Athletes to undergo clinical trials as air quality pilot programme rolls out to all World Athletics series events
Athletes competing at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi this July will undergo clinical checks to see if air quality is impeding their health and performance.
The project is part of the federation’s wider pilot programme, which aims to measure air quality at sporting venues around the world and analyse athletic performance.
Nairobi 2020 will be the first global track and field championships in which air quality will be measured in this way. An air quality monitor developed by World Athletics partner Kunak has recently been installed in the Kasarani Stadium, located in the Kenyan capital.
Stéphane Bermon, director of the World Athletics health & science department, said the federation – formerly known as the IAAF – wanted to “draw the attention” of member federations and competition organisers to the importance of air quality for people who exercise, whether they are elite or recreational.
“We want to fine-tune our air quality network prior to and during World Athletics Series events,” he added. “In Nairobi, we’ll replicate the study we conducted in Yokohama correlating air quality, performance and respiratory symptoms.”
An air quality monitor was integrated in Yokohama ahead of the 2019 World Relays (main image), with data collected. This data has catalysed a peer-reviewed scientific publication about air quality and sports.
From now on, air quality will be monitored at all World Athletics series events, including the Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia and the Race Walking Team Championships in Minsk.
A Kunak device is also being installed in Oregon ahead of next year’s World Athletics Championships.
As well as researching the correlation between air quality and athlete performance, the data collected will help event organisers design safer timetables for athletes.
Both Lt General Jackson Tuwei, the Athletics Kenya president and chairman of the Championships, and Michael Rabar, the chief executive of the Championships, said they were “delighted” to be involved in the project.
Tuwei said the equipment would help the city of Nairobi and wider Kenyan government get “involved in environmental issues”, while Rabar added that clean air would be “part of the event legacy”.
In addition, World Athletics is developing a “customised service” for organisers of road races so that they can use portable air quality devices during competitions.