This Friday, the 2022 Winter Olympics kick off in Beijing, the second Olympics to be held during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first ever to be held on entirely artificial snow.
With omicron surging around the world, Japan Times sports reporter Dan Orlowitz tells us about the stringent measures put in place to allow these Games to take place, and how Japan is responding to the U.S. call for a diplomatic boycott of these Olympics. Later in the show, Dr. Madeleine Orr joins us to talk about how climate change is threatening the Winter Olympics, and why Beijing is so uniquely reliant on artificial snow.
- Absence of Yuzuru Hanyu fans at Beijing 2022 a relief for Xi’s Pooh-paranoid censors (Dan Orlowitz, The Japan Times)
- Slippery Slopes: How climate change is threatening the Winter Olympics (The Sport Ecology Group)
- China’s fake snow frenzy for Beijing Olympics strains water supplies
- China reports 34 new COVID-19 cases among personnel connected to Olympics
- Entering the Beijing Olympics in the pandemic
- The Japan Times’ full coverage of the Winter Olympics
Today’s episode is sponsored by RGF Professional Recruitment Japan, the bilingual arm of Recruit, Japan and Asia’s largest recruiting and information service company.
Visit RGF Professional Recruitment Japan to register your resume and unleash your potential today.
Dan will join Oscar for a livestream about his experiences in Beijing on Twitter on Monday, Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. Japan time. Follow @japantimes to join the conversation when they go live.
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Oscar Boyd 0:09
Hello and welcome to Deep Dive. From The Japan Times, I’m Oscar Boyd. This Friday, the 2022 Winter Olympics kick off in Beijing, the second Olympics to take place during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first ever to be held on entirely artificial snow. On this week’s episode, Dr. Madeleine Orr joins us to talk about how climate change is threatening the Winter Olympics, and the ecological impact of the Beijing Games. But first, Japan Times sports reporter Dan Orlowitz joins me halfway through his packing as he prepares to head off to Beijing.
Oscar Boyd 0:48
Dan Orlowitz welcome back to Deep Dive. Thank you so much for joining me again.
Dan Orlowitz 0:52
Thanks for having me. And Happy Lunar New Year, what a week in which to celebrate that.
Oscar Boyd 0:56
Yeah, happy Year of the Tiger, which you’ll be quite fittingly starting in Beijing, as our reporter on the ground for these Winter Olympics. You’ve squeezed in some time now to talk to me before your flight. Are you feeling prepped and ready?
Dan Orlowitz 1:11
As much as I can. I still have a bit of packing and organizing to do, still have a few stories that I’ve been working on ahead of the games that I’m trying to write out. But I think I’m ready as much as anyone else has been ready. And these are certainly some of the most unique Olympics to be getting ready for. We thought Tokyo was wild. Boy, if only we knew what was waiting for us and China.
Oscar Boyd 1:42
Well, so Beijing, like Tokyo last summer, is going ahead with these Games despite the pandemic. And with the even more contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 spreading at the same time. The games are expected to bring around 11,000 people from overseas to Beijing. So what measures have been put in place to allow these Games to go ahead despite the pandemic?
Dan Orlowitz 2:03
Well, China has taken a very strict line on COVID. Their zero-COVID policies, mass testing, very strict lockdowns, they can shut down an entire city in an instant if they want, just for a few positive cases. And the border situation is also very tight, even tighter than Japan’s which as we know has come under a lot of criticism. Most people coming to China have to quarantine for three weeks, two of which are in a government facility, then I believe the third week is at home. Those of us who are covering the Games don’t have to quarantine for three weeks if we are vaccinated. So that’s the first step, we have to take two PCR tests in the four days before the flight, register for China’s green QR code, just their health authority issues the all clear in consultation with your local consulate or embassy. There’s lists of approved testing sites that the Chinese Embassy has approved. Some of the lists don’t match up with some of the other lists, which is fun. And as for the personnel who are flying in, there are sort of these limited charter flights that the Olympic partner airlines have set up. And so those are coming in from a number of hubs, I believe Tokyo, Singapore, Doha, Dubai, a European city that I can’t remember at the moment.
