Like any activity, sport has an impact on the environment as well as being affected by it. Today’s 2012 World Environment Day (WED), initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), provides a good opportunity to remember that sport and the environment are deeply interlinked and need to be addressed jointly. Whilst the sports world can play an important role in safeguarding the environment, a degraded environment can have a negative impact on sport, the Olympic Games and, most importantly, the athletes. Accordingly, sport and the environment have become a full-time activity area, with initiatives and projects implemented worldwide.
Green economy includes sport
This year, WED turns 40, and most of UNEP’s celebrations will take place in Rio de Janeiro, host of the upcoming Rio +20 Conference and the Olympic Games in 2016, under the theme of “Green Economy: Does it include you?”. The Olympic Movement is proud to be part of this global movement for sustainability and contributes to the greening of economies through the organisation of the Olympic Games that can function as a major asset for cities and communities to maintain and restore land, soil, forest, freshwater, wild fauna and flora, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems.
London 2012 leads on sustainability
Sustainability has been a key consideration for the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) since London started to bid for the Games. The Games will start in less than two months’ time. Major achievements include the creation of the Olympic Park, which is the largest new urban parkland in Europe for 150 years, and the construction of the Olympic Stadium, which is the most sustainable Olympic stadium in history and has been completed on time, on budget and to high sustainability standards. In addition, London 2012 will be the first Olympic Games to measure its carbon footprint over the entire project term, and is also the first Games to commit to a zero waste to landfill target through the strategic Zero Waste Games Vision. In 2011, LOCOG also became the first Games Organising Committee to be independently certified to the British Standard 8901: Specification for a Sustainability Management System for Events.
Sport partners with UNEP
Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, has recently praised the sustainability measures taken by LOCOG which underline the IOC’s commitment to the environment. He said: “I witnessed the thoughtful approach to bringing sustainability issues into the planning and development of a mass scale event. Efforts such as the greening of the supply chain, regeneration of an inner city area and bringing energy efficiency measures to local homes, can build the confidence to wider society that sustainability is not theory but infinitely do-able with the policies and technologies available today not tomorrow.”
IOC to join in Rio +20
The IOC will also observe the Rio +20 summit at the end of the month and organise a side event on 19 June to demonstrate its commitment, illustrate best practice and foster partnerships between the various parties involved.
Learn more about World Environment Day here
Learn more about London 2012 sustainability action here
Six years ago, when news broke of London’s successful bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, work immediately began on laying the foundations for a legacy that would have a lasting impact far beyond the Closing Ceremony on 12 August 2012.
A wealth of benefits
The tangible benefits of that work are already visible around the UK – and in particular in the East End of London, transforming what has been one of Europe’s most impoverished areas. After the Games, the infrastructure, environment, public amenities, transport links and job opportunities in east London will have changed beyond recognition. There will also be a wealth of benefits available to the wider London community, such as cross-city transport improvements, as well as more training and job opportunities for the UK, and the chance for a vast array of businesses to be involved.
The Olympic Park in London. Copyright: LOCOG
The Olympic Park
The Olympic Park is the largest new urban park to be created in Europe for more than 150 years, while the Village itself – where athletes and officials will stay during the Games – will be converted into homes, many available for key workers such as teachers and nurses. Further housing will also be built on the Olympic Park site after the Games.
Lee Valley White Water Centre. Copyright: LOCOG
World-class sports venues, such as the Lee Valley White Water Centre will be, and already are in some instances, used by sports clubs and the local community as well as elite athletes. They will be adapted where necessary and new playing fields will be created for community use.
A range of transport improvements serving the Park are already underway, including an extension to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), increased capacity on the London Underground’s Jubilee Line and the upgrade of Stratford Station. The communities surrounding the Park will enjoy access to the open space via a network of canal towpaths, footpaths and cycleways.
