Written by Melissa Wilson & Hannah Mills
Initiated by Hannah Mills, MBE, double Olympic Champion in sailing, the most decorated female British sailor of all time and IOC Sustainability Ambassador, and British rower Melissa Wilson, the video features more than 50 Olympians and Paralympians from all corners of the world.
These include three-times Olympic medallist and IOC Athlete’s Commission Member Pau Gasol (Basketball/Spain), Olympic Champion Tom Daley (Diving/Great Britain), double Olympic champion Andy Murray (Tennis/Great Britain), double Olympic champion and Marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya), Tokyo 2020 Olympic Champion Emma Twigg (New Zealand) and wheelchair sprinter and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Champion Hannah Cockroft MBE, (Great Britain) amongst many others.
Why taking action matters
Climate change is a threat that faces all of us, wherever we are in the world. We’ve all seen pictures of land suffering from drought, ice caps melting, forest fires raging across huge stretches of land, and people’s homes and livelihoods destroyed by weather events which are increasing in number and intensity.
Athletes’ voices matter in this, firstly because many of our Olympic community are from countries that are already feeling the worst effects of climate change.
But sport also has every motivation to act, because the threat posed by climate change to sport is real and unprecedented. We see that in the heat and humidity levels from Tokyo this summer, the air quality problems many athletes face, and the fact that the Winter Games next year are likely to be the first at which there is no natural snow.
Legacy is in sports DNA: one of the core goals of the Tokyo Olympics was “Passing on Legacy for the Future”. But we need to think about what kind of sporting legacy we will be able to leave, without a healthy, safe Earth for people to live on.
What COP is and why it matters
COP26 is a global climate summit where all the world leaders are coming together to make their commitments on how they’re going to tackle climate change. At the moment, we’re way off where we need to be to have a safe and healthy planet to live on.
We wanted world leaders to hear from some of Tokyo’s highest-profile athletes how much it matters that they are ambitious in what they set out to do, tapping into the human capacity to push limits in the face of adversity and come together to accomplish something beyond what we can do as individuals. We believe elite athletes have a unique opportunity to encourage action in this space, in a way that brings people together when facing the challenge that climate change poses to all of us.
We want to deliver a clear message from the athlete community that the world’s political leaders need to be brave and ambitious in what they deliver this fortnight. That is the rational, logical, responsible response in the face of the climate emergency we are facing. We need to be setting out here at world record pace, collaborating, driving one another and ourselves on, because this really is the race we need to win.
Why athletes’ voices are important
Athletes have a huge potential to be powerful spokespeople for the environment. This is partly because of our platform: sport has huge cultural and political influence. The media attention athletes secure and the support you receive from fans means you’re in a key position to communicate about what matters!
The qualities that athletes and sports develop are also really important in terms of how we approach climate change: qualities like resilience, teamwork, courage, ambition to push boundaries, strategic thinking and staying focused under pressure. Above all, athletes have the experience of pursuing a huge challenge (like becoming an Olympian or Olympic champion) over an extended period of time by being the best you can be each day – it’s that approach we need to take for climate change.
What you can do about it
Firstly, please share this video far and wide! If every person shared the same one piece of information with three new people, it would take only eight weeks for the message to travel round the entire world. Imagine the power we have in our community, when athletes often have thousands, tens of thousands or millions of fans and followers around the world! It matters that everyone – members of the public and global leaders alike – understand how important this is.
We also have the opportunity to be role models in how we behave. Changes that might seem small to us (and very small compared to the size of the problem) can have a massive impact when we share them with those in our field of influence. Like any massive challenge, it starts with steps taken day to day to improve. Nobody becomes Olympic champion in a day – it’s ok for our progress to start in small ways at first – but it’s important that we do take action in how we behave, wherever we can.
As athletes, we know how to pursue a goal with total focus and determination. Let’s tap into that.
Together, we can make a real difference and encourage ambitious climate action.