Late risers staying in the Lausanne Palace may have been somewhat alarmed looking out of their windows last week.
Or perhaps they would have been woken by the sounds of chanting and cheering as hundreds of people trooped past the building.
Climate change activist Greta Thunberg drew a large crowd to the streets of the Swiss city, with the demonstration’s route taking them past the Palace, used as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) official hotel.
It is also the residence of President Thomas Bach, and although he would have been elsewhere as protesters lingered outside the lavish building, he would have been very aware of their presence.
The IOC have made it clear they are taking growing concerns over climate change very seriously.
It is set to be a major consideration for future Host City Commissions when they assign Olympic Games in years to come, but the organisation claim they are already taking a more sustainable approach to their sporting events.
Thunberg coincidentally timed her demonstration to take place during the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympics, lauded to be an environmentally friendly competition.
No new venues were built directly for Lausanne 2020, with existing facilities prioritised, while athletes, coaches, staff and media were encouraged to use public transport.
Use of Swiss wood pellets for the cauldron, located in the lively fan zone, was also highlighted as an eco-friendly move.
Preparations for the Games were struck by weather-related troubles, however. Insidethegames reporters received an email from a worried speed skating fan just days before the action started, claiming he had got warning that the Lake St Moritz would not be sufficiently frozen in time.
Athletes were reassured that the lake was in fact frozen, but cracks in the ice made conditions difficult during competition itself. Organisers were also forced to shorten the alpine skiing course due to heavy rainfall in the run-up to the Games.
Indeed, having been in Lausanne for the first few days of competition, it was not a very wintery Winter Games. Athletes kitted out in padded coats, hats, gloves and scarves looked almost comical in the unnaturally balmy conditions.
Tokyo 2020 are also making efforts to be carbon neutral. Organisers have just announced that hydrogen fuel will be used for the cauldron and part of the Torch Relay, while the Torch itself is to be made from aluminium waste.
A plan to have all the electricity used at competition venues and the Athletes’ Village generated by renewables and uniforms for Tokyo 2020 officials made from recycled plastic are among the other initiatives designed to help combat climate change.
The IOC claim that Beijing 2022 and Paris 2024 are set to improve on these efforts further.
However, as seen in Lausanne, adverse weather conditions, which are strongly linked to climate change, are affecting sporting events right now.
It has been hard to ignore the bushfires rage across Australia over the past couple of months, destroying homes and wildlife.
Despite what Prime Minister Scott Morrison chooses to believe, it is likely that rising carbon dioxide levels worsened the natural disaster, with fires starting earlier than normal and spreading faster due to drought.
It has also been difficult to ignore the tangible effect the bushfires have had on the Australian Open. Colleague Mike Rowbottom went into this in more detail in his Big Read, but it was questionable whether the tournament was even going to go ahead as players struggled to breath during the preliminary rounds. It was worried the poor air quality caused by the fires would create hazardous conditions for the athletes.
Activist group Extinction Rebellion staged a non-disruptive silent vigil outside the tournament yesterday, highlighting the fact that climate change and sport are starting to become inextricably linked.
As weather conditions force organisers to make amendments or cancel events, there is likely to be an increasing urgency to ensure that sport is fully sustainable.
As the IOC have recently pointed out, measures have been taken and are being planned for the future. The big question is – will this be enough?
Even those with limited knowledge are aware that air travel is a significant contributor to climate change. Big sporting events require athletes, coaches, officials and media to travel to and from the host city, sometimes from the other side of the world.
This is written with the disclaimer that insidethegames use a large number of flights to report on the various competitions and meetings that take place across the globe. But this is the crux of the problem. How can a sporting event not be a major contributor to climate change, let alone become truly sustainable, if hundreds of flights are needed for it to happen?
A paper published by Melbourne-based Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration last year warned that the planet could become almost inhabitable by 2050, in just 30 years’ time.
This may seem extreme but shows how soon climate change could become an immediate danger. It is therefore possible that continuous air travel becomes less feasible in the near future, something which the IOC does not seem to be considering.
The measures and initiatives in place at the moment are relatively minor and not particularly innovative. The IOC need to start looking forward, and start making changes to the Games that are proactive, rather than reactive. If the gloomy climate change prediction turns out to be even nearly accurate, the organisation will soon be severely lagging behind in sustainable measures.
Unfortunately this blog does not offer any answers, especially as it is hard to come up with a way for a sporting event to go ahead with few travel requirements. Perhaps delegations can be incentivised to travel by train if possible?
Regardless, the IOC may soon have to come up with solutions to this issue. Without doing so, events such as the Olympic Games can never be truly environmentally friendly. Thunberg's well-timed demonstration underneath the IOC flag in Lausanne, and the increasing impact of climate change on sport itself, has thrown this into an even greater light.