What to know about Team USA bringing AC units to Paris Olympics

As part of a wide-ranging effort to make the Olympic Games more eco-friendly, Paris 2024 organizers said the Olympic village that houses athletes would be constructed without any air conditioning.

But as the Paris Games near, and fears of a summer heat wave linger, some visiting countries have decided to bring their own air-conditioning units instead.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee chief executive officer Sarah Hirshland confirmed Friday that the U.S. would join a host of other countries in providing portable air conditioning for their athletes in the Olympic village. While the move appears to undercut Paris organizers' sustainability efforts, Hirshland described it as an important factor for athletes that could significantly impact their performance at the Games.

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"We have great respect for the work that's been done by the Paris organizing committee in particular and their focus on sustainability," Hirshland said. "As you can imagine, this is a period of time in which consistency and predictability is critical for Team USA's performance. 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."

A view shows a flat prepared for athletes inside the Olympic and Paralympic Village ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine near Paris, France, February 26, 2024. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
A view shows a flat prepared for athletes inside the Olympic and Paralympic Village ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine near Paris, France, February 26, 2024. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

Why no AC in the Olympic village?

The International Olympic Committee has become increasingly cognizant of the environmental impact of the Olympic Games. In recent years, it has worked with local organizers to limit wastefulness and energy usage by using more existing venues instead of building temporary ones, or using clean energy to fuel the buses that transport athletes and fans.

Paris is attempting to take those sustainability efforts to another level by halving the carbon emissions of its Summer Games predecessors, which have emitted an average of 3.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

As part of this plan, Paris built the Olympic village with a more environmentally friendly geothermal cooling system, rather than traditional air conditioning. The organizing committee has said the system will keep athletes' rooms at least 10 degrees cooler than outside temperatures, and no warmer than the high 70s at night.

"We designed these buildings so that they would be comfortable places to live in in the summer, in 2024 and later on," Yann Krysinski, who oversees the delivery of venues and infrastructure for Paris 2024, told Reuters earlier this year. "We don't need air conditioning in these buildings because we oriented the facades so that they wouldn't get too much sun during the summer, and the facades, the insulation is really efficient."

What other countries are bringing AC?

The village's cooling system has not quelled concerns from athletes and national Olympic committees, however. And that's prompted several countries to arrange to bring their own AC units, energy consumption be damned.

The Washington Post reported that Australia, Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Greece and Italy are among the large Olympic delegations who will be providing AC for their athletes in Paris.

"We will bring them. And we will take them back to Greece," Alexandra Palli, president of the Greek Olympic committee for environmental sustainability, told the newspaper. "They need support. Because what they do is very difficult anyway."

A Paris 2024 spokesperson did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment on countries' plans to bring their own AC units.

How hot will it be at the Paris Olympics?

The Paris Games will run from July 26 to August 10, which is one of the hottest times of year in the region. The city's hottest day on record was five years ago on July 25, 2019, when temperatures exceeded 108 degrees.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom are among those who expressed concerns about a potential heat wave in Paris this summer, citing the heat and humidity at the previous Summer Games in Tokyo and the impacts of climate change. According to a report released earlier this month, the annual temperatures in Paris have warmed by more than 3 degrees over the past century, with the city experiencing an average of nine more "scorching" days (defined as north of 86 degrees) per year.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: US Olympic team will bring AC units to Paris Games. What to know