PLAYING FAIR WITH THE CLIMATE
For many of us, participating in sport is all about escaping into the great outdoors. Whether it is a round of golf enjoying beautiful landscapes, skiing on pristine slopes of snow, or watching or even participating in a football match—a large part of the pleasure is getting out into the fresh air and leaving the city behind for a while.
Yet sporting activities have many impacts on the very environment that provides such pleasure to its participants and spectators. A growing number of associations and major sporting events are looking at climate neutrality as a way of helping to minimize those impacts.
Among the members of the UNEP Climate Neutral Network is the organizing committee of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Russia. This event is taking place in the beautiful and environmentally sensitive Krasnodar region on the Black Sea coast, against the backdrop of the snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus Mountains.
That has brought challenges and plenty of controversy in the planning of the multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects that will be needed to host the event—especially as it is taking place adjacent to a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In June 2009, the games organizers signed a memorandum of understanding with UNEP agreeing to a range of measures to make the games as sustainable as possible. Among the measures was relocation of the luge and bobsleigh tracks away from the Caucasus nature reserve—one of the few untouched mountain areas of Europe.
The agreement also details Sochi 2014’s commitment to climate neutrality—covering all emissions contributed directly by the event’s activities from the time of the announcement of the successful bid, in 2007, to the final shut-down phase after the games in February 2014. Emissions from electricity, air and ground transport and other activities will all be offset.
Among the emissions-saving actions being taken in connection with the Olympics are energy efficiency measures in all construction, use of recycled construction materials, and retrofitting existing energy systems to operate using renewable fuels. A light railway system is also being built to link the Olympic village with the international airport and downtown Sochi.
According to Dmitriy Kolosov, who is one of the coordinators of the carbon neutral commitment for the organizing committee, just providing modern facilities for a city like Sochi involves important environmental gains by replacing ageing and often dirty infrastructure.
“Even if we just choose the best available technologies for the city and games facilities, we will reduce pollution and emissions,” says Kolosov. “The games are driving development and modernization of Sochi’s systems for waste management, sewage treatment, energy and heat supply and transport. All the improvements not only get rid of old sources of emissions, but they also bring the city to a sustainable and comfortable standard of living.”
An important part of the environmental commitment of the games is to involve local people through education programmes, and the public can submit suggestions for greening the activities of the Olympics on the event’s blog, at blogs.sochi2014.com (in Russian).
Kolosov’s advice to other sporting events considering climate neutrality? “Start planning early, engage stakeholders, define the borders of your responsibility, promote your programme.”
Also aiming for carbon neutrality is another major world sporting event, the 2010 FIFA World Cup, being held in South Africa. The host country has promised to green the event by focusing on conservation of water and energy, waste