Oscar Boyd 3:14
And these flights are reserved for people associated with the Olympics, they can’t be boarded by the general public?
Dan Orlowitz 3:38
Yes. So this is athletes, media officials, coaches, everyone is going in on those and everything is socially distanced, masks all the way in. And so we fly and we get to Beijing and into the next part.
Oscar Boyd 3:56
Okay. And so once you get there, you enter this closed loop system. And this is the system that’s been put in place to separate everyone associated with the Olympics from the general public, and which allows you to avoid the 21 day quarantine. So tell me a bit more about that system. How does that work? And what kind of measures will you have to follow when you actually arrive in China?
Dan Orlowitz 4:17
Well, from what we’ve seen from people who’ve already arrived at the Games, you get to Beijing’s airport and the staff there are just fully decked out in hazmat suits. You have to show that all of your paperwork is in order that you have the appropriate QR codes on your phone. You have to do a PCR test, and I’ve heard they’re not gentle. Not at all with that Q tip.
Oscar Boyd 4:41
Straight up the nose?
Dan Orlowitz 4:42
Yeah, just straight up into the brain. I’m going to come back and not remember second grade at all. And you’re put on a bus and the bus is completely sealed and sent to your hotel and you have to go to your room and stay there until your test comes back negative. And after that you can join the closed loop. In Tokyo for context, media coming in from overseas had to spend 14 days in the bubble. And then they could go outside the bubble to do reporting. And this was one of the eventual compromises that Tokyo 2020 made because the media didn’t want to just be stuck in their hotels the whole time. And they wanted to go out on the street and do reporting.
Oscar Boyd 5:26
Right. But China’s approach with these Olympics sounds much stricter.
Dan Orlowitz 5:30
China’s taking a much stricter approach. So we can go to the venues, we can go to the media center, we can go to our hotel, and we can get into the buses, the games taxis or whatever private rental vehicles there are to get us between those three. And that’s it.
Oscar Boyd 5:50
So there’s no side trips for you to the Great Wall or the Forbidden City.
Dan Orlowitz 5:56
Last time I visited Beijing was about 10 years ago now. And I went to both of those spots and I will not be able to, to go back and revisit and take the before and after pictures. We are in theory, totally isolated from the public, from everyone really. Even the media are going to be largely separated from the athletes, there will be opportunities for the media to interview the athletes, but there are going to be more measures in place than the two meters distance that was in the mix zones at Tokyo 2020 as you experienced as well.
Oscar Boyd 6:32
Sure, sure. And just to confirm, these games are completely closed to the public? So, like Tokyo, it is going to be a completely spectatorless Olympics.
Dan Orlowitz 6:40
Right. It’s going to be VIPs. I think some sponsor people and I’ve read reports that schoolchildren were to be let in similar to how the Tokyo Paralympics did allow some children to attend. Whether that comes to pass is another question given that Beijing is dealing with some Omicron cases. And through this, all of us have to follow the usual procedures: masks the whole time, not just masks, but N95 level masks, which is something that not even Tokyo 2020 mandated. So we had to prep those and it’s, it’s going to be a process. It’s going to be an adventure.
Oscar Boyd 7:24
And as part of this, you have to get tested daily. So the question is, you know, what happens if you end up testing positive for COVID-19 while you’re covering these games?
Dan Orlowitz 7:32
Oh knock on wood, I’m sure you can hear that on my microphone. If you test positive, then either you go to an isolation center, if you are asymptomatic. If you are symptomatic, then you go to a hospital, which is I think the less preferable option. And they feed you, they give you WiFi. And if you do test positive, and you’re in that situation, you can rejoin the games after I believe 10 days, it’s either going to be 10 days, or a certain number of days of negative tests. They have been a little flexible just because of the Omicron situation and the fact that it is so transmittable, and the symptoms are relatively light. So what we record now may not be the case, by the time this is published, by the time I get to Beijing, by the time the Olympics are already in progress. It is a very fluid situation.
Oscar Boyd 8:30
So with all these measures in place, how successful has Beijing 2022 been so far in preventing the spread of COVID-19 amongst participants joining the games?
