Paris aims to keep Olympians cool without air conditioners
The Olympic athletes’ village construction site is pictured In Saint Denis, outside Paris, Saturday, March 18, 2023. Some Paris 2024 Olympic hopefuls have expressed concern over the lack of air conditioning units in the athletes’ village that will be home for thousands of athletes and sports officials during next year’s Summer Games. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
By Barbara Surk And Samuel Petrequin
The Paris Olympics is going underground to find a way to keep athletes cool at the 2024 Games without air conditioners.
Organizers are planning to use a water-cooling system under the Athletes Village — much like the one that has helped the Louvre Museum cope with the sweltering heat that broke records last year — to keep temperatures in check for the Olympians and Paralympians who stay there.
The decision is part of the organizing committee’s goal to cut the carbon footprint of the Paris Games by half and stage the most sustainable Olympics to date by installing a special technology to use natural sources to keep everyone cool even during a potential heat wave.
“I want the Paris Games to be exemplary from an environmental point of view,” said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has resolved to tackle climate change with an ambitious action plan that aims to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make the City of Lights carbon neutral by 2050.
Compared to a conventional project, the carbon impact will be reduced by 45% for the Athletes Village during the construction phase and over the entire Olympic cycle, she said.
For two months between July and September 2024, the Athletes Village north of Paris will host 15,600 athletes and sports officials during the Olympics and 9,000 athletes and their supporting teams during the Paralympics. After the games, the 50-hectare (125-acre) site next to the River Seine in the popular district of Seine-Saint-Denis will become a zero-carbon, eco-friendly residential and commercial neighborhood with 6,000 news inhabitants — the first ones moving in as soon as 2025.
In anticipation of hot weather, organizers have been studying heatwaves block by block in the Athletes Village. They have simulated conditions in the parts of the accommodation most exposed to the sun and have tested the effectiveness of the cooling system with an objective to keep the indoor temperature between 23 and 26 degrees Celsius (73 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit).
The geothermal energy system will ensure that the temperature in the athlete apartments in the Seine-Saint-Denis suburb does not rise above 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit) at night, including during a potential a heat wave, said Laurent Michaud, the director of the Olympic and Paralympic Villages.
He said organizers have conducted tests in rooms that are located on the highest floors of the residences and are facing south and exposed to direct sun on two sides. They also considered directions of winds in the region and the water temperature in the Seine. They have worked closely with France’s national weather agency to develop temperature forecasts.
“Despite outdoor temperatures reaching 41 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit), we had temperatures at 28 degrees (82 degrees Fahrenheit) in most of these rooms,” Michaud told The Associated Press, detailing the results of a heatwave simulation. “In other rooms, we clearly had lower temperatures.”
In addition to the underfloor cooling, the insulation built into the buildings will enable residents to keep the cold obtained during the night throughout the day, Michaud said. To keep the coolness inside, the athletes will have to follow some basic rules, he added, including making sure the window blinds are shut during the day.
Laurent Monnet, who is in charge of the green transition at Saint-Denis City Hall, Paris’ northern suburb where the main Olympic Village will be located, said all rooms should be 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than the outside temperature, without an AC unit. Although some Olympic hopefuls have already expressed concern about the lack of air conditioning, Monnet said athletes should adapt and help contribute to fight against climate change.
“We need athletes to set an example when they use the buildings,” Monnet said. “We can build the most virtuous village we want, it is also the use that will be made of it that will weigh on our carbon footprint.”
Eliud Kipchoge, a two-time Olympic champion and marathon world record holder, endorsed the Paris sustainability plan. The Kenyan is one the sport’s most vocal proponents of environmental justice and has repeatedly sounded the alarm on climate change and the impact of global warming.
“It’s a good thought, because we all need to reduce our carbon,” Kipchoge said in an interview with the AP.
He called on fellow athletes to help combat climate change by reducing their carbon impact during competition, training and their lives in general because “we are all going to go through the same scenario.”
Paris organizers have been in touch with national Olympic committees and said they will have the option of setting up their own AC units in specific cases and on condition that the devices comply with the organizing committee’s technical criteria.
Most national Olympic officials have responded to the plans to keep their athletes cool during the Paris Games with a wait-and-see attitude. Some Olympic officials are not excluding bringing their own air conditioners to France — or paying for one on the spot — depending on the weather at the time.
The Australian Olympic Committee said it will keep an eye on the weather patterns in Paris over the coming year to ensure “the optimal high-performance environment for our athletes, including heat and humidity mitigation that may be required.”
Michaud, the director of the Olympic Village, said organizers want to be kind to the environment, but not endanger the health of athletes. Some athletes, especially in Paralympic events, have difficulty regulating their body’s core temperature and if they reside in rooms in which it proves impossible to keep at 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit) at night, national delegations will be able to install a portable AC system.
“It will be on a case-by-case basis, and for health and safety of the athletes,” Michaud said, adding that ventilators vaporizing water droplets could be installed instead of traditional air conditioning nits.
Hidalgo, the Paris mayor, is adamantly against turning next year’s event into the bring-your-own-air-conditioning Olympics — health exceptions aside.
“I can assure you that we will not change course and that there will be no changes to the construction program of the village regarding air conditioning,” Hidalgo said.
Regarding the option of organizers providing national teams with an additional cooling mechanism, she said: “I am not in favor of it. We must be consistent with our objectives.”
AP Sports Writers Jimmy Golen in Boston and Dennis Passa in Brisbane contributed to this report.
