Salla is a tiny and remote municipality that is known for being the coldest place in Finland. Despite being best known for skiing, they’ve just launched a bid for the Summer Olympic Games in 2032.
You’ll have guessed by now that the campaign is very much tongue in cheek. As the final words in the video admit, you don’t want these games to happen. And they haven’t actually filed the paperwork for an Olympic bid. “We’ve created this bid to raise attention about the climate emergency. Salla is changing. The whole planet is changing. Not in a good way.”
Because of the way the globe distributes heat, global warming is concentrated at the poles. While international negotiations have agreed to keep below two degrees of warming, the Arctic has already seen that level of change. Arctic communities are among the first to experience the serious breakdown of their climate, with all the disruption and dislocation that involves. This is brilliantly captured in Sheila Watt-Cloutier’s book The Right to be Cold, which describes the erosion of traditional ways of life, and how it fractures identity and community.
When the residents of Salla say ‘Save Salla, Save the Planet’, that can be taken at face value, unlike their bid for Olympic immortality. A future that protects communities at the poles is one that will have prevented the worst of climate change.
Salla’s imaginative campaign gets another thing right: the coming warmth could make the summer games a better prospect than the winter games. A study in 2018 found that of the 21 places that have previously hosted the Winter Olympics, 9 of them might not be able to do so by 2050 – they just wouldn’t be able to guarantee low enough temperatures. Among those that would be too warm are Vancouver and Sochi, Chamonix and Oslo.
“Our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind” says the Save Salla campaign. “As a village that’s already suffering the effects, we can’t wait or stand on the sidelines. We’ve got a unique responsibility. Save Salla. Save the planet.“