Dan Orlowitz 8:39
They’ve had close to 200 cases so far. 175. 200. I think we’re in that window. Those who do test positive will be able to return to action, I think they need two negative tests. Close contacts can continue their duties but they do have to take more caution. They have to stay two meters apart from people instead of one, they have to make sure they’re dining completely by themselves. And it’s very easy to become a close contact. It’s just a matter of where you’re sitting on an airplane. If you’re one or two rows from somebody who tests positive when they arrive. So it’s as successful as Tokyo, I think that the virus doesn’t really care. I don’t mean to be glib, but I think that if it’s going to infect you, it’s going to infect you and even with so many people taking so many precautions, cases are just going to get in. When you have 10,000 people converging from across the world, I think that they’re just going to slip through.
Oscar Boyd 9:47
I’m curious about what the Chinese public’s view on these games is. Because you know, with Tokyo there was a big discussion point throughout the whole thing about should these games be going ahead with the pandemic, especially with all the people from overseas being brought into the country. But Tokyo and Japan, you know, never really had strict lockdowns. In China, there’s still this zero-COVID policy. And as you said earlier, it’s been locking down cities with just a few examples of community transmission of COVID. It’s got a much stricter approach than Tokyo and Japan. So, personally, if I was a Chinese citizen, I would be worried that if there were cases being brought into the country that my city might be locked down as a result.
Dan Orlowitz 10:29
I think that Chinese citizens have had to deal with the fear of lockdowns for two years now. Unfortunately, they’re not in new territory here. And unfortunately, it is very hard to gauge the opinion of the average citizen just because there are limits to access, we don’t actually really have accurate public opinion polls. The Communist Party and the state and the various authorities, they want Chinese citizens to be excited about hosting the Olympics again, about their athletes having a chance to do very well in these Olympics and to demonstrate China’s place as a global superpower. Beijing, I believe will be the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics. But there is the question of well, how much does China care about winter sports because they are relatively new? Skiing is not necessarily a popular pastime, although it is growing. Hockey is sort of starting to get popular, but it’s not the thing. And certainly figure skating isn’t as huge as it is in say South Korea and Japan, and Russia and elsewhere in Europe. It is sort of introducing a billion people to to winter sports at a level that they have not really experienced before. So I think there will be some curiosity, there’ll be interest and there will be that patriotism. And overall, I think that the Chinese public will want to see the Games succeed because they want to see China succeed. And that’s a big part of it.
Oscar Boyd 12:19
Countries such as the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, have enacted a diplomatic boycott of these Winter Games due to the allegations of human rights abuses of Uighur population in China, and also in the wake of the disappearance of Chinese women’s tennis player, Peng Shuai. Athletes from those countries will still be attending these games, but diplomatic officials won’t be. What is Japan’s position going into these games?
Dan Orlowitz 12:44
Well, Japan isn’t committed to the full diplomatic boycott. They’re hedging their bets because I think they want to maintain civil relations with China, if not friendly. So they will be sending Japan Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita, they will be sending Seiko Hashimoto, who was the president of the organizing committee for Tokyo 2020. They will be sending Kazuyuki Mori, who’s president of the Japan Paralympic Committee. They are officials, they are from the government, ostensibly, but Kishida is not going to fly over, you’re not going to have any cabinet representatives in Beijing. And that lets China save face, it lets Japan save face, and it lets Japan be able to take the position that it is sort of standing in solidarity with the United States and its other allies who are doing this full boycott.
Oscar Boyd 13:50
So it sounds like Japan’s spinning a lot of plates and trying to keep them all balanced at the same time. What’s China’s response been to the diplomatic boycott?
Dan Orlowitz 13:58
Not happy. They’ve said that the United States should stop politicizing sports, stop undermining the Beijing Olympics. What you would expect China to say. I think that they are trying to make themselves out to be the aggrieved party. I think that for them, it is not just the Olympics, it is the geopolitical situation and it is trying to make a statement. This is not the friendly China trying to show to the world that ‘Yes, we are open. Yes we can host an event like the 2008 Olympics.’ This is a much more nationalistic, hawkish China who’s place in the world you know, especially with the pandemic has shifted, and then they see an opportunity to take an even bigger role in the geopolitical scene and so any afront to that is something that they take very seriously.
