Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in the Face of Climate Change

Friday, January 26, 2018
Winter in Fruhling

Studies led by the University of Waterloo, with a group of multinational researchers, have identified that climate change is threatening the future of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Temperatures are rising with the increase of global green house gas emissions, affecting the ability to reliably host the winter games across the globe. The average February daytime  temperature of the Olympic Winter Games locations is steadily increasing - from 0.48C in the 1920–1950s, to 3.18C in the 1960–1990s, to 7.88C in games held in the twenty-first century - intensifying the need for weather risk management strategies.

"The world of winter sports is changing as the global climate continues to warm and elite winter athletes are witnessing the impacts of climate change at competition and summer training locations. The climate in many traditional winter sports regions isn’t what it used to be, and fewer and fewer places will be able to host the Olympic Winter Games as global warming accelerates." 

Daniel Scott

IC3's Director and professor of geography and environmental management at Waterloo

Even with a drastic reduction in global green house gas emissions only a small number of cities will be cold enough to host the games. February is said to be the most climatically reliable month of the year, posing issues for the Paralympic Winter Games, which are traditionally held in March. Integrating the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in the month of February may need to be considered. Alternatively, separate locations for each game may be necessary to preserve the longevity of the Winter Games. 

“Climate change alters the geography of the Winter Olympic Games. “The International Olympic Committee will have increasingly difficult decisions about where to award the Games, and for some regions interested in hosting a future Winter Olympics, the time to bid for the games might need to be sooner than later.”

Robert Steiger

 University of Innsbruck, Austria

Paralympic Games

climate sustainability paralympics

Olympic Games

climate sustainability olympics

*Quotes are pulled from Waterloo News article "Climate change will limit where the Winter Olympics can be held" on the Waterloo News site 

 Read the full reports:

 The future of the Olympic Winter Games in an era of climate change

The changing geography of the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in a warmer world

In the media:

21 Winter Olympic Cities. Many May Soon Be Too Warm to Host the Games

The New York Times, January 11, 2018

Climate change limiting number of potential Winter Olympics hosts: study

Globe and Mail - January 11, 2018

Of the 21 Winter Olympics cities, many may soon be too warm to host the Games

The Seattle Times - January 11, 2018

Climate change puts chill on Winter Olympic host options

The Record - January 11, 2018

Les Olympiques d'hiver et le réchauffement climatique

ICI Radio-Canada.ca - January 12, 2018

Climate Change Will Make Hosting The Winter Olympics Harder: Study

Huffington Post Canada - January 11, 2018

Warming planet removes cities like Vancouver from Winter Olympics host options: research

Vancouver Sun - January 11, 2018

Warming planet could limit Winter Olympics hosts: report

CTV News - January 11, 2018

Winter Olympics host options limited by warming planet, research says

Sportsnet - January 11, 2018

Winter Olympics host options limited by warming planet, research says

National Post - January 11, 2018

Winter Olympics host options limited by warming planet, research says

Ottawa Citizen - January 11, 2018