Climate Change Takes Center Stage at Rio Olympics Opening Ceremonies


The Brazilian producers of Friday’s Opening Ceremonies at the Rio Olympics made climate change a significant focus of its pre-Parade of Nations pageantry. With a global audience estimated at 1 billion people, this is undoubtedly the most widely-viewed climate change message ever. This is the power of Green-Sports on steroids.

About an hour into Friday night’s Opening Ceremonies at the Rio Olympics, the 75,000+ people at the Maracana Stadium and the estimated one billion TV and online viewers around the world probably thought Al Gore had hijacked the production. That’s because they saw videos that detailed:

  • Current impacts of climate change around the world, including the melting of the polar ice caps. The narration took the issue head on: “Heat is melting the ice cap. It’s disappearing very quickly.”
  • The extent of global temperature increase from 1850 to the present.
  • Expected future effects rising sea levels due to global warming will have on some coastal cities, including Rio.

The message was as powerful as it was clear: The world must do whatever it can to stop climate change, and fast.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aOqfKYUyKI&w=560&h=315]

Homemade video of the climate change portion of the 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremony in Rio. (Credit: YouTube)

Rio Temp Before

The “BEFORE” temperature change chart (1850) shown at the Rio 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremonies (Photo credit: Mashable)…

Rio Temp After

…and the “AFTER” chart, showing the nearly 1.5°C warming that has occurred in the last 166 years. (Photo credit: Mashable)

All I can say is…


Again, we’re talking one billion viewers, the biggest audience ever for a climate change message. That makes its inclusion, it says here, the most important moment in the Green-Sports movement’s history.
And there is a “long tail” to the story, as Saturday is replete with major media coverage of the Climate Change Opening Ceremonies (my term): Huffington PostMashable, New York Times and The Guardian weighed in from the left side of the news spectrum. Si.com’s sports media reporter Richard Deitsch dove in approvingly. ESPN.com mentioned the climate change story. NewsCorp’s right-leaning Wall Street Journal and New York Post each mentioned the environmental portion of the program, albeit in passing in the Post’s case. Given both papers’ general skepticism and denial of climate change, I consider their uncritical coverage a small victory.
Kudos to the producers of the Opening Ceremonies and to the Brazilian organizers of these games for making a powerful climate change statement to the world. GreenSportsBlog will reach out to organizers of future mega events, including Super Bowl LI in Houston, the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2018 World Cup in Russia, to see if they plan to build on the foundation the producers in Rio laid down.

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  1. […] the climate change-themed vignette at the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Olympics, seen by as many by a billion people worldwide, […]

  2. […] had their own environmental sustainability challenges, to be sure, but one thing they got right was communicating the seriousness climate change poses to humanity to a global TV and digital audience, estimated to be up to 1 billion people. They did so with a climate change themed vignette during […]

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