Olympic host cities

Heat shrinks future pool of Olympic host cities

Friday, August 12, 2016

Health researchers project that Calgary and Vancouver will be among just three suitable North American locations to host the Summer Olympics by 2085 due to the risks of outdoor activities in intense heat. A study excerpt published in the medical news digest, The Lancet, assesses 645 cities in the northern hemisphere with populations of at least 600,000 and concludes that during the months of July and August only 33 would have a 90 per cent probability of low-risk conditions for strenuous physical exertion, with combined heat and humidity registering no more than 26 degrees Celsius in the shade.

San Francisco is the only other North American city deemed viable. Most of the identified fit host cities are in western Europe — in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Germany — with five other possible venues in eastern Europe or Asia.

Using the more lenient criteria of 75 per cent probability of low-risk conditions and/or allowing for a medium-to-high-risk threshold of 28 degrees C, 90 cities would qualify, including 49 in western Europe and 41 elsewhere in the northern hemisphere. Even so, the report advises that approximately 30 per cent of elite competitors dropped out of the United States 2016 Olympic marathon trials in Los Angeles, during which the temperature peaked at 25.6 degrees C.

The marathon’s status as the most demanding endurance event makes it the baseline indicator for adequate safety levels. Looking out to the 22nd century, it’s projected the short list of potential Olympic host cities with an appropriately temperate climate would comprise only Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Researchers’ focus on an iconic international athletic event provides some topical, illustrative context for the more mundane reality that approximately half of the global labour force currently works outdoors — primarily in  construction and agriculture. Rising global temperatures are seen as a threat to productivity and health.

“Exertional heat stroke and its negative outcomes, including mortality, will become a large part of outdoor work around the world,” the report states. “High-visibility international athletic events such  as the Summer Olympics represent just a small fraction of heavy exertion outdoors, but increasing restrictions on when, where and how the Games can be held owing to extreme heat are a sign of a much bigger problem.”

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