March 11th 2014

Olympic Winter Games in the grip of global warming

International research study performed by MCI Management Center Innsbruck in cooperation with the University of Waterloo (Canada)

According to the results of an international study performed by the University of Waterloo (Canada) and MCI Management Center Innsbruck (Austria), ongoing climate change is a threat to future Olympic Winter Games in many regions. In typical climate change scenarios, past Olympic venues like Vancouver (Canada), Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Germany) or Sochi (Russia) will no longer be able to host such events in the future.

Technological progress for protection against the vagaries of the climate

The weather can impact the success of Winter Olympics. Unsuitable weather conditions can create problems in the organization and preparatory phase and during the Games themselves. To counter the risks posed by the weather, a number of strategies and technological improvements have been developed in the last few decades. Snowmaking installations, ski jumps with refrigerated tracks and refrigerated bobsleigh runs on the one hand and high-resolution weather forecasting on the other have become critical factors for the success of modern Winter Olympics.

But Professor Daniel Scott, Canada Research Chair in Global Tourism and lead author of the study, warns: “Despite technological advances, there are limits to what current weather risk management strategies can cope with. By the middle of this century, those limits will have been surpassed in some former Winter Olympic host regions.”

“Today it would be difficult to imagine successfully delivering the diverse Olympic program exclusively on natural snow and ice, as it was in the early decades of the Winter Olympics,” adds co-author Dr. Robert Steiger of the MCI.

Core Alpine regions as viable venues for the future

The study provides a good opportunity for reflection on the long-term implications of global climate change for sport and the world's collective cultural heritage as symbolized by the Olympic movement. It also reveals that, for some cities and regions interested in hosting future Winter Olympics, the time to bid might be sooner rather than later.

Ultimately the study shows that, in the medium- and long-term view of the world’s climate, increasing preference should again be given to traditional Alpine locations to ensure that athletes, organizers and spectators can all benefit from fair and attractive Games in the future.


Pressemeldung University of Waterloo


Ulrike Fuchs
Marketing & Communication
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