International Association of Athletics Federations president Sebastian Coe says smoggy cities could be discounted as future hosts for IAAF events.
The IAAF is embarking on another mission to shed new light on the rising dangers of poor air quality in our cities.
Coe on Monday switched on a device to measure the quality of the air at the Sydney Olympic Park Athletics Centre.
He hoped the data would inspire cities to clean up their act.
Otherwise, the IAAF may have to take matters into their own hands and disqualify bidders for events such as the biennial world championships in athletics on safety grounds.
“If we’re being hard-nosed about it, I think we need to start thinking about (air quality) in terms of maybe our bidding process as well,” Coe said.
“We want to be able to drive change if cities are actually not able to bid for events because they haven’t got their air quality under control.”
The two-time Olympic gold medal-winning runner said the monitor, the first installed in the southern hemisphere as part of a pilot program, would eventually help fill a knowledge gap for athletes.
“They monitor their diets. They train in environments where they can acclimatise for heat and for cold and sometimes for altitude,” Coe said.
“But the one great variable that they have little or no control over is the quality of the air around them.
“This gives us an opportunity to allow them to make judgements about where they want to compete, where they want to train, what is safe for them, what isn’t actually going to cause them difficulties.”
The IAAF has already launched the devices in Monaco and the Ethiopian city of Addis Ababa, with the next three to go online at stadiums in South America, Mexico City and Japan over the next two months.
But there are much grander plans for the scheme long term.
“The ambition is to have an air-monitoring unit in every one of our certified tracks across the globe. I’m told that’s some 5000 tracks,” he said.
Coe said the problem has worsened since he claimed a second 1500m gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, with seven million deaths each year attributed to air quality.