Asia Minute: New Delhi Air Quality Disrupting Sports

Oct 24, 2018

View of West Delhi (and air pollution) in 2011.
Credit jepoirrier / Flickr

The next stop on professional golfing’s Asian tour is the Panasonic Open in India. But even before the tournament gets underway tomorrow, there is already controversy in the air.

The air quality in New Delhi is poor.

That’s not a qualitative judgement — it’s a quantitative assessment by India’s Central Pollution Control Board. That government agency measures the Air Quality Index — which started the week at the level of “very poor” in the Indian capital.

India is now entering “smog season” (the winter months) when a combination of factors come together to create the worst air pollution of the year.

Despite that, this past weekend more than 30,000 people took part in New Delhi’s annual half marathon. Organizers moved up the date of the race this year so that it would not come at the same time as Diwali – the annual Hindu Festival of Lights which is celebrated with fireworks, not exactly helping air quality.

Golfer Shiv Kapur at the European Masters in 2009.
Credit Pvt pauline / Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, India’s Supreme Court ruled that fireworks can only be set off from 8 to 10 PM on Diwali and during other festivals as well. None of that helps with the air quality later this week at the Panasonic Open at the Delhi Country Club.

Defending champion Shiv Kapur is a hometown guy — he grew up in New Delhi. He told Agence France Presse that air pollution might hurt the foreigners more than the locals — saying “I’m like a street dog . . . I’m used to every kind of . . . air quality that’s out there.”

Or as Golf Digest referred to the pollution potential in a headline this week: “it could have golfers choking on the front nine.”