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Feature Climate Change

How Paris is preparing for the health threats of the Olympic Games

BMJ 2024; 385 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.q1263 (Published 25 June 2024) Cite this as: BMJ 2024;385:q1263
  1. Charles Ebikeme, freelance journalist
  1. Paris and London
  1. charles.ebikeme{at}gmail.com

The first Summer Olympics since the height of the pandemic will be grappling with heatwaves, dengue, and the wider problems of inequity that come with hosting the world’s biggest sporting event. Charles Ebikeme reports

Hot and humid conditions now play an increasingly major role during Olympic events. Under the long tail of climate change, cities hosting the games must add heat to the long list of health threats to prepare for.

“When you gather a large amount of people in a hot city like Paris it’s a concern,” says Jan Semenza, a former scientist at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, who has worked on heat adaptation strategies in cities.

The Summer Olympics are held between July and September, months that have the highest risk of seasonal heatwaves. Air pollution also peaks during this period, and the risks of dengue fever and other mosquito borne diseases are on the rise.

Beat the heat

Paris has been adapting to rising temperatures since a 2003 European heatwave that saw the hottest summer recorded in Europe since at least 1540. In the city alone, around 15 000 people were reported to have died in a two week period as a result.

“The risk of heatwave conditions has been integrated into our planning from the start,” says a representative from Paris 2024, the games organising committee. The athletes’ village has been built without power hungry air conditioning and instead uses a bioclimatic design that guarantees that indoor temperatures are cooler than outside. Outdoor events are being scheduled for “optimal times”—marathon and triathlon events, for example, will be …

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