Reporters on the Job

Jo Yong-Kah/Reuters
Celebration in Flowers: A man walks by giant sculptures of Roses of Sharon – the national flower of South Korea – on display in Seoul in preparation for Liberation Day (from Japan) on Aug. 15.

Eye on the Beijing Sky: Air quality was a hot topic in the lead-up to the Beijing Games, with endless commentary about whether athletes would struggle with pollution.

It is true that since staff writer Mark Sappenfield arrived to cover the Games, he really hasn't seen the sun, barring the first day, during which it shone against a bright blue sky (see story).

But, he notes, the air quality hasn't been that bad. "The athletes I've talked with have seconded that view," says Mark.

Swimmer Aaron Peirsol, for example, who is from southern California, has said at press conferences that he can feel pollution when it's around.

"But here in Beijing, Peirsoll says he really hasn't felt it," says Mark. "Still, the subject comes up at every press event, though it's starting to die off because the answer is the same every time – that it's not proving to be a real problem."

Mark says that at least one exception among athletes is cyclist Sarah Hammer, who arrived at Beijing's airport wearing a mask over her mouth. She still wears her mask at points. But, says Mark, "she's a 'leave nothing to chance' person, so that may be more of the reason why she does that. She likes to control every element."

Mark hasn't had to worry too much about the weather since he's been in indoor sports venues a lot of the time. But for someone who enjoyed the brilliant blue skies of the 2004 Athens Games, not to mention the steady temperatures, it's been an adjustment.

"Mostly, it's been overcast, humid, hot, and rainy," he says. "But today I got a reprieve. As I sat on the media bus going from my hotel to the venue, I could see the faintest hint of blue as I looked up at the sky. There were a couple of days during the first week when you couldn't see far into the distance. But by comparison, today was lovely. It was still overcast, humid, and hot, but there was some light in the sky."

– Amelia Newcomb

Deputy World editor

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