Thanks Rio! The (Climate) Winners and Losers of the Olympic Games
by Shuk-Wah Chung
August 22, 2016
The dancing weightlifter or the Olympians banding together to call for climate action? Who took home the gold for the climate Olympics?
We’ve watched them soar, sprint and swim. For two weeks the world has been gripped by the Games – we’ve celebrated the Gold wins, been perplexed by ultra-human feats and admired the tests of strength and endurance. And next month we’ll see it all again with the Paralympians fighting fit for gold.
But as the current batch of athletes wave goodbye to Rio, there’s one strong takeaway the Games gave us — the world needs to act on climate change now!
No other global sporting event has put the message of climate change front and center quite like the Rio Olympics. Whilst some deserve a gold for bringing the climate message home, there were others that didn’t quite cross the finishing line.
Here are the winners and losers of the 2016 Climate Games.
The Olympics are all about breaking records but there’s one record that must not break — the 1.5 degree Celsius limit on global warming.
Sealed in a unanimous decision by world leaders last year at the COP21 climate talks in Paris, 1.5 degrees Celsius is the utmost limit the planet can take to significantly reduce the impact of a warming planet, otherwise we’ll see more consequences like extreme weather events and other environmental degradation.
The 1.5 degrees campaign, which features Olympians across the world, reminds us that we need “1.5 to stay alive.” After all, as it mentions in the video below, “Is it right to steal the future of millions of people?”
Behind the pyrotechnics, Gisele Bundchen taking her final catwalk and the flag bearing, came a very unexpected twist.
“The heat is melting the ice cap,” boomed a voice. “It’s disappearing very quickly.”
From the get-go, Rio’s Olympic ceremony directors took it upon themselves to deliver a very strong climate change message, essentially giving us one of the most meaningful Opening Ceremonies in a year tainted by many unfortunate events.
Whilst critics felt the message was hypocritical, it nevertheless addressed the need for urgent action on climate change. With millions of eyes watching, who can argue with that?
If you can’t beat ‘em, dance!
David Katoatau became a viral hit sensation when he danced after competing in the 105-kilogram Group B final. Representing Kiribati, an island nation currently experiencing rising sea levels and possible “climate refugee” status, Kotoatau says that he uses his dancing to bring to attention the threat climate change has to his homeland and other low-lying nations.
He didn’t win anything, but he scores gold for winning our hearts.
During the Opening Ceremony, ExxonMobil wanted to convince the millions of viewers that they are “improving energy efficiency” and “defeating malaria”. Yes, that ExxonMobil — the same company that knew decades ago that its own carbon emissions were accelerating climate change and that is under investigation in the United States for its ongoing colossal climate denial scheme.
Its short advertisement intended to make Exxon look good, but the truth looks something like this instead:
With 207 nations participating in 28 different sports, Rio marked the XXXI Olympiad. But according to a study published in the journal, The Lancet, there will be a time when it will be too hot to host another Game. In fact, “by 2085, only 25 European cities and eight non-European cities will be low-risk enough to host the games.”
The message is clear – for a truly green Olympics we need a healthy blue planet. This means calling for 100 percent renewables, protecting our forests and oceans, and minimizing waste.
Let’s go for gold on climate action!