Heating up the Games: Why the British Isles could be the only viable Olympic hosts

A future Olympic venue? The Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland A future Olympic venue? The Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock
07 Sep
2016
Only four Northern hemisphere cities are likely to be cool enough to host the summer Olympic and Paralympic Games by 2100 – Belfast, Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow

Tropical Rio de Janeiro is in the middle of an Olympic-Paralympic Games festival of sport, with Tokyo primed to take over in 2020, and Paris, Los Angeles, and Budapest jostling over who gets to host the Games four years after that (Rome is also technically in the running but nobody expects its bid to survive much longer if the new mayor sticks to her election promises). But a warming climate suggests that sites for future Olympics will be significantly more restricted.

New studies conducted by an international collaboration of researchers, entitled The last Summer Olympics? Climate change, health, and work outdoors, indicates that by the latter part of this century there will be severe restrictions on which Northern hemisphere cities are cool enough in the summer to be able to host the iconic Games without athletes succumbing to such inflictions as heat exhaustion. It assumes a low-risk maximum ‘wetbulb global temperature’ (WBGT) – a combination of temperature, humidity, heat radiation and wind – in which athletes can perform of 26°C, a threshold which has already seen events called off in the past – such as the 2007 Chicago marathon – as health concerns have understandably taken precedence over sporting competition.

olympic citiesSummary of all 645 northern hemisphere cities in 2085 capable of mounting the Summer Olympics. Bar charts organise the number of cities in each region by whether their estimated summer WBGT will put them at low (~5 per cent globally), medium (~7 per cent), or high (~88 per cent) risk (Image: Smith et al.)

The researchers found that only eight Northern hemisphere cities outside of Western Europe will likely be considered low-risk enough to be suitable for hosting the Games come 2085 – San Francisco, Calgary, Vancouver, Riga in Latvia, St Petersburg and Krasnoyarsk in Russia, Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar. Neither Latin America or Africa would be capable of providing a single viable city. The study discounted cities with less than 600,000 residents (those not large enough to be able to successfully host a large international event such as the Olympic or Paralympic Games) or those over a mile high in altitude.

Even more alarmingly, by 2100, the risk to hosting the Games becomes even more severe; with the prospect of the world’s elite athletes having to congregate on the British Isles every four years, as only Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin and Belfast will remain cool enough for such events to take place.

‘If you’re going to be spending billions of dollars to host an event, you’re going to want have a level of certainty that you’re not going to have to cancel it at the last minute,’ warns Kirk Smith, Director of the Global Health and Environment Program School of Public Health University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of the report. ‘Climate change is going to force us to alter our behaviour from the way things have always been done. It is a substantially changing world. If the world’s most elite athletes need to be protected from climate change, what about the rest of us?’

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Long live the King
    It is barely half a century since the Born Free story caused the world to re-evaluate humanity’s relationship with lions. A few brief decades later,...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital have a green future,...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Climate

Compared to other types of carbon sink, seagrass in Kenya…

Geophoto

Who in their right mind wants to shoot with film…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Geophoto

Calling photographers passionate about capturing and sharing great images of…

Climate

Five experts weigh-in on the future of the Paris Agreement…

Oceans

Analysis into a killer whale found dead off the shores…

Geophoto

For the past ten years, the Chartered Institution of Water…

Geophoto

Less than 4,000 tigers remain in the wild, so it…

Oceans

Zafer Kizilkaya has been awarded the 2017 Whitley Gold Award…

Wildlife

John Kahekwa is the founder and general manager of the…

Polar

Recent observations of Arctic flora and fauna indicate major changes…

Oceans

A massive die-off of Australian mangrove forests is being attributed…

Energy

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Climate

Was last year’s El Niño a practice run for future…

Wildlife

The continuing adventures of Aaron Gekoski as he joins the…

Geophoto

What do Ethiopia’s ‘church forests’, the incipient HS2 high-speed rail…

Wildlife

Aaron Gekoski continues working alongside the Wildlife Rescue Unit

Geophoto

Today, the camera is regarded as an essential smartphone feature.…

Oceans

An innovative new theory hopes to save millions of lives…

Wildlife

Aaron Gekoski continues his personal adventure into the wilds of…