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Published:August 8th, 2008 10:01 EST

American Olympic Cyclists Apologize For Wearing Face Masks

By Robert Paul Reyes

The 20th century is known as the American century , but all signs indicate that sometime in the 21st century China will eclipse the United States as the preeminent economic, cultural and military power.

China sees the Beijing Olympics as a coming out party, and they have invested billions to ensure that it`s a success.

China`s mighty economic boom has come with a hefty price tag: The worst pollution in the world. Beijing is almost always smothered with smog, but the communist government is determined that sunny and clear skies will prevail during the Olympics. To achieve that almost impossible goal they have taken the draconian measure of practically banning driving in the vicinity of Beijing.

A dictatorship can control its citizens and force them to do almost anything, but they can`t control the weather. Unless Beijing is blessed with some much needed rain and wind, smog will be a factor in the Olympics.

Beijing`s air pollution remains a major concern for the athletes and spectators with the Olympics only a couple of days away.

"A group of American cyclists are apologizing to Beijing Olympic organizers after arriving in China`s capital wearing face masks.
Jim Scherr, the U.S. Olympic Committee`s chief executive officer says the athletes regret their actions and have written an apology to BOCOG on their own behalf."

Quotation from SI.Com

The Americans have no need to apologize, they should take all practical steps to protect themselves from the pervasive smog.

The face masks are an important symbol, they speak volumes about the deficiencies of the Chinese government. In a desperate attempt to catch up and surpass the economies of the West, the Chinese have undertaken the largest building boom in history. But they have taken almost no steps to protect the environment or its population from the effects of industrialization.

I wish the American contingent in the opening ceremonies would wear face masks, as a subtle reference to the oppressed people of Tibet who don`t enjoy freedom of speech.