It’s Becoming Too Hot for Outdoor Sports

Japan’s Yuma Hattori finishes second in the men’s race of the Marathon Grand Championship, which is also the marathon test event for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in Tokyo on Sept 15, 2019. Image: AFP


International athletic competitions are unifying events that allow nations to compete regardless of political or cultural differences and are a cornerstone of the global community. However, for competitions like the summer Olympics, climate change is becoming an undeniable issue that will force the world to reckon with our runaway greenhouse gas emissions that are causing our planet to warm at an accelerated rate. As the Straits Times reported,

Organizers of next year’s Tokyo Olympics are testing a number of measures to counter the expected scorching heat next summer when outdoor track events are held.

  • So far, at least one test has failed to protect endurance athletes from the effects of climate change, a global problem that could have even greater ramifications for future Summer Games.
  • With climate researchers warning that marathon runners in the 2020 Olympics would face unprecedented heat levels, some runners may decide to sit out the prestigious event.

What This Means for Sports: You may recall that former-Olympic champion skier, Lindsey Vonn, told us in an interview that a warming planet has made it far more difficult for alpine skiers to find locations to train and compete. This was also echoed in a recent hearing of the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis where they took testimony from winter athletes and adventurers. From the Tour de France to the World Cup, athletes around the world are ringing alarms bells and urging politicians to take action on climate change.

Why This Matters: Our planet becoming too hot for marathons, football matches, ski, and cycling races is just one way in which climate change is fundamentally altering our way of life. The impacts also extend to the economies that support sports like host cities for international competitions and the tourism industries for outdoor recreation (in the U.S. alone that industry is valued at $887 billion annually).

Go Deeper: Surfers, sailors, and divers are serving double duty as citizen scientists to help researchers gather data about the oceans. Additionally, historic footage of European cycling races has helped scientists better understand how climate change is affecting seasons in the European continent.

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