The GSB Interview: Geert Hendriks, International Academy of Sports, Science and Technology

Switzerland, the hub of European, and in some sense, world sports, is also upping its Green-Sports game. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), headquartered in Lausanne, has made sustainability a key pillar of Olympic Agenda 2020. Last summer, UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, housed in Nyon, hosted one of the most sustainable mega-sports events ever, EURO 2016. And FIFA, which resides in Zürich, is making green strides as well. To get a better sense of the Green-Sports scene on the Continent, GreenSportsBlog spoke with Geert Hendriks, Head of Projects for AISTS (International Academy of Sports Science and Technology), located in Lausanne. And, as a bonus and in the interest of broadening the sporting horizons of our readers, we get into GSB’s first-ever discussion of the sport of Korfball. 

 

GreenSportsBlog: Switzerland is certainly the place to be for European sports. Before we get into European Green-Sports, first tell us a bit about the International Academy of Sports Science and Technology, or AISTS, and also how you got there.

Geert Hendriks: Sure! AISTS was founded by the IOC, along with several leading Swiss educational institutes and the city of Lausanne. It has been in existence since 2000—I joined in 2012.  Its mission is to bring a positive contribution to the management of sport through education, consulting and a platform of connections. In terms of sustainability, we look at it as an investment, not a cost. This certainly fits in with my ethos and professional background. It sounds cliché but, really, I was meant to do this work. Before AISTS I worked in information management in the world of Emergency Relief. And before that, I worked in the banking industry…

HENDRIKSGeert

Geert Hendriks, Head of Projects at AISTS (Photo credit: AISTS)

 

GSB:…Ergo “investment”…

GH: Correct. My academic training was in Business Administration, Information Management and Sport Management. And I’m a sportsman of sorts, with korfball being my main sport.

GSB: Korfball? Uh, what the heck is THAT?

GH: It’s a combination of basketball and netball that’s played with men and women simultaneously. It’s big in the Netherlands and played in 65 – 70 other countries, including Switzerland; it’s an IOC recognized sport.

Korfball with kids 2015

Korfball clinic managed by IOC in 2015. (Photo credit: Hawley MacLean)

 

GSB: I could also ask you “What the heck is netball?” but I won’t get into that. I cannot believe there is an IOC recognized sport I’m unaware of. But korfball, which sounds fun, is for another day. Let’s get back to your work with AISTS. Talk about how sustainability fits in.

GH: AISTS incorporates Open Modules in its list of annual activities, one of them being a 2-day course on sustainability in sport and events that debates the current issues, challenges and opportunities. At the last edition, Allen Hershkowitz, former President of the Green Sports Alliance, presented to the participants, as did Omar Mitchell, VP of Corporate Social Responsibility at the National Hockey League. We’ve had the Head of Sustainability from the IOC, as well as speakers from FIFA, Formula E and Coca-Cola.

AISTS Debate

Omar Mitchell (l)  and Allen Hershkowitz (2nd from left) on a panel at AISTS’ Open Module course in March. (Photo credit: AISTS)

 

GSB: I understand AISTS had its most recent course in late March. How did it go?

GH: It went very well. We had 50 people in the room: 35 people who participate in our Master of Advanced Studies in Sport Administration as well as about 15 external people from the industry that attended the course. This group of externals includes professionals from the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), Federation of Gay Games, Formula E as well as from several corporates.

GSB: That sounds like a good mix. What were some of the topics that were discussed?

GH: The need to use sustainability in sport as a driver for the strategic objectives of your organization. Sustainability is no longer an add-on. Bartel Berkhout of Nyenrode University in the Netherlands, in his presentation about sustainable leadership, talked about “sustainability being the new normal”. This is already common in business; so it should be in sport.

GSB: Of course I agree. Now, it seems to me that Green-Sports is in its 2.0 or 3.0 phase. The first phase was greening the games: LEED certified stadiums, recycling and composting, and more. 2.0 is fan engagement. That’s starting to happen. But phase 3.0, perhaps the most important, is engaging the media on Green-Sports. Because if Green-Sports is only taking place at the stadiums and arenas and is not broadcast and streamed to the much bigger audiences who follow the games but don’t attend them, then Green-Sports won’t scale. Was the intersection of Green, Sports and the Media discussed?

GH: Not in a dedicated session. However it was brought up at one of the panels by one of the participants, a former employee of NBC Universal. She acknowledged the importance of the gap between greening on the grounds and the lack of coverage during the games. This is something we will be covering more intently as time goes on.

GSB: Beyond the course, what are some of AISTS most important Sustainability-in-Sport initiatives?

GH: AISTS jointly developed the Sustainable Sport & Events Toolkit with the organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. This SSE Toolkit is an online how-to-guide for sustainable sport events, and is used by cities and organizers of medium size sport events across the world. It includes some basic training-modules and almost 200 examples and best practices.

Furthermore, we work with many international sports federations and event organizers, using our expertise to implement sustainability programs, write case studies and report on their impact. During the Rio 2016 Olympics, we worked with the organizing committee on capturing easy-to-understand and concrete examples of good sustainability practices. A set of 16 case studies were published in a small booklet, including the innovative waste management program of the NBA House, the energy savings of the Tokyo 2020 House and many more.

We also work with the city of Richmond (Vancouver), supporting the greening of local sport and community events, offering practical tools to help local event organizers.

GSB: Where does AISTS’ funding come from?

GH: From three sources: 1. Fees for our Educational Programs, including a full-time Masters in Sport Administration track. Right now, we have 35 people from 24 countries participating in this program. 2. Project fees from our work with international sport organizations. And 3. We receive a modest financial contribution from our eight founding partners.

