For the first time, climate change is a determining factor in the Winter Games

For the first time, climate change is actually affecting decision-making around one of the biggest sporting events in the world. The awarding of the 2030 Winter Olympics has been postponed, in part because more research needs to be done on climate change and the role of higher temperatures in bid cities. Originally, the allocation of the Winter Games was to take place next year. But at the IOC’s annual congress held this week, the main board decided to postpone the vote.

The decision is surprising to say the least. But the discussion can also be explained. The Winter Games are more sensitive to climate change than the Summer Games. It is increasingly difficult to find places that meet the minimum requirements for winter sports. Two of them: snow and ice. Also last spring, during the Winter Games in Beijing, the ski slopes were the only white spots in the landscape.

Not a new city every four years

Recent research has already shown that if the earth warms by more than two degrees, only one of the 21 locations where the Winter Games were previously held could responsibly host the tournament.

Several options are discussed. For example, there is the idea of ​​rotating the Winter Games between a number of pre-determined cities, instead of choosing a new city every four years. To take climate into account, a candidate city must be able to demonstrate that it has recently experienced periods below freezing on the dates when the Games are normally held (in February). There are also calls for locations where stadiums, such as an ice rink, have already been made – or can be built very easily.

From six to two

But there are also quite simply organizational problems which explain the delay. It has been difficult to award the Winter Games for years. There were originally six candidates for the 2022 edition, but four cancelled. The IOC then chose Beijing over Almaty in Kazakhstan.

Salt Lake City in the United States and Sapporo in Japan are said to be the top two bidders for the 2030 Games, after Vancouver (Canada)’s bid failed to receive local government support. But Salt Lake City would rather have the Games in 2034 and in Japan, a corruption scandal surrounding the Tokyo Games in 2021 is not doing the new offer any good.

The IOC now wants to award the Games on a flexible basis, although it is unclear when they will be awarded. Salt Lake City bid organizer Fraser Bullock was surprised by the postponement. “But the reason is good.”

Incidentally, there was also an IOC report on the 2022 Games in Beijing. It was, without snow, one of the best Games of all time. Says the IOC. The pandemic did not “hinder the Games” either, although employees, media and athletes were cut off from the non-Olympic bubble.

The 2026 Games are not in danger. They take place in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy.

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