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World’s biggest sports events may have to be held in cooler months due to global warming

As global temperatures rise, experts are worried about the health risks facing athletes.
As global temperatures rise, experts are worried about the health risks facing athletes. Copyright canva
Copyright canva
By Charlotte Elton
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Endurance events are already punishing on athletes. What are the implications for sportspeople as global temperatures rise?

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Long distance running events may have to be “decoupled” from athletics championships due to climate change, a sporting boss has warned.

Soaring temperatures could make endurance events unsafe during summer, according to World Athletics president and former Olympian Sebastian Coe.

“The fact is we now live in a world that is changing very fast, and climate change is in so many ways impacting on things that we do,” Coe said, speaking to reporters ahead of the World Cross-Country Championships in Australia.

“I think we’re going to have to look at the calendar in a very different way in the years to come. I can’t see how any of the immediate (heat) challenges are going to be resolved in the foreseeable future.”

Will the sporting calendar change?

The Summer Olympics and World Athletic Championships are held during Europe’s warmer months.

But this is becoming more of a problem as global temperatures rise.

At the Tokyo Olympics, many competitors found the heat and humidity difficult. An archer fainted, and athletes competing in the triathlon had to be helped off the track after their races.

Tennis player Novak Djokovic described conditions as “brutal” and urged organisers to schedule matches for later in the day.

Organisers planned to combat the heat by moving races 800km north. This plan didn’t work, however, as northern Japan sweltered through a record-breaking heatwave.

Reuters
he men's The 800m final at the morning session of the Athletics test event, Tokyo Olympics.Reuters

Coe indicated that the Olympic organising committee should think about the changing global temperatures when planning events.

"Had the (2024) Paris Olympic Games been last summer or the summer before, you would have been in exactly the same situation," he said.

"So I think we are going to have to spend a great deal of time thinking about what the calendar looks like and maybe... uncoupling some of the tougher endurance events from our world championships in the summer months."

How much are global temperatures rising?

Human-induced warming reached approximately 1°C above pre-industrial levels in 2017. We could be on track for 1.5 degrees by 2024. The UN has warned that existing climate pledges provide ‘no credible pathway’ to preventing temperature rises above 1.5 degrees on pre-industrial levels.

At 1.5 degrees warming, about 14 percent of Earth's population will be exposed to severe heatwaves at least once every five years, while at 2 degrees warming that number jumps to 37 percent.

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