Extinction Rebellion planning to disrupt Santos Festival of Cycling

Activists will blockade routes on the race in protest against the title sponsor of the Adelaide-based event

Santos extinction rebellion
(Image credit: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Extinction Rebellion in South Australia has announced on Twitter (opens in new tab) that activists will blockade routes at the Santos Festival of Cycling in protest against the event's sponsor. 

Held as a replacement for the Tour Down Under, which was cancelled from the UCI WorldTour due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions in Australia, the Santos Festival of Cycling starts on Friday 21 January and ends on Saturday 28 January. 

However, Extinction Rebellion plans to disrupt the week-long event in protest against Santos, Australia's second largest oil and gas producer and sponsor of the Tour Down Under since 2010.

Announcing their protest, Extinction Rebellion tweeted: “Rebels from XRSA [Extinction Rebellion South Australia] are today announcing they will perform road blocks to stop the Santos Festival of Cycling race and challenge the social license of festival sponsor. We are demanding they find a new naming rights sponsor for the Tour Down Under.

"One of the world's worst carbon polluters, Santos continues to pursue massive oil and gas expansion in Australia and around the globe. Their actions will drive global emissions to tipping points from which there is no return. They must be stopped.”

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As one of Australia's largest greenhouse gas emitting companies, Santos' relationship with the Tour Down Under has often been challenged, with its sponsorship perceived by some as 'greenwashing'. 

Adelaide regularly experiences bushfires and extreme heat and The Australian Conservation Foundation calculated in 2020 that the South Australian city will see a significant increase in the number of extreme heat days over the next 40 to 60 years.

The Tour Down Under has no set figures or targets for reduction of its carbon emissions, simply stating “continuous improvement on environmental impact” is part of its management plan.

Speaking to Procycling (issue 288), Executive Director of event owner Events South Australia, Hitaf Rasheed, did not recognise the sport's environmental impact, instead commenting on Santos as a sponsor that helps the race's status develop.

Rasheed said: "While none of our sponsors have any direct involvement in the organisation or running of this event, we value these partnerships as they allow the race to continue to grow and elevate the event to a world-class offering.”

Extinction Rebellion member Anna Slynn said: "We understand that people will be frustrated by this action, but we cannot continue to give Santos our social consent. We intend to stop the race safely. We are declaring our intention today so that race organisers are prepared for when this happens.

"A company that pursues the most polluting oil and gas projects in the world, does not fulfil its tax obligations and continually ignores the wishes of Traditional Owners does not deserve our community support.”

The race organisers haven't officially responded to Extinction Rebellion's pre-warning of intended disruption at the race yet. 

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