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Hong Kong Athlete Dies after Running Marathon in Haze

Date: 15-Feb-06
Country: CHINA

The condition of a 33-year-old man who also collapsed during Sunday's race had improved from critical to serious, she added without giving the cause.

"One has died and the condition of the other has improved. For privacy reasons, we can't say why they collapsed," the spokesman said.

The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, which drew a record 40,000 participants, was held when the air pollution index (API) was nearly 150, the highest level since September 2005.

Many complained of the thick smog which obscured the Tsing Ma Bridge, a key landmark along the route. Twenty other runners had to be taken to hospital and over 4,800 others suffered cramps.

The organiser, the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association (HKAAA), has distanced itself from the number of athletes taken ill, saying that that level of pollution did not require it to change arrangements or issue special warnings.

However, the government said in a statement late on Monday that the Environmental Protection Department had advised people with existing heart or respiratory illnesses to reduce physical exertion and outdoor activities when the API shot up to 149 on Sunday morning.

Hong Kong's air quality has deteriorated badly in recent years. On many days of the year, the former British colony is shrouded in smog making it difficult to see across the famous Victoria Harbour.

Environmentalists blame the air pollution on emissions from vehicles in the territory and factories in southern China.

More than 4,800 participants in Sunday's marathon also suffered from cramps which some blamed on water running out even while the race was still in progress.

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Reuters
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