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Olympic village opens amidst doping, pollution concerns

The Olympic village in Beijing opened its doors to hundreds of athletes on Sunday, ahead of the Games which begin on August 8, with the Chinese delegation being the first team to check in to the athlete's compound. But with the build up to the Games gathering steam, concerns about the continued problem of doping as well as poor air quality hang over the Olympic village.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, interviewed in the Belgian newspaper De Standaard, said he expected 40 athletes to be caught doping during the Beijing Games. Rogge based his statements on increased doping controls, when compared with previous Olympic Games. At the Sydney Games in 2000, there were 12 positives from 2,500 tests. This year, there will be 4,500 controls performed at the Olympic Games.

As athletes arrive, concerns have been raised about air pollution in the Chinese capital, which worsened despite efforts from the government to order cars off the streets. It has spent some $17 billion to relocate coal-fired power plants and steel mills and other measures to control air quality, but smog still remains a problem. While gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrous dioxide have been reduces, the fine particulate matter in the air remains, and can cause problems for the lungs of endurance athletes such as cyclists.

Rogge said last year that some endurance events may be delayed if the air quality is poor. For the past three days, the air index in Beijing has been above 100, or "unhealthy for sensitive groups" such as children and the elderly - a common level of pollution in many large urban centers like Los Angeles.

The first cycling event will be the men's road race on August 9.

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