In all its forms, sports is increasingly becoming threatened by climate change

Nyanza Golf Club

 A section of Nyanza Golf Course that has been flooded by back flow from Lake Victoria on  on July 30, 2020. All the tournaments that were scheduled to take place in Kisumu have been postponed due to the bad state of the course.

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Studies have shown that approximately half of the former winter Olympic host cities will likely not be able to sponsor winter games by 2050 due to a lack of snow and ice in a warming world.

In the song “Crazy World” from the album “House of Exile” released in 1991, Lucky Dube sings about the indifference among blacks when it comes to fighting for their rights in apartheid South Africa. The song goes:

You read about it in the news but you don't believe it
You'll only know about it
When the man in the long dark coat
Knocks on your door
'Cause you're his next victim

South Africa’s independence was still three years in the making, but there was indifference among blacks everywhere. It was a sequel to “Dracula” from the album “Prisoner” which Dube had sung a year earlier and which carried a similar message.

Like blacks in apartheid South Africa that Dube sang about, we have become indifferent to our plight in the face of climate change. Although it affects almost every aspect of lives on earth, we have somehow found it convenient to ignore messages on climate change, that long term shift in temperature and weather patterns, until we become its next victim.
Well, sports has become its next victim.

Being part of human activity, sports is both a contributor to, and one of the casualties of global warming.

In May last year, part of Nyanza Golf Club course was submerged following heavy rains that caused backflow in Lake Victoria.

Part of hole one and hole six on the fairway side were affected, while the tee-box areas of holes nine and 18 could not be accessed so, rather than get ready for a round of golf upon arrival at the lakeside club, a fishing expedition seemed the more reasonable thing to do for players who showed up on the course because there was plenty of fish on part of the course.

Five months later, the water was yet to recede into the lake, forcing officials to redesign the course. As of last week, hole 18 was still being rehabilitated, and the par-70 course is being ‘lifted’ and an embankment is being erected along the shoreline to prevent flooding of the course in future.

The long-term solution lies in sustainable development of the waterfront with the changing climatic conditions in mind. That speaks to joining the sporting fraternity the world over in fighting climate change by reducing or avoiding emissions of greenhouse gases.

Luckily for Nyanza Golf Club officials, they will not walk an unbeaten path because during the 2022 Magical Kenya Open, organisers teamed up with Absa Bank Kenya to plant 10,000 fruit trees in Kenyan schools this year in a programme dubbed “Birdies for Good.”

Other local sports federations are also pulling their weight. Last year, Athletics Kenya became the first out of the 214 member federations of the World Athletics to sign up for the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework.

During the 2020 World Athletics Under-20 Championships held in Nairobi, air quality assessors were installed at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

During a 10km run at Karura Forest to mark Unep@50 celebrations in Nairobi, AK President Jack Tuwei said another air quality assessor will be installed at Nyayo National Stadium this year.

Born out of the realization that sport in all its forms is increasingly threatened by climate change, the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework aims to help sports organisations reduce emissions caused by their operations. It seeks to ride on global popularity of sport to engage millions of fans in the effort.

It also  seeks to use sports to spread messages targeted at the masses in sporting championships.

The benefit will be enjoyed by all.

“Sport can play a key role in this process raising awareness, influencing behaviors, and shrinking its carbon footprint. With its broad reach spanning diverse human interests, social backgrounds and geographical contexts, sport can contribute to creative, low-cost, high-impact solutions.

“To mitigate climate change, various actors in sports have adopted environmentally-friendly practices that mitigate,” the UN said of the initiative during its launch at the 26th edition of the UN Climate Change Conference held in November last year in Glasgow, where world leaders had gathered in an attempt to propel climate action beyond the historic commitments and timetables of the Paris Accord of 2015.

Sports programmes have been disrupted as a result of flooding in football grounds, golf courses, cricket grounds and tennis courts.

In 2018,  high temperatures forced the US Open tennis tournament organizers to offer a “heat-break” to athletes. Heatwaves witnessed during the season-opening Australian Open tennis tournament rings a bell among  sports fans.

At the 2020 Australian Open, poor air quality caused by wildfires forced some tennis players to quit the tournament.

Studies have shown that approximately half of the former winter Olympic host cities will likely not be able to sponsor winter games by 2050 due to a lack of snow and ice in a warming world.

Whatever the reason may be, the problem with procrastination and being indifferent to things that matter to us all is that at some point, these things drive us into a crisis mode. You are not spared the effects of climate change ‘cause you are his next victim.