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How sport can cut through the fog of ignorance on climate change

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There are many lessons to be learned from the problems that have affected the Australian Open

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020 - 11:16am

The organisers of the Australian Open have come under fire for their response to the bushfire crisis.

Several players have been forced to seek help because of the poor air quality in the qualifying tournament. On Tuesday Dalila Jakupovic collapsed and was forced to abandon her match.

Others, including Eugenie Bouchard, Bernard Tomic and Dustin Brown have called for medical assistance during matches.

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Writing in The Times, Stuart Fraser describes the decision to press ahead with the qualifying tournament as “shameful” given the amount of smoke hanging over the arena.

“Yesterday, the people of Melbourne woke up to warnings from local authorities to stay indoors and keep their windows shut after a thick haze of smoke engulfed the city,” he says. “Australian Open officials, meanwhile, forced players out on to the court at 11am, when air-quality index readings were still deemed as ‘very unhealthy’.

“With players gasping for air on court, it is unfathomable that organisers – no doubt sitting in the comfort of an air-conditioned office behind the scenes – allowed play to continue. Another alarming oversight was the failure to arrange P2 face masks, which can filter out fine particles in smoke, for the ball boys and girls, umpires and line judges who were standing outside for hours.”

But while there are lessons to learn for the organisers there is a bigger issue to consider, says Paul Hayward of The Daily Telegraph.

“Set alongside at least 28 deaths, a billion animals perishing and an apocalyptic 10 million-hectare blaze, a bit of smoke disruption to Australian Open qualifying must feel like the least of Melbourne’s worries,” he notes. But it may at least get people thinking.

Cricket and golf are other sport that have been affected by rising temperatures and climate change, he says. Players, including England captain Joe Root, have been struck down with dehydration in extreme conditions and some golf courses are at risk from the sea.

“The world’s biggest sporting events - the Olympics and World Cup – are having to dance round heat problems,” he adds. “In Qatar’s case, partly because Fifa scandalously sent the 2022 tournament there.

“This summer at the Tokyo Olympics, the marathons and race walks have been moved 500 miles north to Sapporo and the triathlon and equestrian cross-country rescheduled to earlier start times to avoid sweltering temperatures.

“Yet, if sport has any purpose while lives, livelihoods and habitats are being destroyed by inferno, it may be to cut through the fog of ignorance on the climate crisis, much as images of carrots being airdropped for famished wallabies force people to think in a way that long essays on rising temperatures might not.”


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