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Women boxers battle smog ahead of Delhi worlds

WOMEN boxers training for a world championship starting in the Indian capital this week are wearing surgical masks, scarves and even T-shirts across their mouths as the level of air pollution rises several times beyond the safe limit.

The AIBA women’s world boxing championships is taking place in an indoor stadium in New Delhi from tomorrow through to November 24 but teams are complaining about a toxic smog hanging over the city, caused by seasonal burning of crop stubble and emissions from vehicles and industry.

The weather, with no wind to blow the pollution away, has aggravated the problem in one of the world’s most polluted cities.

“My family is worried. We know it is not good for our body,” said 27-year-old Bulgarian Stanimira Petrova, a gold medalist in the bantamweight category at the championships in 2014.

“It’s difficult. I wear a scarf but I have to get accustomed.”

Yesterday, the level of deadly particulate matter PM2.5 that lodges deep in the lungs was at 407, about eight times the safe limit, according to a reading by the pollution control board.

Authorities have banned the entry of heavy vehicles into the city and ordered construction work to stop and sprinklers to keep down the dust. But the air quality remains severe.

Seven European boxers, who spoke to media, complained that the air left a bad taste and irritated their eyes.

Their coaches said they were advised about the poor air but organizers had not given them any protective gear.

Ajay Singh, Boxing Federation of India president, said Delhi’s air quality was improving as the effects of last week’s Hindu festival of Diwali — when tens of thousands of firecrackers are let off, clogging the air with smoke — were wearing off. “I’m confident there will not be any problems faced by the boxers especially with the championship being held indoors. We have all the necessary standards maintained and precautions taken.”

French coach Anthony Veniant said he had asked for the tournament to be moved out of Delhi but his request was turned down.

Teams have been hard at training this week.

Daniel Nash, the coach for the Swedish team, said pollution was a problem, but he had asked the boxers to focus on the competition.
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