Job and training opportunities for local people
Thousands of new jobs will be created in the Park alone. Job and training opportunities will be created for local people, and local residents will be engaged in the planning of the Games and the benefits that the project will bring afterwards. Staging the Olympic Games in 2012 has rapidly accelerated the regeneration of east London, delivering a massive £2 billion boost to the capital’s economy, in addition to the wider jobs and skills legacy being delivered through 2012 Games programmes, which are putting more than 25,000 people into new jobs. In addition, 400 apprentices have been trained on the Olympic Park site, a further 40,000 training places have been provided and 50,000 people have received support to get back into work.
Andrew Altman, Chief Executive of the Olympic Park Legacy Company, says: “The combination of the shopping centre and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will generate an unprecedented number of opportunities. We are working to expand the training being delivered so it can also meet some of the future job opportunities on the Park. By mapping out these opportunities now with training providers, we hope to give local people the best possible chance to benefit.”
Inside the Olympic Stadium. Copyright: LOCOG
Tangible benefits of the Games
The London 2012 Olympic Games will leave a range of key socio-economic legacies at both national and local level in the fields of culture, sport, volunteering, business and tourism. Local examples already showing the tangible benefits of the Games include John F Kennedy Special School, which is just 800 metres from the Olympic Stadium. The school provides education to some of the most disabled children in Newham but has recently experienced financial difficulties and has struggled with the upkeep of its facilities. Largely because of its proximity to the Olympic Village, it inspired The Lord’s Taverners – the UK youth cricket and disability sport charity – to try and make a positive difference by helping children improve their lives using physical activity. JFK is just one of 12 schools around the country that is set to receive funding to install sensory rooms and therapeutic swimming pools before the start of the Olympic Games.
Matthew Patten, Chief Executive of The Lord’s Taverners, says: “We hope to communicate the great things about the Olympic Games to people who have real challenges with communications. And that’s what led The Lord’s Taverners, inspired by the Olympic Games, to create sensory rooms for children who have a profound disability – to improve their lives and their senses through physical activity. The 12 sensory rooms around the country will be there during the Olympic Games, the week after, the year after and 10 years after. Thousands of young people in the UK will benefit from them. The work that is being done with JFK School to improve the facilities available would not have happened without the Olympic Games coming to town.”
A regeneration for the whole area up to, and beyond the Games
Robert Harding, Olympic Project Officer at the Environment Agency, says: “The London 2012 Games have been a catalyst for major investment in that part of east London and to regenerate the whole area up to, and beyond the Games. This time next year the focus of the world will be on that part of east London and I think we will put on a fantastic show. The Environment Agency has played a regulatory role in all of the activities involved with ground and water, remediation and planning associated with all of the venue construction and re development of the parklands. The Olympic project has brought that land back into long-term use. Lots of money has been invested in the clean-up to enable the London 2012 Olympic Delivery Authority to create something to behold for the future.”
Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis OBE with state-of-the-art equipment donated by GE in the new maternity and newborn centre at Homerton Hospital. Copyright: LOCOG
The official hospital for the Games has received £4.8m worth of equipment for its maternity and newborn centre, donated by global Olympic Partner GE. The hospital has invested more than £12.5m in the centre, which has doubled in size to become one of the best-equipped in the country. It now has 22 cots in a special care baby unit, 20 cots in a neonatal intensive care unit, 16 en-suite birthing rooms, two birthing pools, en-suite family accommodation and 32 antenatal and nine post-natal beds.
Daniel Waldron, General Manager at Homerton Hospital, says: “We now have a state-of-the-art maternity and neonatal unit. Not only are people coming here and enjoying the physical space of this fantastic environment, but we also have the best equipment as well. As a result of the legacy of the Games, Hackney can now provide the best medical service, and that has already begun to touch people. Those who live in the shadows of the Olympic stadium can be proud – the local hospital on their doorstep has been given a donation that means it can offer world-class healthcare.”
