Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain
the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in
Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles
This summer’s Tokyo Olympics, delayed by a year due to the pandemic, were meant to showcase how the global megaevent can be held in a more responsible manner. However, new research suggests that the Olympics are becoming less sustainable over time; that study anchors our Focus on the sustainability and legacy of the Olympic Games, as well as related news articles from recent years that highlight the environmental impacts of both the winter and summer games.
The delayed Tokyo Olympics were promised to be an example of how to stage an ecologically and socially responsible mega-event, but historical evidence and current trends suggest this may not be possible.
Sustainability has been added as a ‘pillar’ of the Olympic movement, but this analysis examines each Summer and Winter Games since 1992 to find that the performance of host cities across a range of indicators has been declining over time.