• Wednesday, 28 September 2022

How climate change is changing the Commonwealths

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By Mike Henson, Aug 7: Work started on Alexander Stadium's redevelopment in February 2020 - the UK's wettest February on record.

The finishing touches to the Commonwealth Games centrepiece were made in July 2022, just as temperature records were broken around the scorched UK.

Climate change is here. But it is also everywhere else.

And some of the nations competing in Birmingham have felt the effects most keenly.

Three Commonwealth athletes tell BBC Sport their fears and hopes for the future of sport, humanity and the planet.

Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya, athletics)


Kipchoge famously became the first man to complete the marathon distance in less than two hours at a high-tech event in Vienna in 2019. He only switched to the road after a successful track career that included a 5,000m silver at Delhi in 2010. He launched the Eliud Kipchoge Foundation, which focuses on the environment and education to improve lives around the world.


"Where I live and train, high in the Kenyan countryside, nearly 80% of the population are farmers."

"People know that the rains are no longer the same as five years ago and that climate change is real."

"It has an effect on athletes too. Climate change is pushing hard in some countries and it is not possible to run for two, or three hours."

"It is really sad as a marathon runner."

"Running in hotter environments is so hard. It is scary how, at the end of a session or race, you feel all your energy has gone."

"We saw how the marathon at the World Championships in Doha in 2019 had to start at midnight because otherwise, it would be too hot."

"If you want to perform, if you want to truly enjoy running, you must have a clean environment with clean oxygen."

"So, it is really important for me to stand up and talk loud for the environment."

"Social media channels can show people the effects more easily than before. You can tell a friend to tell a friend that this is our country, our continent, our habitat, our home. We have no other."

Eroni Sau (Fiji, rugby sevens)


Sau was part of the Fiji rugby sevens team that won silver at Gold Coast 2018. He also played two seasons with Edinburgh before switching to his current club Provence in the south of France.


"There is a big problem, especially where I grew up on the islands. There especially you can see the changes caused by climate change every day. It is happening right before our eyes."

"In my mother's village, there was a building that was a kitchen and bathroom block. When I was a kid it was 10 metres away from the beach. But it isn't there anymore."

"All you can see of it are the foundations under the sea."

"I went back home recently after four years away. There is a graveyard where we buried our grandparents and ancestors, but now people are talking about moving the bodies further inland or near the mountains because of the rising sea level."

"It is really affecting our lives, even the sport."

"As kids, we would love playing rugby on the beach. We would always play on a strip of sand at the top of the beach, the sea on one side and the coconut trees on the other."

"Now though that strip of sand doesn't exist at high tide, the water comes up past the coconut trees. There is no beach, no place for us to play."

"It is really affecting the whole world though. In France, where I am playing rugby now, it feels hotter than at home. I got off the plane in Marseille and I felt dizzy because it felt so much hotter. I really find it hard in the south of France in the summer."

Mubal Azzam (Maldives, swimmer)


Azzam was one of Maldives' flagbearers at last summer's Olympics in Tokyo. The 21-year-old competed in three individual events and two relays for his nation at Birmingham 2022.


"On lots of islands in the Maldives, houses have been flooded and there are issues with erosion."

"In the capital Male, where I have lived for most of my life, we have artificial beaches that the public can use, but there has been a very huge change in the disposition of sands, with a lot of erosion in one area. The whole topography has really changed."

"I see a growing environmental awareness in sportspeople in our generation. We have seen the impacts first hand."

"I used to train in the ocean with my team and there were a lot of times where it was hard to do so because the water was so polluted."

"We knew we had to get used to it because we couldn't change it at the time. But it made me consider how to help our country and humans become more sustainable on the planet.

"I think the sporting community can have a lot of power to change views because it brings people together."

"I have met lots of people who are like-minded. I feel the sport is impactful, it can be a big influence in the world."

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