Oscar Boyd 15:00
I think it should be noted that there’s been quite a few countries. I’m thinking like Italy and France, who you might expect to join a diplomatic boycott, but who have refused to do so. I think President Macron described, the the US is boycott as symbolic and insignificant, so it’s not got wide-spread support amongst all Western allied nations.
Dan Orlowitz 15:22
And no, this isn’t anything like the boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980, or the response to the Los Angeles games in 1984. This is much smaller in scale. Those were much bigger in terms of the number of countries that participated and the rhetoric that was being exchanged at that time. So, quite frankly, again, given the COVID situation, the fewer diplomats we have flying back and forth, the better. So I think we all hope that this doesn’t become a huge issue during the games, for a number of reasons, and it’s going to be delicate, but we’ll see how it goes.
Oscar Boyd 16:11
Lastly, before I let you go and get ready for your flight, what are you actually excited to see at these Winter Games?
Dan Orlowitz 16:17
Well, that this will be my first winter Olympics. I’ll have 10 days on the ground. And I’m looking forward to getting in as much as I can just just of the atmosphere and starting very early on on Thursday night, Smile Japan, Japan’s women’s ice hockey team opens its group stage against Sweden, that’s going to be a great match. World number ones if I’m not mistaken. And I think the big one in Japan and around the world will be the men’s figure skating competition. Yuzuru Hanyu, Nathan Chen. Hanyu has been working on that quad axel. Nathan Chen is looking to avenge his Olympic showing in Pyeongchang, four years ago. I think that’s going to be the highlight. And everyone in that arena is going to be very lucky to see it. And hopefully I’ll be one of them.
Oscar Boyd 17:08
Well Dan. Have a fantastic time in Beijing. We’ll be speaking to you once you’re there. And thank you so much for joining me today.
Dan Orlowitz 17:15
No problem. Looking forward to it. And I hope everyone follows our coverage and enjoys the ride.
Oscar Boyd 17:23
That was Japan Times sports reporter Dan Orlowitz. Dan and I will be doing a livestream about his experiences at Beijing on Twitter on Monday evening at 8pm Japan time. We’ll also be taking questions from listeners. So please do join us there and then to get involved in the discussion. Follow The Japan Times Twitter account to be notified when we go live. More details in the show notes. After the break, Beijing is making history as the first games to be hosted on entirely artificial snow. But why is it so reliant on the fake stuff? Dr. Madeleine Orr joins me to discuss.
Oscar Boyd 17:55
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Oscar Boyd 19:05
Welcome back to Deep Dive. Despite the efforts of Cop26 at the end of 2021, the world is still on track for several degrees of global warming by the end of the century, posing a significant threat to winter sports around the world, which rely on cold temperatures and regular precipitation. I’m joined now by Dr. Madeleine Orr, a researcher who focuses on sports and climate change at the University of Loughborough. And who is the founder of The Sport Ecology Group. Madeline Orr, welcome to Deep Dive. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Madeleine Orr 19:37
Yeah, thank you for having me. This is exciting.
Oscar Boyd 19:39
Your organization, The Sport Ecology Group, just put out a report about how climate change is threatening the future of the Winter Olympics and also about the ecological impact of the upcoming games in Beijing. In the report, you write that the Beijing Olympics will make history as the first Winter Olympics to take place on virtually 100% artificial snow. Why is this game so uniquely reliant on artificial snow?
Madeleine Orr 20:02
The reason Beijing is so uniquely reliant on artificial snow compared to past cities, is Beijing is mostly a summer destination. Yes, it gets cold. Yes, they get smatterings of snow here and there. But it’s the kind of snow that falls from the sky and mostly sticks for a day or two and then goes away, or in most cases just melts as soon as it hits the ground. So it’s not tenable conditions to have natural snow. And as a result, they’re having to produce it all themselves.
Oscar Boyd 20:28
And was this always the plan with Beijing? that it would be using artificial snow?
