Mondial, Olympics, Tour de France… The overdose of climatic races

In a world ravaged by climate change, it is still desirable to organize major sporting competitions ? As the World Cup is about to start in Qatar, reporterre conducted the investigation. The second part is here.


Air-conditioned and disposable stadiums, Shuttle Buses » by plane to go to the matches… The World Cup in Qatar, which takes place from November 20 to December 18, casts a harsh light on the ecological excesses of sport business and its great masses: continental and international competitions. These events bring together hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world who, for a few weeks, travel and consume, on sites sometimes just above ground. »observes geopolitician Carole Gomez, a specialist in the consequences of sport on international relations.

In their wake, greenhouse gas emissions are exploding, particularly from air travel [1]. The International Federation of the Football Federation (FIFA) estimates the equivalent of the World Cup in Qatar at 3.6 million tonnes CO2, as much as the emissions of Iceland and Montenegro for one year. Previous editions in Russia, Brazil and South Africa have already been disastrous, with emissions exceeding 2 million tonnes equivalent CO2. [2]

These figures, underestimated [3] and difficult to understand, they represent a concrete and palpable contribution to climate change.

garlic OJ from Beijing: artificially snowed slopes in a desolate industrial area. The site was built on top of a former steel mill. © Koki Kataoka / The Yomiuri Shimbun / AFP extension

And direct destruction. Infrastructures (sports arenas, hotels, highways, airports, etc.) are built to the detriment of natural spaces. On the occasion of the Winter Olympics in Russia – organized in 2014 in a seaside resort – the public company Olympstroy built a highway through the forests of the Caucasus, parts of which are classified as World Heritage by Unesco. In South Korea, four years later, the forest of Mount Gariwang, made up of thousand-year-old trees and considered sacred, was destroyed for ski slopes. After the athletes returned home, Gangwon Province didn’t know what to do with the facilities.

A slingshot wind blows

How are they organized? these competitions are mismanagement in a world on the edge of the abyss, where the average temperature in France could be 3.8°C higher than at the start of the XXAnd centurysays Jérôme Santolini, one of the coordinators of the Scientists in Rebellion collective, made up of scientists from all disciplines who are mobilizing against climate inertia. We are in a zone of complete uncertainty, except that the extent of the disaster will depend on our choices today. Sports competitions cannot be left out of the equation. »

Concentrating ecological nonsense, the World Cup in Qatar can cause a big leap ? We live in an important moment », says sports economist Christophe Lepetit. A slingshot wind blows, to an air of never again ». Convictions are on the rise, even from football players. Citizens pledge to boycott matches to deprive Fifa of its main income: television rights. They organize alternative events all over the world.

Qatar’s strategy is poorly managed »

This disclaimer it undermines Qatar’s strategy to expand its regional and international influence by leveraging the popularity of a major sporting event »says geopolitical scientist Carole Gomez. The country has underestimated the extent of the front that would result, above all with the increasingly strong sensitivity of the populations to environmental disasters and human rights. » From there to threaten the holding of these competitions ? One might imagine that with its reputation tarnished, no country will want to host these events. A phenomenon of rejection that we are already seeing for the host cities of the Olympic Games, whose applications are becoming scarce »keep on.

Saudi Arabia won the 2029 Asian Winter Games

Decision makers: International bodies, such as the International Olympic Committee (THAT IS) or Fifa — carry on as if nothing happened. The World hasn’t started that tomorrow’s bombs are already starting. The World Cup in Qatar 2022 is the tree that hides a forest of dirty cuts. The next edition will be played in 2026 by 48 teams, instead of 32, with matches divided between Canada, the United States and Mexico. Fifa has imposed such gigantism that countries alone no longer want to take charge of organizing a World Cup », observes Pierre Rondeau, sports economist. According to the British newspaper Timesafter the Spain-Portugal duo and the Uruguay-Argentina-Paraguay-Chile quartet, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Greece are preparing to present a joint bid to organize the 2030 World Cup.

As if the cup wasn’t already full, Qatar will host the Asian Football Cup in 2023. This time it will be June-July 2023, when the mercury will hit 50°C and the air conditioning will be blaring. And despite the images of the sites of OJ from Beijing – slopes covered with artificial snow in a desolate industrial area – Saudi Arabia has won the 2029 Asian Winter Games which it will organize in Neom, a futuristic megalopolis under construction in the middle of the desert. Proponents ensure that temperatures will drop below 0°C in winter », but kept silent about the scarcity of rainfall – and therefore of snow – in this desert area. The city will include year-round ski slopes, an artificial freshwater lake, chalets, mansions and luxury hotels.

France is above the fray ? Not really, despite increasingly green communication. The 2023 Rugby World Cup, of which it is the host country, is a showcase for the airline Emirates, or TotalÉnergies, one of the largest emitters of CO₂ to the world. The Tour de France cyclist is always preceded by his own caravan » of sponsors – around 160 vehicles – launching an avalanche of freebies along the roads of France [4], and followed by a line of cars (staff, doctors, organizers, media, officials…). As a recent survey by reporterresailing regattas such as the Route du Rhum are responsible for the death of dozens of cetaceans, sliced ​​by the fins of ever faster ships.

The OJ in Paris they led to an acceleration of destruction, expulsion and speculation projects

The Olympic Games held in Paris the following year are presented as the first major sporting event with a positive contribution to the climate » : The Organizing Committee has undertaken to halve the emissions associated with the organization of the Summer Games, offsetting them even more CO2 than those we will issue »explains to reporterre the director of environmental excellence Paris 2024, Georgina Grenon. That OJ 2024 are doing better than others, why not… But the fact remains that natural spaces are sacrificed to organize them, and that ecology would be better served if they hadn’t taken place »deplores Yun, activist of the Saccage 2024 collective, for whom the Olympic Games are an accelerator-catalyst » of Greater Paris.

In November 2020, 30 collectives and 150 people organized a Toxic tour to denounce “ poisoned local heritage » who will leave the OJ 2024. © Alexandre-Reza Kokabi/Reporterre

The 13.4 million spectators expected for the entire competition will arrive mainly by air. In Seine-Saint-Denis or in Val-d’Oise, the groups denounce an acceleration of destruction, pollution, eviction and speculation projects. Part of the allotments in Aubervilliers was razed to build a training pool and solarium. In Taverny, the construction site of an Olympic swimming pool destroyed 30,000 m22 Green spaces. The Paris administrative court of appeal rejected the opponents, without the possibility of appeal, because this project was protected by the “ Olympic Emergency Law “, with the aim of speeding up the procedures. In Élancourt, trees are cut down for a MTB. Undocumented workers are exploited on construction sites.

The trap, in regarding the World Cup in Qatar as a big foil, would be to put into perspective the harmful power of the following competitions, continued Yun. With each new assignment, we tell ourselves it will be the last. Until ? If we take a serious look at the climate emergency, it’s all a model that needs to be revised. » Carbon offsetting, decline, disappearance… In the second part of this survey, reporterre explore different solutions to bring the Cup back to itself.

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