Never mind that even the natives wear face masks to protect themselves from air pollution. When American Olympic track cyclists arrived in Beijing wearing face masks, it caused an uproar.
The masks were developed by the US Olympic Committee and issued to athletes specifically to protect their lungs. US Olympic officials in Beijing, however, criticized the public wearing of these masks. The track cyclists -- Mike Friedman, Sarah Hammer, Bobby Lea and Jennie Reed -- were just caught saying "Huh? We're just here to race" and issued a public apology.
“This is really a surprise, because I didn’t think it was going to be such a big deal,” Friedman said. “Why we wore the masks is simple: pollution. When you train your whole life for something, dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s, why wouldn’t you be better safe than sorry?”
Olympic officials were unhappy with their carefulness and were worried that these masks might embarrass China.
“They told us that the Chinese were mad and that this is a politically charged issue, but we didn’t mean to offend anybody,” Friedman said. “When they handed us these masks, they never said, ‘Here they are, but don’t wear them.’ ”
Lea said, “It’s disappointing, because I was under the assumption that the mask was approved for use because it was issued by the U.S.O.C.”
See also Boulder Report: (Cough) Countdown to (cough) Olympics. Joe Lindsey obviously doesn't seem too concerned about offending the Chinese.
Props to Lego Andy.