Madeleine Orr 20:32
Yeah, that’s a great question and allows me to make a good distinction here, right. We always knew Beijing was going to be on artificial snow. Beijing knew that. Beijing actually, all of the stats that are in our report, in terms of how much artificial snow is being produced, and how much water is being used, actually came directly from the Beijing pregame sustainability report. So the question then around climate change is a question more of, ‘Okay, where can we go?’ Right? If Beijing is not the place if Sochi and Pyeongchang are not appropriate, because they also had significant amounts of artificial snow. Where are the snow share locations? Because ultimately, when you host the Games, you want to have a great couple weeks of an Olympics, a great 10 days of a Paralympics. But ultimately, you want to have facilities that will be used daily in perpetuity, to produce more sport opportunities for people in your country. And, you know, it’s one thing to think about the water use in Beijing for the two weeks of the Olympics and the Paralympics immediately after, it’s a whole other thing to think about them using that water indefinitely, to produce so like this each year, to continue those opportunities.
Oscar Boyd 21:36
Right. And that’s a really interesting point, because when you hear that it’s all being hosted on artificial snow, you don’t necessarily think about what it takes to actually produce all that snow, or what happens to that snow once it’s no longer needed at the end of the games and it starts to melt. And I think this is what your report does such a good job in highlighting. So what are some of the impacts of hosting an Olympics entirely on artificial snow?
Madeleine Orr 21:57
So there’s a couple. There’s the impact of actually pulling water in the first place. In this case, 49 million gallons is the estimate provided by Beijing. Researchers in the University of Strasbourg in Switzerland have actually said it could be higher than that based on temperature fluctuations. So for instance, if it were to get a little warmer out a couple days, and all of a sudden that night they have to reintroduce a whole bunch of extra snow to make up for any melt, that could push those numbers above 49 million gallons, which is already crazy.
Oscar Boyd 22:27
Can you can you put 49 million gallons into context on how like that just seems like a crazy amount of water. I don’t know how to even visualize that.
Madeleine Orr 22:36
Yeah, it’s hard one to visualize. So they’re producing enough snow to cover 800,000 square meters. It’s just a crazy amount of snow. So to do that is one thing. To do it again and again and again, right. Part of the reason that Beijing got these Olympics was because they promised 300 million new people would be introduced or offered the opportunity to participate in winter sports. And from the International Olympic Committee, for example, or from Beijing, frankly, that’s awesome as a goal, because all of a sudden, like there’s amazing health benefits off the back of that, potentially some social benefits, potentially jobs, all these great things, right. But the environmental cost of that is going to be quite significant.
Oscar Boyd 23:18
And it’s not just the water being used, it’s also the energy required to pump it uphill and spray it out into the air to cool as snow. You know, the other issue you explore here is is snow melt. What happens when 49 million gallons of water melts onto what is usually a very arid landscape in the region that all the snow spots are being held. What are some of the impacts here?
Madeleine Orr 23:38
This is where scientifically, it gets more complicated, because it’s not just a case of calculating how much water is being pulled. It’s more a case of figuring out: when that snow melts, how will the soils and the plant life underneath that react when that all melts? And it’s gonna flow downhill, great, but the soils at the bottom of the mountain, can they accommodate that much water? Likely not. So how is that managed? Beijing officials have put in some really interesting technology in terms of water capture, so I’m very hopeful about that. I think that they’re, you know, they really are doing their best given an impossible situation. But I think it’s one of those things where, you know, is that technology going to be rolled out at every Chinese mountain moving forward? Like it’s just a really kind of challenging, complicated question of, ultimately, is it ethical to host climatically untenable events in order to meet other goals? Or is there maybe another event that could be hosted there?
Oscar Boyd 24:35
Your report also examines how viable it’s going to be for past winter Olympic host cities to host the Winter Olympics again in the future, considering the fact that global temperatures are expected to rise significantly over the century. What did you find?
