‘Big irony’ as winter sports sponsored by climate polluters, report finds
Winter sports are being sponsored by high-carbon companies despite their pollution helping to melt the snow the sports require to exist, according to a new report.
The report found that more than 100 events, organisations and athletes were sponsored by fossil fuel companies, carmakers and airlines. The sponsorships were like “winter sport nailing the lid on its own coffin”, said one Olympic champion.
The report, by campaign group Badvertising and thinktank New Weather Sweden, found 83 sponsorship deals from car manufacturers. The largest governing body in winter sports, the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS), is itself sponsored by Audi. Almost 90% of the vehicles produced by Audi in 2021 were petrol or diesel driven.
The report also found sponsorship deals from 12 fossil fuel companies, including Gazprom and Equinor, and five airlines, including British Airways and SAS.
The European Alps suffered a poor winter for snow in 2023 and recent research found the duration of snow cover there is now 36 days shorter than the long-term average, as CO2 emissions drive up global heating.
Rising global temperatures have, on average, shrunk snow cover in the northern hemisphere by about 90,000 square kilometres a year, the new report said. The Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 was the first to rely almost entirely on artificial snow.
Lizzy Yarnold, Britain’s most successful winter Olympian, with two gold medals in the skeleton bobsled, said: “At their best winter sports are a celebration of people enjoying some of the most awesome landscapes on Earth. But the impact of climate pollution is now melting the snow and ice which these sports depend on. Having high-carbon sponsors is like winter sport nailing the lid on its own coffin, and it needs to stop.”
Emil Johansson Kringstad, a former elite cross-country skier from Sweden, said: “It is a big irony that fossil fuel sponsorships are so common in a sport that is heavily dependent on cold winters and snow. Fossil fuel companies are melting the snow of winter sports.”
Andrew Simms, at Badvertising, said: “Sport ended tobacco sponsorship over health concerns, it needs to do the same with major polluters, not just to protect athletes, the planet and the public, but the future of sport.”
This month, top skiers urged the FIS to take action over the climate crisis. One request was for a more “geographically reasonable” race schedule to reduce carbon emissions from flights. This season, the male competitors will have travelled from Europe to North America and back twice.
In 2022, Tennis Australia ended its sponsorship deal with oil and gas company Santos, after a campaign that accused the company of “sportswashing”.
Audi and the FIS did not respond to a request for comment.