Sustainability & Sporting Events

Monday, June 21, 2010

Most people think that incorporating sustainability into everyday lives and massive government undertakings, like sporting events, is a development of recent years. When I say recent, let me make it clear that this means in the ballpark of 5 years. What they’d be surprised to find out is that they’re entirely wrong. The best example of a sustainable initiative that was largely unadvertised is the Sydney Olympic Park in Australia. Sydney hosted the Olympic Games in 2000, winning the bid well before the “green boom,” and everyone’s sudden interest in saving our planet.

When they won the bid, most of their money went into remediating land that was swallowed by landfills, and turning it into beautiful, safe parks and recreational areas. Instead of using the Olympics as an excuse to excavate the life out of their city and build exquisitely complex buildings instead of keeping biodiversity, a large portion of the money they spent went into preserving ecosystems and restoring previously disturbed ones. And mind you, this all happened well before it was “cool” to care about the environment. Even the outdoor lighting systems in the park generated the amount of energy that it would use up in a year, thereby cancelling out its consumption!

If you’re curious to read more about the Sydney Olympic Park, I encourage you to visit their site:

Fast forward a few years, and you arrive at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. The pressure was on the city to make their event sustainable, and they definitely rose to the occasion. They built the roof of the Richmond Oval entirely out of salvaged wood that was ravaged by pine beetles, ensured waste heat reuse in all of the new buildings and created rainwater collection systems that used the rainwater for flushing toilets and urinals instead of using potable water. I could go on and describe everything they did, but if it interests you, detailed energy consumption graphs and information can be found at their website:

These two major events display to us that it’s indeed possible to make a change and organize large-scale events without causing significant damage to our environment. If the government and large organizations can play their part, there is no reason why we can’t put in a little bit of effort to help make an immediate difference in our lives. These examples should also be used to prod other nations and organizing committees into creating sustainability guidelines and goals for future sporting events, because so much damage can be done to the environment if only profit is the cause for concern. In temporarily beautifying their surroundings, the developers can cause severe long-term damage that can only proliferate as time goes on.

It’s definitely reassuring to find that the next several Olympics Committees (Sochi, London, and Rio) and World Cup hosts (Germany 2011) are putting forth the time and effort to create more sustainable games and aiming to educate their target public about the different facets of sustainability. Our goal, as a species, should be to implement sustainability guidelines for every single major sporting event so that we can make our planet healthy, facilitating the continuation of the athletic legacy.

- vedrana

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