So, the Olympic Villages Won’t Have Air Conditioning?

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The Paris 2024 Olympics kick off at the end of July, but Olympians will experience unusual environmental conditions in the Olympic Village. The Olympics are putting sustainability first by purposefully skipping air conditioning.

“Organizing more sustainable Olympic Games and offering athletes the best possible conditions are top priorities for the IOC and the entire Olympic Movement,” an International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesperson told PS in a statement. “We believe that through its innovative and eco-focused cooling solutions, the Paris 2024 Olympic Village will achieve both objectives.”

The Olympic Village is located north of Paris and will host 15,600 athletes and sports officials during the Olympics, as well as 9,000 athletes and their support teams during the Paralympics, according to NBC Sports. When the Games are over, the Village will become a zero-carbon, eco-friendly residential and commercial neighborhood.

Paris faced record high temperatures last year, raising concerns about how Olympians will be kept cool in the middle of summer. Here’s what an IOC spokesperson shared, as well as what doctors think of this system.

Experts Featured in This Article:

Mark Conroy, MD, is an emergency medicine and sports medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Lewis Nelson, MD, is chair of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

Ali Jamehdor, MD, is an emergency medicine physician and medical director of the Weingart Foundation Emergency Department at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.

How Will Olympians Stay Cool?

A lot of thought has gone into the decision to skip air conditioning in the Olympic Village. The Paris 2024 Organizing Committee has incorporated innovative, eco-focused cooling solutions in the design of the Olympic and Paralympic Village to minimize carbon emissions and keep temperatures at comfortable levels in the rooms — even when it’s scorching outside, the IOC spokesperson said.

Organizers plan to use a water-cooling system under the Olympic Village to keep temperatures at a manageable level for athletes. (The Louvre has relied on a similar system.) They’ve also been studying heat waves, block by block, in the Village and simulated conditions in the parts of the Village that are most exposed to the sun, per NBC Sports. The goal is to keep the indoor temperature between 73 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit, which is still warmer than some people may prefer.

The geothermal energy system will make sure that temperatures don’t get above 79 degrees at night. While studying the indoor temperatures of the rooms, organizers found that indoor temperatures topped out at 82 degrees, even when outdoor temperatures were 106 degrees, Laurent Michaud, the director of the Olympic and Paralympic Villages, told the Associated Press. “In other rooms, we clearly had lower temperatures,” he added.

The rooms are also insulated to help retain colder temperatures obtained during the night into the day, Michaud said. However, athletes will need to take added steps to keep their rooms cool, like making sure the window shades are shut during the day.

However, Team USA has taken matters into their own hands, confirming that it will be bringing its own air conditioning units to the Olympic villages, per CBS News. Other teams may follow suit, but the majority of them are expected to inhabit the village as designed. “Paris 2024 has been in constant contact with its Athletes’ Commission and National Olympic Committees on this topic,” the IOC spokesperson told PS.

Is This Safe?

Emergency room doctors have some concerns about the ability of these rooms to stay cool if Paris happens to experience record-high temperatures again. “I would be concerned that athletes may start having some side effects from the prolonged exposure to high temperatures,” says Mark Conroy, MD, emergency medicine and sports medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Often these athletes train in high temperatures and are ready for the competition, but many are accustomed to cooling off in between events.”

Lewis Nelson, MD, chair of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, also stresses the importance of athletes being able to stay cool. “Being in a warm environment is probably fine for spectators and workers but, for people competing, they have to have areas to cool down,” he says.

Humidity is also a potential factor, says Ali Jamehdor, DO, emergency medicine physician and medical director of the Weingart Foundation Emergency Department at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. “That area will be humid as well, which prevents you from sweating as well as you normally would,” he says. If the cooling system fails to keep rooms as cool as organizers claim “it could be disastrous,” Dr, Jamehdor says. “You could have large groups of people going into heat exhaustion and heat stroke at the same time,” he adds.

Athletes may also be more prone to cramping — a sign of heat illness — if temperatures increase, and that could impact their performance, Dr. Jamehdor warns. Ultimately, doctors are wary of going this route. “It certainly does create a scenario where people are at risk of getting heat illness,” says Michael Levine, MD, an emergency medicine physician at UCLA Health. Let’s hope the IOC is as prepared as they say they are.

Korin Miller is a writer specializing in general wellness, health, and lifestyle trends. Her work has appeared in Women’s Health, Self, Health, Forbes, and more.

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