Delegates at the on-going World Conference on Sports and the Environment in smog-bound Beijing said yesterday it was 'unfair' to let athletes compete in such a dangerous environment. With the nearby Bird's Nest stadium and showcase venue for the Olympic Games almost invisible in the toxic gloom, the noxious air proved to be a poignant backdrop to the three-day conference discussing the impact of sport on the environment. Moreover, it made the UN report released this week praising Beijing for its Olympic green initiatives - and similar back-slapping from the visiting International Olympic Committee - appear feeble. 'If I were a long-distance runner, I would choose not to participate in the race [in the present conditions]. It's unfair for marathon runners to race in these kinds of conditions,' said Brian Henry Parker, the chairman of the International Orienteering Federation environment commission. 'We do acknowledge the progress Beijing has made. But it seems it started [the clean up campaign] too late. With less than a year to go before the games open, it's difficult to see how they are going to sort the pollution,' said another delegate from an east European national Olympic committee. Beijing has repeatedly promised to take action to clean the air by next August.