The World Athletics U20 Championships Nairobi 2020 will be the first global track and field championships where air quality will be measured and analysed.
As part of World Athletics’ continued pilot programme to measure air quality at sporting venues around the world, a Kunak air quality monitor was recently installed at the Kenyan capital’s Kasarani Stadium, the venue for this year’s World U20 Championships.
With the support of the local organising committee, World Athletics’ health and science department will measure both clinical and environmental data. The Kenya Urban Road Authority and Nairobi City Council have also shown interest in how the data is collected and analysed.
“We are happy that World Athletics has installed the air quality monitor in Nairobi,” said Lt General Jackson Tuwei, Athletics Kenya President and Chairman of the World U20 Championships organising committee. “The equipment will not only help in the area of sports, but also the city of Nairobi and other Government of Kenya agencies involved in environmental issues.”
“We are delighted that World Athletics has installed the first air-quality equipment in a sports facility in Kenya,” added Michael Rabar, CEO of the World U20 Championships Nairobi 2020. “The equipment will help measure and enable assessment of the air quality and be able to determine the effects on the residents of the city of Nairobi. It will be a great study to help sensitise all parties on the importance of clean air and be part of the event legacy.”
It is the second air quality monitor installed in Africa by World Athletics, following the installation of a monitor in Addis Ababa at the end of 2018.
“Our pilot programme was mostly a feasibility study to better understand the possible challenges of installing and maintaining high-end air quality devices in remote places and countries,” said World Athletics Health & Science Department Director Stéphane Bermon. “We are also keen to draw the attention of some of our member federations and competition organisers on the growing importance of air quality for people who exercise, both mass and elite.
“In addition, we want to fine-tune our air quality network prior to and during World Athletics Series events,” added Bermon. “In Nairobi we’ll replicate the study we conducted in Yokohama correlating air quality, performance and respiratory symptoms.”
An air quality monitor was installed in Yokohama ahead of last year’s World Relays. The data collected from there has recently led to a peer-reviewed scientific publication.
Air quality will be monitored at all future World Athletics Series events, including this year’s World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia and the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Minsk. A device will also soon be installed in Oregon ahead of next year’s World Athletics Championships.
The data collection and analysis will help event organisers to design safer timetables, while also providing insights to the ongoing research into the correlation between air quality and the performance of athletes.
World Athletics is also developing a customised service for organisers of road races, offering a portable air quality device that can be installed a couple of days before the race or fitted to a bike or electric car. The set-up enables World Athletics to produce an air quality map with high temporal and spatial resolution while also providing race organisers with advice and recommendations on how to mitigate the air pollution risks.