Imagine you eagerly turn on the news to see your favorite bobsledder or skier compete this year in the Winter Olympics, only to see WINTER OLYMPICS CANCELED flashing on the screen, much to your dismay. Thanks to climate change, this may soon be our future.
Climate change has caused complications over the past years when it comes to hosting snow sports, and no one knows this better than three time Olympic Gold medalist David Wise. “Over those 16 years [of practicing the sport] I have watched the locations we have traveled to become more and more uncertain of whether they’re going to be able to pull off an event or not,” he said in an interview on NBC News.
Wise has a point. In fact, the snow at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing was nearly 100% manmade. To add to it, the selection of the host city for the 2030 Winter Olympics was delayed due to climate change. “Even when you have reliable temperatures to make the snow with, if your daily temperatures when the competition is happening are well above freezing, you get those conditions that are beginning to become really dangerous to the athletes,” explains climate change researcher Dr. Daniel Scott on NBC News.
Scott and his team of researchers analyzed what would happen if the current host countries cut down their greenhouse gas emissions. They found that although the outcome would be slightly better than if the countries made no change, eight of the former host cities wouldn’t be able to host the Winter Olympics by 2050. Even more at risk are the Winter Paralympics, since they are hosted in the relatively warmer month of March. By 2050, eleven of the former host cities will be unable to host the Winter Paralympics even with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
A solution proposed by Scott was combining the Winter Olympics and Winter Paralympics to take place in February, when temperatures are likely to be more ideal. Another researcher proposed holding the event at high elevations, which unfortunately only a few cities could do. This also brings to attention the issue of only a few cities being eligible to host the Winter Olympics; “Does that mean there could become this permanent host city rotation of just a select few?” questions correspondent Hallie Jackson on NBC News. If a city is expected to be one of a few permanent locations for future Olympic events, they could be hesitant to invest billions of dollars into the infrastructure and snow needed to host such an event for years to come. “The provincial government [in British Columbia] has kind of walked away a little bit from its own bid,” brings up NBC News correspondent Vaughn Hillyard, citing the large investment as the reason. “There’s a lot that goes into this, in which climate is very much of an issue.”
David Wise himself joined the organization Protect Our Winters, an athlete-founded nonprofit that aims to combat climate change through legislation. “I have a voice here that other people will listen to when it comes to the topic of snow sports,” says Wise. And hopefully, people listen.