On the last day of the recently concluded Olympic Games in Tokyo, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe warned that climate change will have a negative impact on the regular schedule and the schedule of major sporting events. This warning came in the middle of an increase concerns that extreme weather conditions and harsh temperatures induced by climate change can already alter sports calendars.

An example: for the first time in history, the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships held in Qatar were scheduled for the end of September to avoid the hot summer climate. Another major departure was to hold tournaments mostly in the late afternoon and evening, rather than following the traditional morning schedule from previous championships.


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Likewise, the next FIFA World Cup is expected to start in Qatar in November 2022 to avoid extreme heat during the tournament’s traditional summer schedule. Even at the Tokyo Games, the women’s Olympic gold medal game between Canada and Sweden was moved from morning to night to avoid the heat and its health effects. Unsurprisingly, the International Olympic Committee has confirmed its plans to factor “flexibility and adaptation to the consequences of climate change” into planning for future events.

Plus an option

Addressing the impacts of climate change on the programming and planning of major sporting events is no longer an option but a necessity. Besides fatal climate-induced heat waves that can force changes in the timing and timing of events, climate change could have far-reaching effects on sports infrastructure.

This includes the potential failure of facilities due to extreme weather conditions, reduced lifespan of buildings, increased expenses for the operation and maintenance of playing surfaces and tracks due to extreme temperatures, and cancellation or abandonment of sports games due to out of season precipitation, storms or heat waves. . Additionally, climate change could worsen player and athlete injuries due to heat exhaustion.

From a risk mitigation perspective, tackling the impacts of climate change on major sporting events will need to go beyond shifting the calendar to cooler months or hours. For example, while holding events at midnight can be a good way to avoid extreme heat, such timing could negatively affect the level of fan presence and active participation, which can negatively impact recreational, educational, social benefits. and economic aspects of sporting events. . Likewise, delaying tournaments until cooler or warmer months is not always a solution, especially for sporting events such as skiing, beach soccer or volleyball.

Make changes

So how can countries and key sport players cope with the cascading challenges of climate change for the sport calendar?

Holistic risk mitigation strategies are needed to effectively balance the social, environmental and economic aspects of planning major sporting events in a climate-constrained world. Addressing the impacts on health alone, without addressing the social and economic impacts, could reduce the overall contributions to the sustainable development of major sporting events, in particular with regard to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 on zero poverty, SDG 3 on good health and well-being, and SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth, among others. In addition, holistic and high-leverage interventions can enhance the role of sport as a catalyst for sustainable development.

Improving the adaptive capacity of existing and emerging sports infrastructure to the risks posed by climate change will require a strategic commitment from sports stakeholders to integrate climate objectives into the design, approval, funding and implementation of the programs. sports infrastructure projects.

For example, Article 7 (5) of the 2015 Paris Agreement specifically encourages countries to integrate climate adaptation into relevant socio-economic and environmental policies and actions, which include the overhaul of infrastructure and buildings. to improve their resilience and adaptability. The United Nations Climate Change Initiative has also highlighted the need for sports players to systematically integrate climate mitigation and adaptation strategies into planning processes.

A climate-smart approach to the planning and staging of major sporting events will place climate resilience goals at the heart of sporting decisions, including venue selection, infrastructure planning, kit design, marketing, branding and awareness, among others.

A starting point is for international sports organizations to revise the bidding requirements for major sporting events to include significant consideration of the level of climate-smart infrastructure available in host countries. Adopting holistic selection processes that integrate climate considerations, as part of sport risk management frameworks, can help sport organizations, host countries, suppliers and other relevant stakeholders to improve design practices, operation and maintenance of infrastructure to prioritize climate resilience.

For example, the question will not only be whether a country has sports venues, but how many of those venues are climate smart in terms of their ability to withstand extreme weather events and advance the global net zero goals. . At the same time, the extent to which associated infrastructure such as aviation and transport, as well as digital infrastructure is climate smart will be a key consideration.

By paying greater attention to climate due diligence, sporting events can serve as catalysts for climate change mitigation and adaptation in host countries, which would in the long run reduce the frequency of future schedule disruptions. and traditional timetables for major sporting events.

Educational institutions

Higher education institutions have a crucial role to play in developing innovative programs to train and equip sports players with the advanced skills needed to integrate climate resilience into all of their operations and their value chain.

In Qatar, the College of Law of Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) is already spearheading innovation in this field. Its Juris Doctor (JD) program, LLM in international economic and commercial law, LLM in international law and foreign affairs, Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD), as well as the online course “Navigating the legal and commercial aspects of sport”, offered by HBKU through edX, provides students with exceptional opportunities to acquire skills and comparative knowledge on key legal, business and sustainability aspects of major sporting events.

*[This article is submitted on behalf of the author by the Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) Communications Directorate. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the university’s official stance.]

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Fair Observer.


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