150 scientists warn Winter Olympics proposal is ‘unsustainable’

Experts say there are “no green options” to hosting global event and deem proposal “unacceptable”

Scientists Federica Ravera, Ermengol Gassiot, Ariadna Nieto, and Andreu Ubach present their manifesto against hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics in the Pyrenees (by Laura Fíguls)
Scientists Federica Ravera, Ermengol Gassiot, Ariadna Nieto, and Andreu Ubach present their manifesto against hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics in the Pyrenees (by Laura Fíguls) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 18, 2022 10:02 AM

More than 150 scientists from Catalan universities and research centers have signed a manifesto against the proposal to host the 2030 Winter Olympics in Barcelona and the Pyrenees. 

In the manifesto, they provide scientific data concluding that an eventual candidacy would be "unacceptable" in the current context of "systemic crisis: climate, energy, socio-health and economics.” 

The researchers say "there are no green options" to host an event like this and that studies on past Games show that they are "environmentally, economically and socially unsustainable." 

"In the case of the Pyrenees, the proposal is highly unsustainable," archaeologist Ermengol Gassiot stated in the presentation of their manifesto on Thursday.

Hosting the Winter Olympic Games in 2030 is an idea that the Catalan government and business associations are backing, but the plan has yet to be finalised and a formal bid yet to be submitted. 

The administration says they will hold a consultation with residents in the Pyrenees, letting the population from six counties where events would be held vote on whether or not they want the global event to arrive on their doorstep.

Govt to publish bid plans before consultation

The Government expects to be able to explain to the public the work done so far in the candidacy bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics before Pyrenees residents decide in a consultation whether they support the project. 

The referendum of the population of six counties in the mountainous area where Games are planned to be held will be held some time at the end of spring, but no date has yet been set. 

Political figures have also explained that they want to disconnect the planned infrastructure development in the Pyrenees from the Games. Ricard Font, an official in the territory ministry, said that he did not want the two projects to be seen as linked as otherwise the works could come across as a form of “blackmail” to the citizens.

Font, along with sport general secretary Anna Caula, met with mayors from the Cerdanya county to discuss the next steps of development in the area and the 2030 candidacy bid.

Font believes that the Pyrenees must be promoted in a global aspect and not in terms of tourism. He cited as an example the opportunity to boost health food producers in the area or to improve the surroundings of natural parks. 

He also said that the International Olympic Committee values the legacy plans that will remain in the country after the event as well as the involvement of citizens and institutions in the project.

Debate over hosting Games

The idea of hosting a Winter Olympics has been discussed in Catalonia for a long time. In fact, the 2022 Games were first targeted all the way back in 2010, but no consensus was reached. 

Have a listen to our latest podcast for a full report on the 2030 Olympic plans: 

Business groups and sporting organizations are pushing for the bid to take place, while political groups are largely mixed on the issue. 

Yet, backers of the proposal have considerable opposition from social groups. The platform Stop Olympic Games (in Catalan, ‘Stop Jocs Olímpics’, often shortened to ‘Stop JJOO’), a platform made up of Pyrenees residents and environmentalists, have vociferously rejected the idea. 

Stop JJOO have even received the backing of one of the most famous sportspeople in Catalonia, the celebrated trail runner and mountaineer Kilian Jornet.