What is the cost to athletes and sports of accepting money from an influential denier of global warming? And what is the cost to our planet?

Gina Rinehart, a global warming denier and the wealthiest person in Australia, cannot protect the sports she sponsors from the impact of the climate crisis. But should they be protecting Rinehart’s reputation from the condemnation that is increasingly directed at those who stand in the way of climate action?

That is the question on the lips of many Australian athletes following the announcement on Friday that Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting was becoming a major partner of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) in a four-year deal. Just days after being appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for, among other things, her distinguished service “to sport as a patron”, Rinehart has increased her already considerable involvement with Australian Olympic sport. But at a time of growing athlete activism around climate action, the appropriateness of the AOC lending its social licence to Rinehart and Hancock Prospecting is in doubt.

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