What was your favourite moment from the London 2012 Olympics? Usain Saint Leo “Lightning” Bolt winning the 100 metres? Mo Farah winning double gold in the 5000 and 10,000 metres as the audience in the Olympic park erupted? For me it was teenage poster boy Tom Daley winning his bronze medal in the 10 metre diving competition and later paying a really moving tribute to his late father who died of brain cancer last year. As Clare Balding said ‘if anyone deserves a medal at these Olympics, its Tom’.
But whatever your favourite moment was, spare a thought for all those countries who didn’t win a medal at London 2012. Of the 204 countries who took part in the games, 118 countries or over half will be going home empty handed. There will be no post London 2012 party or national homecoming celebration for them.
Of these the largest nation by population size is Bangladesh. With over 152 million people Bangladesh is the eighth most populous country in the world but it has never even had an athlete qualify for the Olympics, let alone got a medal. The five person team who represented the country at London 2012 all did so courtesy of Olympics wildcards.
Why Olympic rains have been a catastrophe for Bangladesh is my first post in my new role as climate change campaigner working for Practical Action. It links the Olympics with the record breaking rain we’ve had around the world this summer and shows how flood victims are now in the forefront in the fight against climate change.
Given the summer we’ve had it seems fitting that Britain’s first Olympic medal was won in a cycle race which took place during a torrential downpour. Commenting on her silver medal in the women’s cycling road race Lizzie Armitstead said “I hate racing in the heat. The harsher the conditions the better for me. I’ve been praying for rain, particularly when we were in the breakaway and there was a real downpour”. But for many poor and vulnerable people around the world the heavy rains this summer rather than being an answer to prayers have been a catastrophe.
At the end of June three weeks’ worth of unprecedented heavy rain left at least a hundred dead and over a quarter of a million people homeless in Bangladesh and northern India. On 9 July Russia held a national day of mourning for 171 people who died in its worst flooding disaster ever in the southern Krasnodar region. And on 21 July a ‘freak’ downpour left large areas of Beijing, the location of the last Olympic games, underwater with over 70 dead. Now large areas of the capital of the Philippines, Manila, are underwater with at least 50 dead and over a quarter of a million people forced to leave their homes.
Last week I met two members of the Kenyan Olympic team – Mark Muttai, the 400m metres Commonwealth Champion and Maureen Jelagat who will represent Kenya in the 400m hurdles. I talked to them about their Olympic medal hopes and my recent visit to Kenya. After some persuading they agreed to forgo their multi million pound sponsorship deal with Coke and instead endorse the Rainforest Alliance! For the pictures I raided the PG Tips in the cupboard but it was a big bag so you can almost see the green frog logo! Mark comes from Mosop in Nandi and Maureen from Iten, both in the Rift Valley.
“I learnt to run around the tea plantations in the highlands of the Nandi Hills in the Rift Valley. The tea plantations are excellent training grounds for the Olympics because of their high altitude and unpolluted air. The community I grew up in was very poor. A lot of my friends are now small holders who make their living from growing tea. I have been impressed by the work of the Rainforest Alliance in helping tea growers increase production and farm more sustainably. Britain is known around the world as a nation of tea drinkers so please look out for their green frog logo when buying tea – it will help poor Kenyans and the environment”. Mark Muttai
“Many of my friends grow tea. Its a lifeline for lots of poor people in Iten in the Rift Valley where I was born and grew up. Over the years Iten has produced many great Olympic runners. For me competing in the London 2012 Olympics will be the biggest achievement of my life. But I also want to use the opportunity to tell people about Kenya. Tea is our number one export so its vital that it benefits poor people. Buying Rainforest Alliance certified tea really makes a difference as it helps small farmers and the environment. So please do look out for the Rainforest Alliances little green frog when you next go to the supermarket”. Maureen Jelagat
Today it has been announced that the new Blackfriars Station which is being built across the Thames will be the worldest largest solar bridge. It shows that solar power has really come of age since I first worked on the technology back in the late 1990s for Greenpeace. But solar is also bringing power to some of the poorest communities in the world.
Last week I saw a new solar lighting system which is being trialled in Eldoret in Kenya. Its been developed by a company called M-kopa (M for mobile, kopa is Swahili for to borrow) and was only introduced at the begining of June. M-kopa are a mobile technology company based in the capital Nairobi whose aim is to help “Kenyans acquire solar power products by offering innovative payment plans and a distribution model tailored to the needs of rural Kenyans”. READ MORE
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