How to make sport events truly sustainable was one focus on the last day of the 9th World Conference on Sport and the Environment that took place in Doha (Qatar) from 30 April to 2 May 2011. After participants had learnt about Qatar’s initiatives in integrating sustainability into the planning of sports events, as well as about South Africa’s green projects for the FIFA 2010 World Cup, Fiona Pelham, Managing Director of UK-based Sustainable Events LTD, shared details of a new reporting framework which has been led by sport with the objective that all organisers will be able to monitor, measure and communicate the impact of their events.
Sustainability reporting for sport events
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is currently the world’s most widely used sustainability framework, and will soon see the addition of an event sector supplement. The aim is to show balanced reporting on areas which are relevant to the size, type and location of an event, such as legacy and sourcing. The IOC, the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) and UEFA were instrumental in helping to develop such a reporting system that can be applied to sports events of all sizes. Fiona Pellham explained: “In autumn 2011, the Event Organiser sector supplement will launch and events around the world will have a framework, recognised as international best practice, to communicate their approach and impact. Clearly, this will have three important benefits: 1.What gets measured gets monitored and will be reduced; 2. There will be a common language for sharing the sustainability journey of sport: and 3. We will see leadership in communicating the legacy impact of sport.”
The Games example
The Organising Committee for the next Olympic Games in London 2012 is already working with GRI guidelines while putting sustainability at the heart of its preparations. Its latest sustainability report is GRI-checked, which is a first in the Olympic context. LOCOG was among three representatives from the future Games’ hosts who spoke about how hosting major events like the Olympics have allowed them to progress sustainability in their own contexts. David Stubbs from London 2012 spoke about how the Games had led to the remediation and regeneration of an entire area of East London, while London’s view of sustainability was allowing them to work with people from all backgrounds and take sustainability into new areas. Volney Zanardi and Grigory Kocharov both spoke about their own local contexts, in Brazil (Rio 2016) and Russia (Sochi 2014) respectively, and how major sporting events like the Games are helping them to promote sustainability and create lasting legacies for their local populations.
Experts and practitioners in the field of sustainable development in sport are currently meeting in Doha, Qatar, for the 9th IOC World Conference on Sport and Environment. In light of next year’s Rio+20 Earth Summit, the discussions kicked off today concentrating on the role of sport in contributing to a cleaner and more sustainable world.
Sport as a tool for positive change
In his keynote address, IOC President Jacques Rogge said: “We have an obligation to use sport as a tool for positive change at the societal level. The 1992 Earth Summit helped us realise that we could serve humanity by serving the environment. After all, environmental sustainability is linked to our very survival as a species. Our values require us to act on two levels. First, we must do all we can to ensure that our own activities do not contribute to environmental degradation. At the same time, we have to use sport as a tool to encourage environmentally responsible behaviour by others.”
Commitment to the environment stronger than ever
He concluded: “As we near the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit, the Olympic Movement’s commitment to the environment is stronger than ever. That commitment was reaffirmed at the most recent Olympic Congress in 2009.” The IOC President added: “We are not here to celebrate past achievements, but to lay the groundwork for future success. The knowledge we have acquired, the partnerships we have formed and the availability of new technology are the building blocks for more progress. It is now up to us to make sure that when the world marks the 20th anniversary of the 2012 Earth Summit, it can truly be said that the Olympic Movement did its part to protect and preserve our environment.”
Read the full speech here.
Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, asked the audience: How can the way sport influences consumer choices and the psychology of consumerism, be enlisted in the race for sustainable lifestyles? How can we influence owners of stadia to mirror the achievements in terms of waste management and renewable energy of those organising the big tournaments and Games? He added: “I think the story of incorporating sustainability into sports has been one of the inspirational evolutions of the past two decades.”
Under the motto “Playing for a Greener Future”, the Conference is being organised by the IOC in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Qatar Olympic Committee. The IOC’s Sport and Environment Commission was created in 1994 to advise the Executive Board on all related matters and has since been chaired by Pál Schmitt, IOC member, Olympic champion and President of Hungary.