Sponsorship of winter competitions by energy-hungry companies such as British Airways and Volvo are “closing the lid” on sports’ “own coffin”, a British Olympic champion has said.
Lizzy Yarnold, the UK’s most successful winter Olympian, spoke after a report suggested that companies including aviation, fossil fuels and car manufacturing are threatening the future of the winter sports they sponsor.
“At its best, winter sports are a celebration of people enjoying some of the most breathtaking scenery on Earth,” he said.
“But the impact of climate pollution is now melting the snow and ice that these sports depend on,” he added.
“Having high-carbon sponsors is like a winter sport closing the lid on its own coffin.”
The report condemned Vasaloppet, the world’s largest cross-country ski race, in Sweden, for accepting sponsorship from car maker Volvo and oil company Preem.
The two companies together account for the loss of 210 square kilometers of snowpack, or the area of snow equivalent to 233 Vasaloppet ski runs, according to the study, authored by Badvertising, a campaign to stop ads from major polluters, and New Weather. Swedish expert group.
Arrives in the middle of a difficult season in the northern hemisphere for snow sports, with satellite imagery revealing a shortage of snow cover in December and record temperatures scorching tracks at some resorts.
The report estimates that between 1967 and 2015, snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere fell 7% on average in March and April and 47% in June.
Anna Turney, British alpine skier and Paralympian, said: “I want to be proud of my sport… and I want others to experience the joys and challenges of snow sports.
“So it’s time for the sport’s governing bodies to broaden their perspectives and find the courage to behave more like the athletes they are supposed to support.”
A Preem spokesperson said the company is phasing out fossil fuels and aims to complete its sustainable transition by 2035.
They added: “From a climate standpoint, we know that Preem is part of the problem, but also part of the solution.
“Preem has taken a stand and has embraced the industry’s most ambitious climate goal in line with the Paris Agreement.”
Volvo declined to comment.
“With its clean and healthy outdoor image, winter sports are especially attractive for sponsorship from major polluters who want to ‘wash their sporting image,'” the report argued.
Its authors call for an end to the sponsorship of snow sports by “big polluters.”
“If world sports are to take climate change seriously, they must…review their partnerships with organizations whose practices run counter to their efforts to safeguard the future of our planet,” they write.
But they stop short of telling sports stars to stop flying around the world to compete or for ski resorts to stop using energy- and water-intensive snow machines.
However, they are calling on those involved in the industry to ensure that their own operations, including spectator travel, are zero carbon by 2030.
Badvertising’s Andrew Simms told Sky News that many athletes see it as an “unfortunate necessity” that they have to “travel long distances to practice their trade”.
But it’s “a very different thing to have your sport also used as a billboard to promote high-carbon products,” he added.
“Because it’s virtually impossible to live a carbon-neutral lifestyle, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t support steps to move in the right direction.”
Earlier this month, professional athletes wrote to their federation ask bosses to drastically improve the sustainability of winter sports, including rearranging schedules to minimize travel.
Sky News has contacted British Airways with a request for comment.
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