Hong Kong (CNN) — International golfers were choking on the greens in Beijing over the weekend — but it wasn’t due to an outbreak of the yips.
Hazardous levels of pollution descended on the Chinese capital during its biggest sporting weekend of the year so far, affecting competitors and spectators alike at an LPGA golf event and the China Open tennis championship, which boasted such big names as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams.
The sight of golfers wearing surgical-style face masks at the Reignwood LPGA Classic was hardly the advertisement that the sport was seeking for the first Ladies Professional Golf Association event to be held in China. Play was delayed for several hours Sunday to attempt to give the smog time to clear, before players including Germany’s Sandra Gal and Colombia’s Mariajo Uribe took to the fairways donning masks.
Spectators at tennis’ China Open, where Djokovic triumphed in the men’s final and Williams in the women’s, were also photographed wearing protective face masks.
The pollution levels — which saw visibility drop to less than 500 meters at times, according to China’s National Meteorological Centre, and prompted the U.S. Embassy to advise its citizens to stay indoors and run air purifiers — has led to questions being raised of the viability of international sporting fixtures in the northern Chinese city, or at least their continued ability to draw big names.
Swedish doubles player Robert Lindstedt remarked about the dire conditions in his blog, labeling the air quality “a disaster” and “a joke.”
“How much of your life disappears when you spend time here?” he wrote. “Already after a few days I feel that I am not doing (too) good. I get dizzy when I get up. Yesterday I couldn’t recover between points in practice and was breathing heavily the whole hour. If you blow your nose in the evening, the paper turns black. It’s just not healthy to be here. I should probably think about that next year.”
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