The relationship between climate and sports explained by Paralympic champion Tatyana McFadden

Tatyana McFadden is considered the fastest woman in the world. She has participated in the US Paralympics six times and was a 20-time Paralympic medalist. She won 23 major world marathons and broke five world records in athletics.

Ms. McFadden was born in spina bifida and spent the first few years of her life in an orphanage in Russia. Before she was adopted by her mother, Deborah, who brought her back to Maryland, her basic services and even wheelchairs were barely or not available. , USA.

Twenty years later, she still remembers what life was like in such a situation. These memories were central to her fight for the rights of people with disabilities and helped raise her awareness of the need to speak out on serious issues such as climate change.

“I didn’t have enough food and clean water, sometimes no heating or electricity, and I lived a life that wasn’t taken for granted today. Fortunately, I was a great American when I was six. You don’t have to live this way anymore because you’ve been adopted by your family, but with climate change, many people in developing countries are experiencing this, “she said. United Nations news..

McFadden said he spoke with fellow Paralympic athletes from countries particularly affected by climate change about the struggle.

“Climate change is undoubtedly a major global challenge that has a real impact on all, but in reality it has a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities,” she explains.

Tatyana McFadden, an American Paralympic athlete at the medal award ceremony at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Tatyana McFadden

Tatyana McFadden, an American Paralympic athlete at the medal award ceremony at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

The fever is rising

In sports, athletes feel a fever during the event. Tokyo 2020 is one example, and record-breaking heat and humidity have become a hot topic all over the world and pose a danger to participants.

“It’s directly related to hydration. As athletes, we need to keep hydrating very much. If you have a physical disability and paralysis from the lower back to the bottom, it causes cardiovascular problems and for us. Hydration is already very difficult. Insufficient hydration can lead to heat stroke and death, “she explains.

Nutrition is another important factor for athletes and can be a challenge for some athletes in some countries.

Ms. McFadden learned that during the heyday of the Covid-19 pandemic, Americans had to deliver food, medical care, and equipment to vulnerable South African Paralympic athletes.

” that is [défi] What we are facing is very important, not only for Covid, but for the climate crisis. As an elite athlete, hydration and nutrition are very important not only for performance but also for overall health, and it’s very difficult to make sure my own Paralympic athlete doesn’t have it, so personally I’m impressed, “says McFadden.

“That’s why we have to participate in this discussion because they are my competitors. For example, many people couldn’t go to Tokyo because they lived in this situation. “She points out.

Problems in the entire sports sector

According to a recent guidance note from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the sports sector is actually experiencing the consequences of rising temperatures, increased rainfall, and more extreme meteorological phenomena.

In a warming world, half of the cities hosting the previous Winter Olympics may not be able to sponsor the Winter Olympics by 2050 due to lack of snow and ice, according to a recent study cited in the report. there is.

In 2018, the high temperatures forced the organizers of the US Open Tennis Tournament to offer athletes a “heat break.” At the 2020 Australian Open, the poor air quality caused by wildfires forced some tennis players to withdraw from the tournament.

By 2050, nearly a quarter of the UK football league stadiums (23 out of 92) are expected to be partially or completely flooded each year.

These examples are only for high-profile sporting events, DESA says. The impact on smaller, more local events is potentially much greater.

Millions of athletes, from youth leagues to national teams, are already facing some weather turmoil, which only gets worse over time.

I need everyone’s voice

Of course, the turmoil of sporting events manifests itself as a minor problem in the context of food, energy and water insecurity, which will force millions of people to migrate as climate impacts accelerate over the coming decades. There is a possibility.

“But the scale of the crisis needs to draw solutions from every sector, every country, every voice with ideas. And athletes are up to the challenge and their contributions can make a difference. It turns out to be sexual, “explains the DESA briefing note.

In fact, the world of sports is in a unique position to take leadership in tackling climate change and mitigating the effects of climate change.

“That’s a personal question for me. We want to change things, but how can an athlete like me do that? First we need to talk about it. Then the sponsor. They have so many outside audiences that it’s up to us to talk to them about the importance of carbon dioxide emissions and the implications of zero carbon emissions … Also have to praise the sponsors who have made great changes in their work, “says Tatiana McFadden.


Brad Snyder, American Paralympics

City / Madumon

Brad Snyder, American Paralympics

The role of sports

Sporting events also contribute to global warming. According to a report from the Rapid Transition Alliance, the global sports sector produces as much emissions as medium-sized countries, thanks to carbon dioxide emissions associated with transportation, construction, sports venues and the supply chain of sporting goods. I am.

For example, it is estimated that the 2016 Rio Olympics generated 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and the 2018 Russia World Cup generated 2.16 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Climate change damage because these types of assessments do not take into account the impact of new stadium construction, water and energy consumed to support events and food waste, plastics and other products during demonstrations. May be underestimated.

However, measures have been taken to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at sporting events. For example, the International Olympic Committee aims to go beyond carbon neutrality and ensure that games are carbon neutral by 2030.

Athletes like Ms. McFadden have also begun to speak out on this issue. At last year’s COP26 Climate Change Summit, more than 50 athletes from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics gathered and called on world leaders to take ambitious action during the summit.

According to DESA, sports can play an important role in education and awareness of global warming and, more broadly, environmental issues, especially by promoting healthy and sustainable lifestyles.


Kaede Maegawa represents Japan at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Kaede Maegawa

Kaede Maegawa represents Japan at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

In fact, research shows that fans embrace environmental efforts and participate in environmental footprint reduction efforts not only when attending sporting events, but also as advocates for daily activities and communities.

Therefore, a targeted environmental sustainability campaign is essential in this process.

In fact, athletes and teams can act as role models for supporters by using their social status to raise awareness of climate change in individuals and communities and encourage them to change their lifestyles for the sake of the planet. I can.

McFadden was also involved in launching the WeThe15 campaign at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The campaign aims to shed light on 15% of people with disabilities around the world and address barriers and discrimination.

“I see my future as an opportunity to make a difference and help increase the number of people with disabilities in the right places to negotiate. This will allow us to participate in and drive climate change discussions. Play a role. “Sustainability around the world” to elite athletes preparing for Paris 2024, where the Olympic Commission is making great efforts to make this event a sustainable event. I’m looking forward to it.

The US Paralympic Athletics Champion also participated in the celebration of International Day for International Development Peace, which was marked at the United Nations in 2022 at a virtual event with other elite athletes, Olympic athletes, and Olympic athletes. Major sports groups such as the Qatar 2022 World Cup Organizing Committee and World Rugby.