Effects of global warming worrying sportsmen, UN-backed report says

13 November 2003

Smog, more intense sunlight and declining ski conditions are among growing environmental changes caused by global warming and pollution that are worrying sportsmen and sportswomen around the world, according to a United Nations-supported international survey released today.

“If global warming turns the mountains to summer, where am I supposed to snowboard?” Shaun White, the world’s No. 1-ranked snowboarder, says in a book accompanying the findings, which will be discussed at the Global Forum for Sport and the Environment 2003 (G-ForSE) opening in Tokyo, Japan, tomorrow.

“Global warming is changing the face of the sea. I just want to ride a natural wave,” adds Ryu Nakamura, a leading Japanese surfer, referring to the way climate change is making weather conditions more extreme and violent.

Close to a third of the 4,000 people questioned said they were being forced to alter the way they conduct sporting activities due to environmental concerns, according to the sport and environment survey conducted by the Global Sports Alliance, an international organization supported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Many are resorting to the use of higher factor sun creams and wearing long-sleeve shirts to counter what they claim is a higher risk of sunburn, while others are leaving inner-city sports grounds for the cleaner air of the countryside to avoid the impact of smog and other forms of pollution, the survey found. Worries about chemicals in food and their health impacts are also high on the list of concerns. A significant number of those polled said they were turning to “natural, organic, foods whenever possible.”

The survey included people aged mainly between 10 and 29 years-old for whom sports is a passionate hobby, as well as professional players, coaches, sports manufacturers, operators of sports facilities and associations. While most respondents came from Japan, there were also responses from Europe, North America and Africa.

“Sport and the environment are inextricably linked,” Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director said. “Pollution of the air, the land and waterways can have an impact on the enjoyment and performance of amateur and professional athletes alike. Smog, the result of traffic and other fumes, can make it harder to breathe, which is especially damaging for people like asthmatics.

“Chemicals used in and around play areas may also carry risks. Contaminated coasts and freshwaters may cause ill health for sports people such as surfers and water sports enthusiasts,” Mr. Toepfer added.


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