Climate change could threaten the Summer Olympics as we know them, according to a new study published in the medial journal The Lancet.
The study, written by a group of U.S. and Australian researchers, looked at how global climate change would affect the viability of host cities in 2085. The cities included in the study were in the Northern Hemisphere (home to 90% of the world’s population), below one mile in altitude (to avoid altitude sickness) and have a population of at least 600,000 people (as the Games are typically hosted by bigger cities).
The study concluded that in less than eighty years, only eight cities in the Northern hemisphere — outside of Western Europe — will have a cool enough climate to host the Summer Olympics due to increasing temperatures posing a major heat illness danger to athletes. No cities in Latin America or Africa would be viable hosts for the games, and only three North American cities — Calgary, Vancouver, and San Francisco — would qualify.
With the Summer Olympics being a largely outdoor event, the world’s other cities would face a higher chance of having to cancel outdoor events due to the high temperatures and humidity levels.
“You could take a risk, and plan your Olympics, and maybe not get the hot days you expect, but that would be a big risk when there are many billions of dollars at stake,” said UC Berkeley professor Kirk Smith, the lead author of the study. Smith completed the study with researchers based at institutions in New Zealand, Cyprus, and the U.S.
Using a marathon run as a test case, the study used temperature and humidity data to predict which cities would have the greatest risk to host the Summer Games outdoors. Outdoor endurance events, such as the marathon, are at particular risk for being canceled due to increasing temperatures since they require a lot of space, and are thus usually held outside.
And while the full findings of the study are yet to be published, these preliminary results are a red flag for cities like Tokyo, which is set to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, and Los Angeles, which is one of the final bid cities for the 2024 Olympics. According to the study, both of these cities could be too hot and humid to host to outdoor athletic competition by 2085.