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Olympic sailor Hannah Mills on why climate change is at the heart of Tokyo 2020

Olympic sailor Hannah Mills
Olympic sailor Hannah Mills   -   Copyright  © Nick Dempsey Photography
By Hannah Mills

Hannah Mills, MBE is a British competitive sailor and two-time world champion in the Women's 470 class, having won in 2012 and 2019. Here she explains why climate change is interlinked with the Olympic Games in Tokyo this year.

I am no stranger to hard training. I know about the discomfort, fatigue and the ups and downs ahead of the competition. But despite the mental and physical toughness I thought I had accumulated, preparing for Tokyo 2020 seems like the toughest thing I have ever done.

When the Games were postponed I had to decide, go ahead with my sporting retirement, or keep training for one more year - even as the pandemic was spreading across the globe.

I have an Olympic gold medal already, so why go through this again?

There simply is nothing like the Olympic Games.

Whether you are an adult or a child, whatever your skin colour, background or nationality, the Games provoke awe, inspiration and symbolism like no other event.

I still get goosebumps when I talk about it.

And when I speak to young people, I feel this fascination and magnetism still carries a huge power and potential to drive positive change. There is nothing else I can compare it to.

This time, the strength, resilience and endurance of the athletes stands in stark contrast with the vulnerability and fragility of humankind and our environment.

This time, the strength, resilience and endurance of the athletes stands in stark contrast with the vulnerability and fragility of humankind and our environment.

The pandemic is not over. Climate change feels more real than ever. As a sailor each time I launch a boat, I see unimaginable amounts of plastic waste in the waters. The same is happening on land. And plastic is really just one very visible and tangible example of the state of the world.

Against this backdrop, this year’s Olympics will be a celebration of the human spirit and hopefully our ability to overcome these challenges.

The Olympic platform will not only belong to hundreds of athletes and their ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ performances. It will also be an opportunity to showcase innovation, progress, solutions and give people new hope that together we can address these problems.

Recycled medals and podiums, renewable energy and low-carbon technologies. When watched by millions in every corner of the world, these symbols can have ground-breaking power.

I have finally arrived here in Japan and I feel just how different Tokyo 2020 will be from previous Games. But even if different, Tokyo 2020 (in 2021) may yet be more significant than any Games.

It’s reminding us of our strength as well as our weakness when faced with massive global challenges. But giving inspiration and hope to change.

That’s why I will compete in Tokyo. To acknowledge our weaknesses and to demonstrate our strength to overcome them. Both on and off the field.