Herculis Monaco leads the way in air quality

Monaco not only hosted another spectacular edition of Herculis EBS IAAF Diamond League on Friday 12th July, it also – for the first time in athletics history – managed to produce an event where the stadium’s air quality took centre stage.

Photo credit: Herculis Monaco

Through a collaborative effort between the Monegasque Ministry of Environment, the Monegasque Athletics Federation (FMA), the IAAF and Stade Louis II, where air quality monitoring devices have been installed, athletes and spectators were able to view the stadium’s live air quality data delivered in real time via the meeting’s website.

The objective is to bring about greater awareness about air pollution, a silent killer that claims the lives of seven million people each year, according to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Heeding the call for urgent action, the United Nations declared air pollution as a theme for 2019 and this FMA initiative is one significant way through which athletics has become involved.

“I am very happy about this project because it is great progress for athletes’ health as well as spectators,” said meeting director Jean-Pierre Schoebel. “Air quality is something that we should all be concerned about and I hope that this project succeeds and that we will continue it next year for the 34th edition of our meet.”

An athlete running at 70% of maximal oxygen uptake for the length of a marathon (roughly three hours) inhales the same volume of air as a sedentary person would in two days.

Stade Louis II

By opting to share air quality in Stade Louis II, the FMA demonstrates its commitment for transparency in this domain, an act other meetings will be encouraged to follow.

“The activity of athletes happens mostly in the track and every stadium is different,” said Miguel Escribano, Business Development Manager at Kunak, the IAAF’s air quality monitoring device supplier.

“So, the challenge is to always be able to monitor as close as possible to the activity in real time and with enough accuracy. Although the data we obtain is not meant to be used for regulatory compliance purposes, with high accuracy, one can build indicators and insights that are useful to protect the health of general population and improve the performance of athletes. In Stade Louis II for example, with valuable information on the hourly variability of pollutants, we can identify the best and worst periods of the day for training and competition to avoid hotspots.”

An ongoing IAAF five-year study on air quality will enable its health and science department to study the correlation between air quality and athlete performance, following on from its preliminary research which found a performance reduction in highly polluted environments.