According to an alarming study, fewer and fewer traditional winter sports regions would be able to host a Olympic winter games in a warmer world.
“The cultural legacy of the world’s celebration of winter sport is increasingly at risk,” said professor Daniel Scott, a Canada Research Chair in global tourism at University of Waterloo, Canada.
The study finds that internationally renowned Olympic sites, such as Squaw Valley (US), Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Germany), Vancouver (Canada) and Sochi (Russia) would no longer have climates suitable to reliably host the games by the middle of the 21st century.
With additional warming projected for later decades of this century, as few as six former host locations would remain climatically suitable.
“This report clearly points out the challenges that lie ahead for the Olympics because of climate change,” said Chris Steinkamp, executive director of Protect Our Winters, a non-profit organisation.
“This would serve as a wake-up call to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and world leaders that major commitments to carbon reductions need to be made,” the researchers said.
The average February daytime temperature of winter games locations has steadily increased – from 0.4 degrees Celsius at games held in the 1920-50s, to 3.1 degrees Celsius in games during the 1960-90s and 7.8 degrees Celsius in games held in the 21st century.
“It would be difficult to successfully organise games on natural ice and snow,” said Robert Steiger of the Management Center Innsbruck, Austria.
Weather affects the ability to prepare for the games and can directly impact outdoor opening and closing ceremonies, fairness of outdoor competitions, spectator comfort, transportation and visibility and timing of television broadcasts, added the study.
“Despite technological advances, there are limits to what current weather risk management strategies can cope with,” warned professor Scott.
The study reveals that for some cities and regions interested in hosting a future winter Olympics, the time to bid for the games might be sooner than later.