Madeleine Orr 24:51
So my colleague Walker Ross, and I put out a study in the in the fall, looking at the next 10 years worth of event locations and what we found was all of them will be impacted by climate change in some way. So in this case, the conversation is around snow and resources. At Qatar, it’s around heat. At Los Angeles down the line it’s about air quality and heat. Paris probably heat. The other piece of research that’s been really instrumental is work by University of Waterloo, Dan Scott and his team and, and they found that of the cities that have hosted a Winter Games in the past, only a handful will be viable climatically to host an Olympic Games in 2080 if we continue on a high emissions track. If we were able to curb emissions, we actually maintain many, many more viable host cities. So I think, in all likelihood, what’s going to happen, is we’re gonna fall somewhere in the middle, right? We’ll hopefully curb emissions from where they are now but it won’t be quite enough to hit that low emission scenario. And we’re going to fall somewhere in the middle. And so in that scenario, we’d see about less than half of previous host cities have eligible conditions, snow conditions to do this again.
Oscar Boyd 26:01
Right, so places like Nagano or Chamonix might become too warm and have too little snow to host a winter games in the future under high emission scenarios.. How are athletes responding to these changing conditions? Because they’re going to be feeling it before anyone when they’re competing at such a high level.
Madeleine Orr 26:18
Yeah, it’s been really mixed actually. So some athletes really like the conditions on artificial snow because it’s slick and it’s fast. And so that can be a lot of fun if you’re racing. Other athletes are quite concerned, particularly in aerial sports, for example, where you’re jumping and then landing on something that’s not so soft anymore. Or for Nordic skiers, they’ve raised a lot of concerns and biathletes actually. The International Biathlon Union biathlon union just put out a report, I’d encourage anyone to check it out, that surveyed all biathletes and asked how they feel about climate change, and there’s a huge level of concern there as well. Overwhelmingly, there sounds like to be a lot of concern. But in terms of the actual quality of the competition itself. You know, the team at FIS, which is the federation for skiing has done a good job of maintaining that quality. So it’s not, I don’t know that that’s really the concern. It’s more like the enjoyment and the fear of the future, and fear of seeing their kids maybe not get to do the same thing that’s starting to weigh on these athletes.
Oscar Boyd 27:19
You just mentioned Nordic sports, which are events like cross country skiing. And that raises an interesting question for me, which is that, sports such as cross country skiing developed not, you know, to be a sport, but also as a means of transport in Nordic countries. And as a result, it’s pretty easy to get into that sport, because it’s part of the culture there. Are athletes worried that grassroots opportunities for winter sports will disappear as a result of climate change and shorter winter seasons?
Madeleine Orr 27:45
Yeah, there’s definitely a pipeline issue there, right? So if we think about the elite athletes who are in the sport now, and this goes for all winter sports, frankly, including skating, sports, hockey has an issue with pond hockey, so on and so forth. But when you think about the pipeline of where the future athletes are going to come from, if it’s not possible to ski in good conditions close to home, how many people have the resources to go further to get to those conditions? So that shrinks the pool, right? Like, there’s an equity question here as well, in terms of who has access to these things. Already, if you look at who is competing in Winter Games, and you look at, you know, where they come from, and what their financial situation is, in most cases, these people come from middle and higher income families, because winter sports are really expensive. It’s really expensive to maintain a hockey arena or a figure skating rink. And so if you’re getting time on that ice, you’re paying a pretty penny for it. So if that gets more expensive, because the resources are harder to come by, all of a sudden we’re pinching, We’re economically pinching some people out of the sport as well.
Oscar Boyd 28:51
So is the IOC, the International Olympic Committee, doing anything to try and reduce the contribution of the Olympics to climate change?
