Every sporting event brings its share of emotions and scandals. The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing will be no exception.
Let’s cut the suspense short right away: this article is not about the Beijing Olympics. Although we will discuss them briefly, they are of little intellectual interest. Indeed, even without being sensitive to climate issues, a majority of people should at least agree on the fact that the Olympics with 100% artificial snow are an ecological nonsense.
But the Olympic Games do not stop at the climate issue. They are much more than that.
Beijing 2022: 100% artificial Olympic Games
The Beijing Olympic Games are, like every major sporting event, a concentrate of greenwashing. Even without being an expert, everyone should be able to understand the lies on the official website. Here’s a quick debunk :
- “Carbon-neutral Games“, thanks to carbon offsetting of activities. This is false, and makes no sense both physically and ecologically. This article is here to remind you, with sources.
- “All passenger cars and 85% of the car fleet will be clean clean vehicules, energy-efficient vehicles” : NO vehicles are clean. Renewable energies are not clean. Nuclear power is not clean. However, some energies are more emitting in their life cycle than others.
- If the Games were “carbon neutral”, it is without counting on the displacements of the spectators, which represent for this type of event more than half of the emissions. These Olympic Games will be made exceptionally without foreign spectators, but I doubt that all the Chinese present in tribune come on foot, in bicycle or in public transport.
- The snow is 100% artificial. It is not a novelty that there is artificial snow: it was already the case for those of Lake Placid (USA) in 1980. On the other hand, 100% is a first. Organizers estimate that about 185 million liters of water will be needed to cover the tracks. All this, of course, for 15 days of competition. To learn more, this article: Is skiing ecological?
- Official sponsor of the Beijing Olympic Games: PetroChina, the largest oil group in China. It’s like being at COP26.
In addition to these climatic lies, we should not forget the fate reserved for the Uyghurs by the Chinese government. Some speak of re-education camps. The reality is quite different: it is indeed a genocide. Insofar as the Olympic Games have a high symbolic value and have always been instrumentalized by politicians, the only human response is to boycott them.
Are the Olympic Games sustainable?
Let’s put aside our cognitive dissonance for five minutes. The only question we should collectively ask ourselves is whether this kind of event is compatible with a sustainable world.
As it stands, the answer is no. This is not sustainable, and should not happen. Will it be in 10 years? Certainly not. Every time someone dares to bring up the subject, the insults rain down: green Khmer, communist dictatorship, green Nazi. But insults won’t change the physics. Let’s face it: the Olympic Games are not sustainable.
The Olympic Games are not the only ones concerned. The 2022 World Cup is also an ecological and social aberration, where footballers will kick a ball in air-conditioned stadiums, built for the occasion and which caused the death of at least 6500 workers.
Don’t look up Olympic Games ?
Is there a time when we will say stop this? Where will we find that applauding humans paid millions to play in stadiums built by workers paid 1 euro per hour on average, is indecent? Are we going to close our eyes again, and let money and entertainment take precedence over human dignity?
These sporting events should be of interest to all citizens, not just fans of sports or sporting competitions. I am one of them. I grew up with it, wept with joy at some of the victories. I am aware of all the beautiful values of exemplarity and hope that these athletes can convey. But I still have the ideal that the respect of others must come before the personal pleasure of a few.
Professional sport must be questioned. Its drifts too. Capitalism has taken over the subject, and is just finishing to absorb what was still pure in the few sports not rotten by money and profit.
Athletes have a role to play
As stated in the article on Qatar 2022, “I have little taste for the prejudice that artists and sportsmen are there to provide entertainment and should not venture into other fields. I find it unbelievable that people think that all athletes are prisoners of a system, and have no choice. Of course, this depends on the sport concerned. Some are not professional or paid enough to make a living.
On the other hand, multi-millionaire soccer or tennis players who have enough money for 10 generations, I still have the feeling that they could refuse some things from time to time, right?
Let us note that hundreds of sportsmen and women are already very committed to the environment and the climate and take a lot of their time to make things change, from the inside as well as from the outside, with all the difficulties and sacrifices that this may entail.
This is the case of Sarah Guyot, Xavier Thevenard and Kilian Jornet. The latter is followed by millions of people on the networks, and has publicly reported its carbon footprint at the end of 2021. In an ideal world, all athletes would know their carbon footprint…
Olympic Games: Panem et circenses
By evoking the subject on social media, the reactions were very numerous, as often when it comes to sports. Here is one of the most common comments:
It is also complicated for an athlete whose passion and profession is to give up sport and all the beautiful values of sport. Honestly, I can’t imagine giving up swimming championships with an intense physical preparation over several years. I am not saying that there is not a reflection to be had on the holding of the Olympic Games (how to make it as sustainable as possible? I am not saying that there is not a reflection to be had on the holding of the Olympic Games (how to make it as sustainable as possible? However, it is up to the leaders to do the work and to the civil population to encourage/force them.
My answer was the following :
Ask yourself what the people of the Marshall Islands, whose rising waters (due to climate change) will wipe the country off the map, think. They will swim to survive, not to break records. This is how we should all think about the Olympic Games and not otherwise.
Indeed, the consequences of climate change are already very serious, and will only get worse in the years to come without radical changes in our economies. To do this, we need to understand the consequences of the Olympic Games and the associated carbon emissions.
In addition, should certain athletes be granted an exceptional right to pollute? This is both a political and moral issue. It is not for me to answer, but for the company.
No ecological transition without social transition
In a highly capitalistic society like ours, stopping an event from one day to the next, or even cancelling it, would have catastrophic social consequences. For example, thousands of people work on the preparation of the Olympic Games (federations, organizing committee, media, etc). If your sources of income depend mostly on the event, as was the case for Delphine Benoit-Mayoux for the 2019 World, it’s hard to imagine a cancellation without insurance overnight.
On the other hand, everyone is concerned by climate change and must work to limit its consequences. The world of sports is by no means an exception. Again, the 3 question rule applies:
- Which sport to keep?
- What can we change to make it eco-friendly?
- What we stop.
If your business is unsustainable, the first step is to acknowledge it, not to lie, or lie to yourself. Not everyone is as irresponsible, blind and a liar as Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, Minister of Transport, whose objectivity is matched only by his communications advisor who has just joined Air France three months before the 2022 presidential election.
The second step is to prepare the transformation of the sector, and/or its reconversion. Some employees at Airbus or Total are already very committed and warn of a possible social breakdown without a radical change in the activity. Why wouldn’t the sports industry, if it had a chance to be sustainable, do the same?
Without anticipation, there will be drama. Material and human. This is what scientists have been saying for decades: the changes will be too rapid to adapt without some of the population paying the price. The future will therefore depend on political decisions, which will not be based solely on the weight of sportsmen and women.
The last word
To take advantage of the Olympic Games in Beijing is to support the treatment of the Uyghurs. To vibrate for the World Cup 2022 in Qatar is to support that people play soccer in stadiums that have caused the death of 6500 people. To accept that people continue to fly across the planet for 15 days of competition is to accept that millions of people migrate or die from the consequences of climate change.
If there is any humanity left in this world, the only logical and acceptable response is to boycott these events. Since I was a child I have heard the sports motto “the important thing is to participate”. I would like to answer this question today: the important thing is not to participate.
Sportsmen, sponsors, politicians, journalists and television viewers: the ‘refus de parvenir’ is the only possible way out.