American Olympians Are Bringing Air Conditioners to Paris

Comfort and sustainability are at odds here

Portable air conditioner
Olympic athletes from the U.S. are bringing air conditioners to Paris.
Getty Images

If you live in the U.S. and have spent time in Europe during the summer, you’re probably aware of something: air conditioning is a little less ubiquitous over there. Euronews recently cited statistics showing the disparity between the two regions, with Europe having less than a quarter of the relative air conditioning as the United States. That’s good news for the environment but less welcome if you’re sweltering in Paris on, for instance, the night before you’re supposed to compete in this year’s Olympics.

That, in turn, is why the United States is bringing air conditioners with it to this summer’s Olympics. This decision is not without some controversy in and of itself, given the ambitious climate goals of this year’s Summer Games. Writing at the Associated Press, Eddie Pells has more details on the United States’ decision and the mixed reception that it has received.

“In our conversations with athletes, this was a very high priority and something that the athletes felt was a critical component in their performance capability,” Sarah Hirshland, the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, told the AP.

Earlier this week, Fortune reported that the Paris Olympic Village was designed to stay cool without requiring the use of air conditioning units. This will be accomplished by a combination of pipes below the floorboards, spaces designed for cross-ventilation and insulation to restrict heat absorption.

Plenty has been written about the effects of extreme heat on athletic performance. And it’s not hard to understand both the Paris Olympics organizers’ desire to create a more environmentally friendly games and various national bodies’ interest in keeping their elite athletes cool during the games. Unfortunately, as the planet grows warmer, it’s not hard to imagine these two goals becoming more and more at odds.

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