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(sports) Roundup: Sports policies need to be improved to accommodate climate change: institute

Xinhua, January 31, 2015 Adjust font size:

Climate change and extreme weather events are threatening the viability of many Australian sports, and policies need to be dramatically improved to protect the health of sports people, the Climate Institute said in a report released Saturday.

Both elite-level and community-level sports activities, be they football, cricket, tennis, or skiing, are impacted by the climate change, said John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute, an independent Australian research body.

"Climate change is putting our weather on steroids. With greater warming, more extreme heat, changes in rainfall and more intense storms, there are questions about just how far we can push players in elite and local sport. Questions also grow about whether the way some of our sport is played, or watched, is safe or sustainable," Connor said.

He said that heat policies, venue resilience and climate action will need to be improved to reflect the changes in climate.

"Elite venues are improving resilience, but local clubs and facilities, the lifeblood of Australian sport, are struggling. As climate extremes multiply, sports will need to learn from policies evolving in other outdoor industries."

The report, with title "Sport and Climate Impacts: How much heat can sport handle?" carries an introduction by former Australian Football League (AFL) CEO Andrew Demetriou and analyses the vulnerability among sports like AFL, tennis, cricket and cycling as well as winter snow sports.

Australian Bureau of Meteorology confirmed in its annual report released earlier this month that Australia has experienced its third-warmest calendar year in 2014 since national records began in 1910.

The Climate Institute report finds out that in Australia, the frequency of extremely hot days has already doubled since 1960 with days over 35 degrees Celsius set to rise significantly. Rainfall patterns are changing with less rainfall in winter and spring across Southern Australia with intense rainfall events increasing nationwide.

Heat policies across sports are beginning to evolve, but many are unclear and inconsistently applied. Heat thresholds range from 34 to 41 degrees Celsius. In 2014, major international tennis and cycling competitions were prime examples of the impact of heat on players and spectators, and the uncertainty around application of heat policies.

Drought can devastate community sport. Dried up, cracked surfaces during the Millennium Drought in 2007, for instance, saw three-quarters of AFL leagues in metro and rural Victoria delay or cancel their season. Upkeep of community grounds rose, and ticket sales dropped.

Sport brings significant revenues to the Australian economy, to the tune of 13 billion AU dollars (10.4 billion U.S. dollars) a year. But sporting events impacted by severe weather events are seeing significant drops in attendance and revenue. The 2014 Australian Open saw a loss of 12,000 to 15,000 spectators per day during particularly hot days.

Nine out of the 16 world cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics in the 20th century could not again guarantee proper snow conditions by the end of the 21st century. In Australia's mountains, snow fall has diminished by more than a third in the last decade alone. Other studies predict the slopes could be mostly bare of snow by 2050.

Major sport venues are improving resilience at significant cost. New stadiums and upgrades now often include retractable roofs, synthetic surfaces, raised flooring and flood proofing, and equipment, and energy efficiencies to compensate for increased cooling costs. Many if not all of these changes are beyond local facilities.

"To protect what we can of the health of our sports, major changes will be needed in facilities, playing policies and climate action," said Connor. Endi