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Only Japan Could Host the Winter Olympics by 2100

winter olympics
Global Warming is posing an existential threat to the Winter Olympics. Credit: Andrew Mandemaker

A new study suggests that only one city in Japan in the entire world will be able to host the Winter Olympics in the future.

The study, which was published in Current Issues in Tourism, looked at the effect of global emissions on the planet’s ability to meet the environmental demands of the Winter Olympics, finding that there may only be one city by 2100 up to the task.

“Climate change is altering the geography of the Winter Olympic Games and will, unfortunately, take away some host cities that are famous for winter sport,” Robert Steiger of the University of Innsbruck in Austria said in a statement. “Most host locations in Europe are projected to be marginal or not reliable as early as the 2050s, even in a low emission future.”

The study modeled different potential scenarios as emissions worsened throughout a projection of the arch of the 21st century, watching as potentially fit host cities dwindled as they got closer to the 22nd century.

“The impact of a high emission scenario was far more pronounced, reducing the number of climatically reliable locations to 10 in the 2050s and eight in the 2080s. The prognosis for the Paralympic Winter Games, which occur in March after the Olympics, was far worse.”

In one situation, the sole city left capable of hosting the Winter Olympics was Sapporo, Japan.

“The high emission pathway results in a very different outcome for the ability to reliably deliver fair and safe conditions for snow sports at Olympic Winter Games locations,” the authors write. “By mid-century, the number of reliable hosts declines to four (Lack Placid, Lillehammer, Oslo, and Sapporo) and by the end of the century, only one location remains reliable (Sapporo).

Athletes lament the effect of climate change on Winter Olympics

“Climate change is here. It’s happening. We’re living in it right now. It’s not something that’s going to be in the distant future. It’s here. And you see it with the fires in California, floods in Europe, higher snow levels, shorter winter, longer summers, droughts. It runs the whole gamut. Everywhere in the world is having some effect from it. And there’s not really any turning back,” said Travis Ganong, a 33-year-old from California at China with the United States ski team.

“Selfishly, I hope winters are here in the future,” he added. “But it’s not looking good.”

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have previously said that the past eight years were the hottest years ever recorded on the planet. Athletes have an increasing awareness of the effects of global warming on their sport while recognizing the effects across the world.

“The glaciers are receding. The winter is starting later and ending sooner,” said John Kucera, the 2009 world champion in downhill who currently coaches for Canada’s Alpine team. “For a sport like ours, we might pay for it sooner than some others. We are dependent on the climate and the weather and that dictates what we’re able to do.”

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