After the World Cup, the biggest, most viewed soccer tournament in the world is the European Championship, or EURO. From June 10 to July 10, 24 national teams, from Albania to Ukraine, will battle in 10 stadiums across France for the EURO 2016 title. 2.5 million fans are expected to attend the matches with 150 million projected to watch each match on TV worldwide (ESPN and ESPN 2 will air every match live in the US). What they will be attending and watching will, from a sustainability perspective, build on the strong, green, mega-sports event foundation set by the London 2012 Olympics and Super Bowl 50.
That the EURO 2016 soccer tournament is taking place in France is fitting from a sustainability point of view:
- Just last December, Paris hosted the COP21 global climate change conference that resulted in the (potentially) landmark climate agreement signed on Earth Day by more than 170 countries.
- UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, and the organizer of EURO 2016, presented its forward-looking and comprehensive sustainability plans at Sustainable Innovation in Sport, a conference-within-a-conference at COP21 which took place at the Stade de France, site of the Euro 2016 finale on July 10.
It is also fitting France will host a mega-sports event that will match and, in some ways, surpass the sterling sustainability track records established by the 2012 London Olympics and February’s Bay Area-based Super Bowl 50*.
Like the mega-events listed above, EURO 2016 is peering through a wide angle lens when it comes to sustainability. Thus, public health (i.e. the tourney will be tobacco-free, which would have been hard to imagine in Europe even 3-4 years ago) and social (i.e. anti-racism programs, “Fan Embassies” to lessen tensions between supporter groups) programs will take their place alongside Respect the Environment initiatives.
On the green piece, EURO 2016 has set a very high bar for itself, from public transportation to waste management to energy and water efficiency to a scrupulous approach to sustainability measurement. Here then is a Respect the Environment “Greatest Hits” sampler:
- Transportation: No spectator car parking in the parking lots of the 10 EURO 2016 stadiums. You read that right. No private car parking at the stadiums. Allen Hershkowitz, President of the Green Sports Alliance, is impressed: “This is unheard of—nothing has been done like virtually prohibiting private vehicles from a mega-sports event. This is a big deal, especially when you consider that more than half of the carbon emissions from an event like this come from fan transportation.” To make this possible and even pleasant:
- French national railway SNCF is offering increased rail capacity for match days with local metro systems doing the same.
- Low and Zero-emission shuttles will transport fans to the game from mass transit and city center stops.
- Cycling and walking from city centers to stadiums will be encouraged.
- Waste Management: The stadium operations folks are not taking a back seat to those responsible for transportation—they’re going for Zero Waste to landfill. From all 10 stadiums, for all 51 matches.
- Energy and Water Efficiency: While the stadiums are not under UEFA’s control (they were built by the home teams and home cities), EURO 2016 should achieve championship-level in this category:
- Per a GreenSportsBlog post from May, 2014, Stade Allianz Riviera in Nice generates enough energy via solar panels to fully power itself. You read that one right: It generates enough energy from solar to generate 100% of the electricity it uses (#Go100Percent).
- Micro urban wind turbines have been installed at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille; the stadium also uses a wastewater treatment plant heat recovery system.
- Seven of the 10 stadiums have rainwater collection systems in place; all use automated energy management systems.
The beautiful and super energy-efficient Stade Vélodrome in Marseilles will be one of the 10 venues for EURO2016 starting this June. (Photo credit: Le Monde)
- Sustainable Sourcing of Products and Services: Complies with United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) guidelines.
- Catering and hospitality provider Do&Co/Hédiard, has aggressive targets in place for responsibly sourced products, waste, transport and energy.
- Fan Engagement: According to UEFA Events CEO Martin Kallen, fans will make use of the easy-to-use, web-based Eco-Calculator to “look at where [they] come from and where [they] go to [and how] and see the emissions that come from that.” Fans can then contribute towards certified energy efficiency and renewable energy generation projects that offset those carbon emissions. And, by using the eco-calculator, fans are entered into a sweepstakes in which they can win tickets to the final game. That’s what I call fan engagement!
Screen-grab of the EURO 2016 Eco-Calculator, designed to make it easy for fans to calculate and offset their tournament-related carbon emissions.
This all sounds great but how will UEFA measure whether the goals laid out above are met? Quantis International, an environmental consulting firm, was commissioned to set the environmental measurement baselines. Dr. Hershkowitz and others will be on site during the tournament to act as “Environmental Evaluators” to audit and verify the tournament’s performance against its environmental goals. And after the tournament, I will sit down for an interview with EURO 2016 Sustainability Director Neil Beecroft to see how it all turned out. I will be sure to ask Beecroft about the media coverage (or lack thereof) of the “Green EURO 2016” story. More than 100 million people are expected to watch each of the 51 games on TV. It would be great if PSAs telling the green-themed EURO 2016 tale are shown to that massive audience and a huge opportunity missed if not.
In the meantime, it’s fair to say that Euro 2016 is laying down the sustainability marker for the next set of mega events, including the 2016 Copa America (a North-Central-South American version of Euro 2016, being played in the USA at roughly the same time), 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyongchang, South Korea. The Green-Sports world will be watching.
* What about the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, you may ask—why isn’t it in the comparison set? While there were some strong sustainability aspects to the Brazil World Cup (i.e., 5 of the 12 stadia were LEED certified), there were significant weaknesses (i.e. lack of mass transit, massive travel-related carbon emissions).
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