Holding Olympics in July will be 'nearly impossible' over extreme heat, report from athletes and scientists warns

18 June 2024, 03:28 | Updated: 18 June 2024, 05:33

Athletes and climate scientists have warned extreme heat could make it "impossible" to hold the Olympics in the summer in a matter of years.

In collaboration with scientists and heat physiologists from the University of Portsmouth, a group of Olympians has sounded the alarm about rising temperatures and how they could lead to athletes collapsing or, in the worst cases, dying.

The report, called Rings of Fire: Heat Risks at the 2024 Paris Olympics, urges the Games and other sporting bodies to take action on climate change.

One recommendation is to alter the schedule of competitions so that they take place in cooler months or cooler times of day.

For this year's Olympics in Paris, French forecaster Météo France has already predicted warmer than normal conditions and said there is a 70% chance it will be hotter than usual in July and August.

Kaitlyn Trudeau, senior research associate at Climate Central, said ahead of the report's release: "Without concerted efforts to reduce carbon emissions there's no doubt that the Earth's temperatures are on a trajectory that will make it nearly impossible, if not completely impossible, to host summer Olympics."

Paris 3.1C hotter since last hosting

In the report, climate researchers analysed the difference in temperatures from 1924, when Paris last hosted the Olympics, to this year.

They found that on average, it is 3.1C hotter for the weeks between July and August.

Scientists noted there is a high risk of extreme heat, and added that a 2003 heatwave in France killed more than 14,000 people.

Other recommendations from the report include:

• Urging sporting authorities to introduce better rehydration and cooling plans for athletes
• Empowering athletes to speak out on climate change
• Boosting collaboration between sporting bodies and athletes on climate awareness campaigns
• Reassessing fossil fuel sponsorship in sport.

A spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee said the body has scheduled events to avoid heat and developed a suite of tools to keep competitors safe from extreme temperatures.

In a statement, they added temperatures at event venues will be closely monitored and that "providing athletes and spectators with the best and safest conditions possible are top priorities for the IOC and the entire Olympic Movement".

Read more on Sky News:
Man abandons newborn with umbilical cord still attached
Key 1.5C threshold 'being breached for last year'

2021 marked hottest Games yet

The report also recalls the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, which were called the hottest Games in history with temperatures above 34C and humidity approaching 70%, as incredibly challenging for athletes.

"Competitors vomited and fainted at finish lines, wheelchairs were deployed to carry athletes away from sun-scorched arenas and the fear of dying on court was even raised mid-match by the Tokyo Games' No 2 seeded tennis player Daniil Medvedev," it said.

Medvedev also raised concerns while playing at the US Open last year, approaching the camera to warn "one of us is going to die".

Speaking for the report's release, Samuel Mattis, a discus thrower on the American Olympic team, said hot conditions disrupted the Olympic track and field trials in 2021.

They eventually had to take place in the evening, even though it was still around 30C.

Mattis added: "I think in a lot of places, in the US and around the world, summertime competitions unless they're held in the middle of the night, are going to become essentially impossible."