Air-Conditioning for Olympians? It Is a ‘High-Performance Decision.’


After so many years of hard work and preparation, the world-class athletes who arrive for the Paris Olympics next month could face one final hurdle before they vie for medals: figuring out how to stay cool.

As a part of a publicly stated goal to make these the “greenest” Olympics ever, Paris 2024 organizers chose to forgo conventional air conditioning in the athletes’ village. Instead, an extensive system of water pipes beneath the floorboards of the dorm-style residences have been installed to provide cool air — or at least air that won’t top 79 degrees Fahrenheit, even amid a heat wave.

But those conditions aren’t mild enough for many national federations, including the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which plans to outfit its athletes’ rooms with portable air conditioning units.

A spokesman for the U.S.O.P.C., who acknowledged that many other countries, including Germany, Australia, Canada and Britain, had made the same call, described it as a “high-performance decision.” Translation: With so much at stake, Olympians cannot afford to melt into pools of high-octane muscle fiber in the days and hours ahead of their competitions.

“It’s a short window of time and continuity is important to the athletes,” the U.S.O.P.C. spokesman said.

Team U.S.A. is ordering its air conditioning units from the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, which offers a number of household items — tables, chairs, whiteboards, coffee makers — beyond the essentials that they supply for each residential room in the village. The air conditioning units will be returned to the O.C.O.G. once the Games conclude, the U.S.O.P.C. spokesman said.

Still about a month out from the opening ceremony, the Paris Olympics are already being described in certain corners as the Luxury Olympics, with dozens of high-end brands getting in on the action, ranging from Omega to Le Coq Sportif. LVMH, the French fashion house, pledged to be the Games’ “Artisan of All Victories” and crafted trunks (replete with the brand’s monogram canvas) to transport all 468 medals that will be awarded at the Games as well as the twin relay torches for the Olympics and Paralympics.

Yet for all the Olympic-level commercialism, organizers have made concerted efforts for these Games to be more eco-friendly than past iterations — or at least as eco-friendly as possible, given the mammoth size of the event and the environmental costs associated with transporting, housing and feeding thousands of athletes and fans who have arrived from around the world.

The situation highlights some of the challenges for organizing bodies as they stage large sporting events in an increasingly warming world. In Paris, where temperatures reached 90 degrees last summer, the Olympics have created a difficult decision between prioritizing athletic performance and doing everything conceivable to minimize the environmental impact of the Games.

Compared to conventional air conditioning systems, which have historically been far less common in Europe than they are in the United States, the geothermal floorboard technology in the athletes’ village is designed to reduce overall carbon impact by nearly half, according to Runner’s World.

“This village was designed to avoid the need for air conditioning, even in very, very high temperatures, in order to maintain comfortable temperatures,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo told Reuters in March.

Eliud Kipchoge, the two-time reigning Olympic champion in the men’s marathon, said that he supports the decision.

“It’s a good thought, because we all need to reduce our carbon,” Mr. Kipchoge told reporters.

More than 14,000 athletes from around the world are expected to move into the village during the Olympics, which will run from July 26 through Aug. 11. Another 8,000 athletes will take their place for the Paralympic Games, which are scheduled for Aug. 28 through Sept. 8.



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