Summer Olympics facing extreme temperatures. Scientists and athletes warn

Letnie igrzyska olimpijskie

Eleven former Olympians, in collaboration with physiology and climatology experts, have prepared a disturbing report on the risks of July’s competition in Paris. According to them, this year’s summer Olympics will be dominated by steadily rising air temperatures, and they point to changes that will protect athletes from a bleak scenario.

Warning a month before the Olympics

The publication was published under the subversive title Rings of Fire (from Rings of Fire), which refers to the most recognizable symbol of the five Olympic circles. In a foreword, Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and two-time Olympic champion, warns that the Paris Summer Olympics will be marked not only by sports records, but also by weather records. Coe recalls that 2023 was the hottest year on record, and the beginning of this year heralds further warming.

The report reminds us that the Tokyo Summer Olympics have already given us a foretaste of the problems associated with global temperature rise. Thermometers in Japan indicated 34°C at 70 percent. moisture, and athletes fainted from exhaustion and returned at the finish line. Tennis player Daniel Medvedev, who loudly expressed his fear of dying from overheating on a hot court, has made history.

Meanwhile, during the heat wave that swept through France in 2003, more than 14,000 people died – the temperature in Paris reached 39.5°C at the time. In 2019. The record was already 42.6°C. Last year, more than 5,000 were recorded in France. victims of the hot summer. And this year’s Olympics are scheduled for July 26 to August 11 – historically the hottest period. The problem is not only hot days, but also tropical nights when the temperature does not drop below 20°C. In the period from 1924 to 1933. recorded a total of four in Paris, in the last decade (2014-2023) as many as 84.

How does the heat affect athletes?

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth contributed to the report, focusing on the physiological context of climate change. They pointed out that when the ambient temperature is high, the body has trouble giving off the heat generated during exercise, which translates into serious health risks. The congestion of the skin and the rate of sweating are increased, and in the long term, circulatory and muscle dysfunction, dehydration and mental confusion can occur. In drastic cases, heat stroke develops, which is an immediate threat to life.

The Summer Olympics are particularly dangerous for Paralympic athletes, whose health problems can further impede thermoregulation. In addition, tennis, long-distance swimming, rowing, athletics, field field hockey, soccer, rugby and triathlon are identified as high-risk sports that involve prolonged, intense exertion under sweltering skies. Swimmers may be concerned not only about excessively high water temperatures, but also about the associated risk of pathogen development. And let’s recall that the safety of swimming in the Seine has been discussed for months.

Can the Summer Olympics be saved?

The report’s conclusions make a number of suggestions for improving competitive conditions. According to the authors, first of all, it is necessary to consider:

  • changing the time schedule to avoid competing in the highest heat;
  • Increasing the frequency of drinking breaks;
  • Installation of sun guards for athletes and spectators where possible;
  • Opening a dialogue with athletes, who should have the right to express their concerns about the effects of high temperatures on health and performance.

In addition, the Summer Olympics should be an opportunity and a pretext to establish broad cooperation between athletes and associations for the fight against climate change. There is no doubt that we can blame the burning of fossil fuels and related greenhouse gas emissions for the increasingly hot summers. It is therefore in the interest of the sports world to reevaluate sponsorship agreements with companies that do not care about carbon footprint.

Recall that the next Summer Olympics are scheduled to be held in the United States and Australia. South Korea, Egypt, Qatar with Saudi Arabia, India, Turkey and Indonesia are already competing to host the next ones. In each of these countries, the heat is already threatening human health and life, and all indications are that 2036 will bring a further increase in global temperatures. Is the future of the Summer Olympics in jeopardy?

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