2016 Rio Olympics Acknowledge Global Climate Change

August 2016 – The Olympics are a time for the world to come together to celebrate athletic achievement and international unity. In many ways this year’s games were no different. However this year, the 3.3 billion viewers were given a dose of the ugly truth when the opening ceremonies took a momentary break from the festivities to acknowledge a growing global issue– Climate Change.

The stadium flashed red with warnings of climbing temperatures and rising sea levels, invoking startling images of melting ice caps and flooding cities to drive home the singular message:

something must be done, before it is too late.

It is important to note that the key word in this message is before, implying that there is still hope to turn things around. Creative director Fernando Meirelles intended to use the widely viewed opening ceremonies as a call to action, not a condemnation. Using rhetoric of both fear and hope in order to inspire change,

the scenes of catastrophe were quickly followed by an attempt at a solution.

As the 11,000+ participants marched into the stadium, each athlete placed a seed into a series of containers destined to assist in Rio’s reforestation efforts.

The end goal is to transform parts of the Olympic venue into a blooming forest, a fate visually represented when the containers were strategically arranged to form the emblematic Olympic rings. The containers foreshadowed the future bounty of the forest by blooming into a symbol of hope, rebirth, and renewal.

The climate centric message of the opening ceremonies opened the door for a larger discussion, making the theme of environmentalism pervasive throughout the games. With concerns about Brazil’s polluted waters and waste within the Olympic village, there has been no shortage of controversy.

There has also been no shortage of food, something that chefs David Hertz and Massimo Bottura intend to harness in an ongoing social and environmental justice effort in Rio.

The pair have opened a gourmet soup kitchen using ingredients that otherwise would have been discarded over the course of the games.

Over one third of all food produced goes to waste, despite millions still suffering from hunger. The social problem of wasted food is compounded with its environmental impact when considering the amount of resources dedicated to produce only to wind up in a landfill. When organic waste is discarded, it emits methane gas that contributes to global warming. In their efforts to alleviate social inequality in the Olympic host city, Hertz and Bottura are combating the very issue that was brought to the world’s attention in the opening ceremonies.

Whether you are a renowned chef or not, solutions to minimize food waste and other greenhouse gas emitters are everywhere; they are easy and fun and bring people together. We salute the Rio Olympics for bringing these critical messages to the opening of the games.