting the plane.
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) had distributed the masks to the cyclists, leaving it up to them to decide if, when and where to don them.