Changing China

Giant on the move

A smoke-free Games? Not for all the athletes

August 6, 2008

Smoking BeijingEarly to rise, early to bed, and lots of exercise in between: athletes are supposed to be models of clean living, right? But some Olympians have a more healthy lifestyle than others.

For Italian weightlifter Giorgio de Luca, for example, doping is out of the question but coffee, cigarettes, and the occasional drink are all fine.

“We’re aiming for a clean sport,” the 24-year-old from Palermo said, puffing a cigarette outside the Olympic gym in Beijing, watched by his coach.

Several coaches and weightlifters huddled around the ashtrays in front of the gym on Tuesday — a picture that is unlikely to please their Olympic hosts. Beijing has promised to do its utmost to ensure clean air for the Games, and that means smog-free and smoke-free.

Smoking is banned at Olympic venues, and a 100,000-strong puff police is supposed to enforce the rule.

Not that anyone told the smokers at the gym to stub it out. The volunteers at the venue were happily handing out water, taking pictures and chatting with the smokers. Apparently, “smoking ban” is just as ambiguous a phrase as “clean living”.

PHOTO: A man smokes a cigarette as he walks past a billboard advertising the Olympics in central Beijing July 14, 2008. REUTERS/David Gray


Johan Cruyff used to smoke, as did a lot of other footballers. Can’t think of a lot of Olympic athletes that do, though.

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