Sport and Climate Change: Paralympic Champion Tatiana McFadden Explains Link |

Tatiana McFadden is considered the fastest woman in the world. She is a six-time U.S. Paralympic and a 20-time Paralympic medalist. She won 23 world marathons and broke five world records in athletics.

Ms. McFadden was born with spina bifida and spent the first years of her life in an orphanage in Russia with little or no access to basic services – or even a wheelchair – before being adopted by her mother Deborah, who took her home to Maryland. United States.

Two decades later, she still remembers what it was like to live in those conditions, and those memories are at the heart of her struggle for the rights of people with disabilities and helped her raise awareness of the need for them to have a voice. in key issues such as climate change.

“I lived a first-hand life without adequate food and clean water, sometimes without heating or electricity, things I don’t take for granted now. Fortunately, at the age of six, I was adopted by a wonderful American family and I don’t have to live like this anymore. But with climate change, many people living in developing countries are experiencing it, “she told UN News.

Ms. McFadden says she spoke about the fight with her fellow Paralympic athletes who come from countries particularly affected by climate change.

“There is no doubt that climate change is a great global challenge that really affects all people. But in reality, it disproportionately affects the population with disabilities, “she explains.

Warm up

In the case of sports, athletes feel the heat increase during their competitions. Tokyo 2020 was an example of that, with record heat and humidity reaching the headlines around the world and posing a danger to participants.

Tatiana Mcfadden

Tatiana McFadden, an American Paralympic athlete, during the ceremony of awarding medals at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020.

“This is directly related to hydration. As athletes we have to stay very hydrated. Having a disability, being paralyzed from the waist down causes problems with circulation, and for us, hydration is already a very difficult thing. You can get heat stroke and die because you don’t get enough, “she explains.

Nutrition is another big factor for competitors, which, believe it or not, can be a challenge for some athletes in certain countries.

Ms. McFadden learned that during the culmination of the COVID-19 pandemicU.S. conspirators had to deliver food, health care, and equipment to South African Paralympic athletes suffering from vulnerable conditions.

“This is really big [challenge] we are facing, not only because of COVID, but also because of the climate crisis. This has hit me personally, because as an elite athlete, hydration and food are so important not only for performance but for health in general, and to see my Paralympic athletes not have it is very difficult.

So we have to be a part of this debate because they were my competitors. “Many could not go to Tokyo, for example, because they lived in such situations,” she said.

A problem for the whole sports sector

According to a recent policy report from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the sports sector is indeed affected by the effects of rising temperatures, heavy rainfall and rising extreme weather events.

A recent study cited in the report showed that in a warming world, half of the former cities hosting the Winter Olympics will probably not be able to sponsor the 2050 Winter Games due to a lack of snow and ice.

In 2018, high temperatures forced the organizers of the US Open tennis tournament to offer “rest” to athletes. During the Australian Open 2020, poor air quality caused by forest fires forced some tennis players to withdraw from the tournament.

By 2050, it is predicted that almost one quarter of the stadium of the English national football team (23 out of 92) will be partially or completely flooded every year.

These examples represent only high-profile sports events, DESA explains. The impact on smaller, more local events is potentially far greater.

From youth leagues to collegiate teams, millions of athletes have already faced some climate disorders, and they will only increase over time.

Everyone’s vote is needed

Of course, the disruption of sporting events could emerge as a minor problem amid food, energy and water insecurity, forcing millions to migrate as climate impacts accelerate over the next few decades.

“But the magnitude of the crisis dictates that solutions must come from every sector, every nation, every voice with an idea. “And it turns out that athletes are facing a challenge and their contribution can make a difference,” the UN DESA policy report said.

The fact is that the world of sports in a a unique position to show leadership in climate action and in mitigating the effects of climate change.

“This is personal for me. We want to make a change and how can athletes like me do that? First, we need to talk about it. Second, work with sponsors. They have such a huge external audience, so it is our job to talk to them about the importance of the carbon footprint and the importance of zero carbon emissions … We should also praise the sponsors who are doing business and making big changes “, emphasizes Tatjana McFadden.


Brad Snyder, American Paralympian

Citi / Madumont

Brad Snyder, American Paralympian

The role of sport

Sports events also contribute to global warming. According to a Alliance for Rapid Transition In the report, the global sports sector contributes to the same level of emissions as a medium-sized country through its carbon footprint coming from transport, construction, sports facilities and sports equipment supply chains.

For example, it was estimated that the Rio 2016 Olympic Games were announced 3.6 million tons of carbon dioxidewhile 2.16 million tons were released at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Such estimates could underestimate the effects of climate change, as they do not include the impact of building new stadiums, water and energy spent on events and food, plastics and other waste generated during the event.

However, measures are being taken to reduce the carbon footprint of sporting events. E.g,

The International Olympic Committee aims to overcome carbon neutrality by 2030 and make the Games carbon negative.

Athletes like Ms. Macfadden have also begun to raise their voices on the issue: last year at the COP26 climate change summit, more than 50 global Olympians and Tokyo 2020 Paralympians came together to advocate for ambitious actions by world leaders during the summit.

According to DESA, sport can play an important role in educating and raising awareness about global warming and, more broadly, environmental issues, including promoting a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.


Kaede Maegawa represents Japan at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Kaede Maegava

Kaede Maegawa represents Japan at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

In fact, the study showed that fans are receptive to environmental initiatives, participate in efforts to reduce environmental impact not only when attending sporting events, but also in their daily behavior and as advocates in their local communities.

Targeted environmental sustainability campaigns can therefore be crucial in this process. In this case, athletes and teams can serve as role models for their supporters by using their elevated social status to educate individuals and communities about climate change, motivating them to change their way of life for the betterment of the planet.

Ms. McFadden was also part of the launch of the WeThe15 campaign during the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, which aims to enlighten 15 percent of people worldwide with disabilities and fight barriers and discrimination.

“I see my future in the hope that it will make a difference and help increase the number of people with disabilities who take their rightful place at the table, ensuring that we are part of the climate change debate and giving our share in promoting sustainability in the world.” as it prepares for Paris 2024, where the Olympic Committee is taking big steps to make it a sustainable event.

The athlete is also part of the celebration of the International Day for Sport for Development and Peace, which will be celebrated at the UN in 2022 during a virtual event with other elite athletes and Olympians, as well as large sports groups, including Qatar 2022. Organizing Committee and World Rugby.

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