Madeleine Orr 29:00
Yes, the IOC has a sustainability office that has several people working in it with different tasks. One is responsible, for example, for the Olympic movement, helping every international sport federation to move in the right direction, to adopt targets and find ways to strategize climate action and nature based solutions and all these other things. They’re doing really good work in that space. The challenge becomes, you know, when the IOC awards the event to a host committee, the host committee assumes the responsibility for that event. So the IOC just licenses it, essentially. And so they have very little control over the sustainability efforts of that place. Increasingly, we’re seeing host committees really take it to heart and take that on. Beijing, for example is going 100% renewables, that’s awesome. And you know, some of their facilities are being reused. Again, that’s really cool. Could more be done? Yes. And that’s where in my line of work where it gets tricky. I want to cheerlead on the one hand all the great stuff that’s happening. The other part of me is like, these are huge organizations, I want more. And then that gets really tricky to navigate. So they are doing good work on this. I think the office of the IOC working on this could use like 100 more people to do it. And like if there were some sponsors out there listening to this podcast, who wanted to send them millions of dollars to accelerate that work, that’d be cool. Right? Like when you’re the IOC, and you’re tasked with growing sport participation in all sports, as the bottom line, it gets really hard to say no to a bid from Beijing, where they’re saying there will be 300 million new sport participants. Like, that’s really hard to say no to.
Oscar Boyd 30:36
Sure. But at the same time, obviously it’s in the IOCs interest to ensure that these events can go ahead in the future. And you know, when we’re talking about the idea that previous hosts of the Winter Olympics will no longer be viable, because they won’t have enough snow, then that calls the whole Olympic movement, or at least the Winter Olympic movement into question. And, you know, when we look at Tokyo last summer, there were so many discussions about the crazy heat and doing all these events in high heat and high humidity. So I guess my final question to you is like, do you see a future in which the Winter Olympics no longer actually happens due to global warming?
Madeleine Orr 31:11
Oh, you’re breaking my heart. You’re breaking my heart with that question. Because I don’t like to think about it. But if I had to, yes, yeah, I can see that being one possible version of the way this goes, I think there’s time to stop that from being an inevitability. There’s room to move away from that conclusion on this. Absolutely, but I do see it as one possibility. I was going to say, the hard realization that comes with this report, and it hits me personally because I love skiing, I grew up in the sport. It’s the realization that some of these things that we love may not be good for the planet anymore. It’s one thing to ski on natural snow, it’s another to drive to a mountain because most people don’t live right next to it, you’re skiing on snow that was produced artificially using a ton of energy for lifts and lights and all the rest. Like ultimately, it’s a very unsustainable activity, which is really hard to grasp, because the people who ski typically are out there because they love nature. I feel it as a Canadian, you know, the Olympics slogan is ‘Ice in our Veins.’ The loss of winter is going to be emotionally catastrophic for communities where this is a big part of their culture. And Canada is part of that, the US in certain places, parts of Europe, parts of Japan. There are places where the communities rely on this, it’s their lifeblood. So to lose that is going to be really, really hard. And it’s one thing to focus just on like, ‘Oh, these Olympics are a canary in the coal mine.’ And ‘Oh, here’s the issues of artificial snow.’ But ultimately, the bigger picture, the part that’s so hard to wrestle with is we could lose this element of our culture. I do not want to see that happen. I think it’s a possibility. But I’m really hopeful that we’ll get creative with some solutions here.
Oscar Boyd 32:57
Madeleine Orr, thank you so very much for joining me today.
Madeleine Orr 33:00
Thank you for having me.
Oscar Boyd 33:10
That was Madeleine Orr, I put a link to her report ‘Slippery Slope: How Climate Change is threatening the Winter Olympics,’ in the show notes. On Tuesday this week ahead of the games, Japan’s House of Representatives adopted a resolution on the serious human rights situation in China. The resolution, which will be sent to the Upper House at a later date, said that the international community has expressed concerns over issues such as internment and the violation of religious freedoms in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, Tibet and Hong Kong. The resolution which was watered down during debate did not directly use the word ‘China’ at any point in the text, and steered clear of expressions such as ‘human rights violation’ instead using the phrase ‘human rights situation.’
Oscar Boyd 33:53
My guests on this episode with Dan Orlowitz and Dr. Madeleine Orr. Many thanks to both of them for joining me on today’s show. And if you want to catch mine and Dan’s livestream from Beijing next Monday, make sure you follow the Japan Times Twitter account for more details. Dan will be sending regular reports from Beijing, so please do check The Japan Times website to see all of our coverage of these upcoming games. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please take a moment to rate and review deep dive on Apple podcasts and Spotify. Thank you so much to everyone who has done so already. We’ll be back next week. But until then, podtsukaresama.