Celebrate Canadian Environment Week by Volunteering at the Green Deer River Valley Cleanup, June 10!
From the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society
Formerly called the Red Deer River Cleanup, the Green Deer River Valley Cleanup will take place at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre from 12:00–3:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 10, 2023.
This annual spring initiative draws volunteers from across the city to join forces to keep our waterways clean and safe by spending the afternoon picking up litter near the Red Deer River and in the surrounding river valley.
Refreshments and prize raffle to follow litter cleanup! There will be over $1500 in prizes for volunteers; including two grand prizes donated by NOVA Chemicals. Each grand prize includes one full-size patio heater.
How it works:
1. Meet at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre field any time between 12:00 p.m. (noon) and 1:00 p.m. to receive your supplies and begin cleaning litter along your assigned route. Children 12 & under must attend with an adult.
2. Return to the Kerry Wood Nature Centre between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to hand in your unused supplies and enjoy some light refreshments.
3. Prize raffle will begin shortly after 3:00 p.m.
Suggested to please wear/bring:
• Visible, weather-appropriate clothing
• Closed-toe walking shoes
• Water bottle
• Bug spray
For more information:
• Visit https://www.waskasoopark.ca/kerry-wood-nature-centre/green-deer#riverCleanups
• Email [email protected]
• Phone 403-346-2010
Creating a population of citizens interested in, aware of, concerned about and involved in their natural and cultural history.
The Green Deer River Valley Cleanup is made possible thanks to the generosity and support of NOVA Chemicals, INEOS Canada Partnership, Friends of the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, and The City of Red Deer.
Nature Conservancy of Canada releases action plan to protect Prairie grasslands
Grasslands are shown in a Nature Conservancy of Canada handout photo. The Nature Conservancy of Canada has announced a plan to protect Prairie grasslands, considered one of the most endangered and least protected ecosystems in the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Nature Conservancy of Canada
By Colette Derworiz in Calgary
The Nature Conservancy of Canada has announced a plan to protect iconic Prairie grasslands, considered one of the most endangered and least protected ecosystems in the country.
The plan aims to raise $500 million by 2030 to conserve more than 5,000 square kilometres — about six times the size of Calgary — in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“What we’re trying to do is accelerate the rate of conservation in the Prairie Provinces, specifically in the grasslands,” Jeremy Hogan, the non-profit organization’s director of prairie grassland conservation, said in an interview.
“They are Canada’s most endangered ecosystem. There’s only about 18 per cent left of the Great Plains Prairie grasslands in Canada and we continue to lose about (600 square kilometres) a year.”
Grasslands, he said, are often converted to fields for growing crops or taken over by expanding cities and towns.
But he calls them an “unsung hero” for the environment.
“They provide a lot of what we call ecosystem services,” he said. “So, they provide a lot of benefit to everyday Canadians’ lives, even if you don’t live or work in the grasslands.”
They store and filter water, preventing both floods and droughts. They improve water quality. They keep soil in place, because of extensive root networks, so there’s less erosion along lakes and rivers.
Hogan said grasslands also are important for reducing the effects of climate change.
“The carbon storage in grasslands is incredible and it’s all stored securely underground,” he said. “So, when you get these kinds of fires like the ones that are happening in Alberta right now, carbon stored in the grasslands isn’t threatened by those fires like carbon stored in forests.”
Across Alberta, wildfires have already scorched more than 10,000 square kilometres of forest this year.
Horgan said grasslands can also be an economic benefit for local communities and are essential to food security.
“A lot of the grasslands that are intact today are working ranches,” he said. “So, the grasslands are operated as cattle operations. As long as the cattle are grazed sustainably, it’s actually a mutually beneficial relationship.
“It requires a little bit of disturbance from grazing animals to maintain range health … and then on the flip side of that is a healthy sustainable grazing operation leads to more nutritious forage for cattle. So, it’s actually a win-win for ranchers and the environment.”
Duane Thompson, chairman of the environment committee with the Canadian Cattle Association, said in a statement that farmers and ranchers are proud of their role in managing and protecting the at-risk ecosystems. They are often involved in nature conservancy projects to protect grasslands.
Outside of Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta, a 16.5 square kilometre property known as The Yarrow has been conserved after a $6.9-million fundraising campaign. It features grasslands, wetlands, creeks, mixed forests and includes 27 wildlife species.
The organization now wants to protect grasslands in the Cypress Uplands Natural Area in southwestern Saskatchewan. They rise more than 600 metres, the highest elevation east of the Canadian Rockies, and are home to pronghorn, deer, elk and cougars. The area also has the highest diversity of birds, including burrowing owl, common nighthawk and ferruginous hawk, in that province.
East of Brandon, the nature conservancy has also secured its largest-ever conservation agreement in Manitoba. The 21 Farms project, which is 4.5 square kilometres, boasts mixed-grass prairie, as well as sandhill prairie and sandhill forest, and is home to the Sprague’s pipit and a large Sharp-tail grouse lek.
“That’s one of the cool points about the Prairie grasslands,” said Hogan. “It’s not just this one block of grass. It’s very, very diverse west to east and changes with different topography and soil type.”
The action plan, he said, hopes to raise money to continue protecting those types of areas across all three provinces before they disappear.
“It’s not too late to act, but we’re getting there,” said Hogan. “The fact that there is only 18 per cent left is a very real and dangerous thing to grasslands. Once you reach a certain point, there’s no going back.
“What is left is worth protecting and it’s worth protecting urgently.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2023.
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