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Paris 2024 set to become the hottest Olympics ever, athletes at risk, finds multi-agency scientific report

Frontline global athletes agree with the report that intense heat may become even life-threatening

The Plurals News Network | Published 19.06.24, 06:48 PM
For representational purposes

For representational purposes

My Kolkata

Daniil Medvedev, ace tennis player from Russia and currently fifth in ATP rankings, had said during a match at the Tokyo Olympics that he might die from heat and humidity. Luckily, he survived the onslaught last time but the spectre of heat may return to haunt athletes during the Paris Olympics, which is set to start from July 26.

The upcoming global showpiece event may turn out to be the hottest Olympics ever and can prove to be a significant threat, even running the risk of being fatal, for athletes under intense heat exposure, a multi-agency global report released on Tuesday, prepared by climate scientists and backed by frontline global athletes, has pointed out.


‘Rings of Fire: Heat Risks at the 2024 Paris Olympics’ has been jointly prepared by the University of Portsmouth (UK), the British Association for Sustainability in Sport (UK), Climate Central (USA), and FrontRunners (Australia).

It’s a strange coincidence that the city where the landmark global climate treaty was signed in 2015 is reeling under the threat of severe climate impact during the global event.

The Olympic Symbol on display at the Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo, Japan.

The Olympic Symbol on display at the Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo, Japan.

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“The Tokyo Games became known as the ‘hottest in history’, with temperatures exceeding 34°C and humidity reaching nearly 70 per cent, leading to severe health risks for competitors. The Paris Games have the potential to surpass that with climate change driven by the burning of fossil fuels contributing to record heat streaks during the past months,” reads the report, a copy of which is with this reporter.

“With global temperatures continuing to rise, climate change should increasingly be viewed as an existential threat to sport,” said Lord Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federation and four-time Olympic medallist.

Pragnya Mohan, top-ranking triathlete in Indian history, also described the situation as “scary (and) can be fatal” and recounted how she could no longer train in her home country because of the heightened heat.

3.1 degree Celsius rise in 100 years

The report has pointed out that the average temperature during the 2024 Summer Olympic Games is on course to rise by 3.1°C since 1924, the year when an Olympics was last held in France.

“The mean minimum temperatures – which represent night-time temperatures – have increased by 3.3°C, while the number of days with a maximum temperature of at least 30°C in Paris has become increasingly common,” states the report.

“2023 was the hottest year on record according to the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service and 2024 has continued this streak. April 2024 was warmer globally than any previous April in the record books,” climate experts have pointed out.

The Rings of Fire report has reminded the deadly heat wave in France in 2003 – which killed over 14,000 people – and subsequent years of record-breaking temperatures, exceeding 42°C; and underscored the heightened risk of extreme heat during the Paris Olympics, especially considering the sharp rise in the region’s temperatures since Paris last hosted the Games a century back.

The report mentioned that the 2023 heatwave in France claimed nearly 5,000 people; and 2024 is on track to be the hottest year, breaking the 2023 record.

Athletes speak about ‘terrifying prospect’

Leading global athletes have expressed concern that the intense heat at the Paris Olympics may lead to contestants collapsing or even dying. Eleven Olympians, including winners of five world championships and six Olympic medals, have shared the concern of possible heat impacts on athletes alongside the climate scientists and leading heat physiologists from the University of Portsmouth in the ‘Rings of Fire’ report.

“It’s a terrifying prospect when we see the direction things are heading and how rapidly the climate is deteriorating around us,” said Katie Rood, a striker for New Zealand’s football team. “It is not in an athlete’s DNA to stop and if the conditions are too dangerous, I do think there is a risk of fatalities,” agreed Jamie Farndale, a rugby player for Great Britain.

Japanese race walker and 2019 world champion Yusuke Suzuki explained how the heat triggered illness derailed his Tokyo Olympic dreams, while New Zealand tennis player and Olympic bronze medallist Marcus Daniell opined that the heat risk at Tokyo was at the borderline of being fatal.

“Even if such extremes do not happen, the performance of the athletes is definitely going to suffer,” said a senior official attached to the National Olympic Association.

The report recommended several key steps for sporting authorities to counter the situation, including smart scheduling to avoid heat extremes, and keeping athletes and fans safe with better rehydration and cooling plans.

Last updated on 19.06.24, 07:00 PM

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