Yes you read that right. A tiny town called Salla in Finland’s Lapland region, north of the Arctic Circle, has launched its bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2032, despite its remote and freezing conditions.
Its bid was launched via a news conference and comes with a promotional video complete with locals wearing summer sports gear while running, swimming, and playing volleyball in the snowy landscape.
The campaign is all about highlighting the threat the climate crisis poses to Salla and its ecosystem, which is dependent on low temperatures for most of the year. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but it has a serious message.
Residents of the town have proclaimed it is the coldest place in Lapland — it reaches -50 degrees Celsius in the winter — but they’re worried it won’t be like that for much longer, due to global warming.
In the video, residents start wondering whether, in 11 years time, the landscape will have transformed into something more suitable for warm weather athletics, as they are shown rolling out flags with the Olympic logo, branded “Salla 2032.”
“Warm heart, we have it,” says one of the participants. “Warm place, coming soon,” adds another.
It also features the local mayor Erkki Parkkinen, making a compelling point about rising temperatures — and ends by posing a question to the viewer, asking: “What do you think?”
Parkkinen told Finnish media, reported in EuroNews, that 2032 is the year that will mark a turning point for towns like Salla, and other Arctic locations. Without action to slow warming temperatures these areas will “cease to exist as we know them,” he said.
“If we haven’t succeeded in halting climate change by then, it is too late. We want to keep Salla as it is, and our winters cold and full of snow,” Parkkinen continued. “So, there was this crazy idea to host the summer games in one of the coldest towns on the planet.”
As the mayor underlines, the next decade is crucial for changing course on climate change. In 2018, a landmark report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the world had 12 years to cut carbon emissions and keep the world’s temperature no higher than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.
Parts of the world that are meant to be cold are already experiencing worrying changes as result of rising temperatures. In July 2020, for example, parts of the Siberian Arctic were 10 degrees Celsius above average summer temperatures, which led to wildfires.
A campaign called Save Salla has been launched to accompany the Olympic Games bid, which has support from Fridays for Future — the youth-led campaign set up by Greta Thunberg which began by launching school strikes every Friday.
The Salla town Facebook page, which has the tagline “the middle of nowhere”, has even posted a design for a new Olympic mascot to go with its mock-bid: a reindeer called Kesa, which means “summer” in Finnish.