GSB: How have the sports federations and governing bodies gone about engaging fans?

GH: Ah, well, fan engagement on sustainability is the million-dollar-question, isn’t it? There is no easy answer, it depends on the culture, the sport, the media, and probably a few more things. In general, many federations that are doing good work, find it difficult to communicate that engagement to their fans.

GSB: Difficult or maybe they fear the politics of green…If that’s the case, I think that fear is misguided.

GH: Regardless, I would say that in general, the nature of that communication has to be simple, factual, credible, not too “rah, rah”, relevant, and fun, somehow. In my opinion, Formula E has hit the sweet spot in a high profile fashion. It’s fun, great to watch and it is sustainable sport in action.

GSB: I’ve never been to Formula E—will have to check it out. In the meantime, I do believe that fan engagement is the next big hill for the Green-Sports movement to climb and expect that AISTS will be leading some of those climbs.

 


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GSB News and Notes: Self-Driving Buses at 2018 Winter Olympics; Reebok Pioneers Plant-Based Footwear; Vestas, Leader in Wind, Teams with 11th Hour Racing to Bring Sustainability Message to Volvo Ocean Sailing Race

Innovation is fast becoming a Green-Sports watchword and it undergirds today’s GSB News & Notes: PyeongChang, South Korea, host of the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, will be the first to feature self-driving buses. Reebok will bring plant-based footwear to the market later this year. And Vestas, the only global energy company dedicated solely to wind, partners with 11th Hour Racing to bring a forward-looking sustainability message to the 2018 Volvo Ocean Sailing Race.

 

 

SELF-DRIVING BUSES AT PYEONGCHANG 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS

South Korean telecommunications company KT Corporation plans to launch its next generation 5G cellular network in 2019. The Official Telecommunications Provider of the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in PyeongChang will use the quadrennial event to pilot the new technology. State-of-the art cell phones, 22nd century virtual reality devices and drone deliveries are only some of the 5G applications that will be on display at the Games.

In concert with the South Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and partner companies Samsung Electronics, Ericsson, Nokia and Intel; KT Corporation will unveil self-driving shuttle buses in PyeongChang during the Games.

KT Corp

Self-driving shuttle bus from KT Corporation will be featured during PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games in South Korea. (Photo credit: KT Corporation)

 

Per a story by Yoon Sung-won in the Korea Timesthe self-driving buses were tested Tuesday (Monday in the US) at an event in snowy PyeongChang. “The bus was connected to a control center through the 5G network at the venue and drove itself through a short route. It automatically stopped as a car appeared in front of it and slowed down over a slippery road covered with snow.”

The driverless shuttles, which will bring fans, staff and media from the city center to a variety of Olympics venues, are projected to reduce energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions and accidents vs. their human-driven counterparts.

 

REEBOK TO MAKE SHOES FROM “THINGS THAT GROW”

The athletic shoe and apparel industries are bringing innovative Green-Sports products to market at a breakneck pace. Nike’s new FlyKnit shoes cut waste by 80 percent. adidas recently-launched UltraBOOST Uncaged Parley sneakers are made from 95 percent plastic ocean waste.

Reebok, a division of adidas, will join the greening fray by bringing plant-based footwear to the market later this year; an initiative the company says will create shoes that are “made from things that grow.” The first release will be a shoe that has an upper, the part that goes over the top of the foot, comprised of organic cotton and a base originating from industrially-grown corn (a non-food source). Reebok is partnering with DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products to create the “Cotton + Corn” shoes.

Reebok

Prototype of Reebok Cotton + Corn sneakers, made of plant-based materials. (Photo credit: Reebok)

 

The Cotton + Corn initiative impacts all three phases of the product lifecycle in textbook “Cradle to Cradle” fashion. In the development phase, Reebok uses materials that grow and can be replenished, rather than the petroleum-based materials used today. When the product hits the market, the company has ensured consumers that they won’t have to sacrifice performance and style. Finally, the plant-based materials in the the shoes are compostable at the end of the lifecycle. Reebok says it will take back used sneakers and compost them to grow the materials for the next batch of shoes.

Cotton + Corn

 

Bill McInnis, head of Reebok Future, told Environmental Leader’s Jennifer Hermes on April 5 that the plant-based shoes will be a bit more expensive to create at first than their traditional rubber, polyurethane, and synthetic rubber counterparts: the company is using new materials that it has not used previously and the small quantities at launch limit economies of scale.

The Reebok Future team has been at work on this concept in various forms for over five years. According to McInnis, its focus is on “making more sustainable products and minimizing our environmental impact” that don’t compromise on quality so consumers will not be forced to choose between style, comfort and the environment.

The price of the shoes has not yet been disclosed, according to Boston Business Journal.

 

VESTAS AND 11TH HOUR RACING TEAM UP TO BRING SUSTAINABILITY TO VOLVO OCEAN SAILING RACE

Global wind power company Vestas recently announced a partnership with 11th Hour Racing, to bring a strong sustainability message to the ’round the world 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race by their sponsorship of the American duo of Charlie Enright and Mark Towill. Before that, 11th Hour Racing, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation which establishes strategic partnerships within the sailing world to promote systemic change for the health of our marine environment, will put sustainability front and center at this summer’s America’s Cup in Bermuda via its sponsorship of Land Rover BAR, the British entrant.

Enright Towill Billy Weiss VOR

Charlie Enright and Mark Towill will bring their sustainability message around the world in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, with the support of Vestas and 11th Hour Racing. (Photo credit: Billy Weiss/VOR)

 

The Vestas-11th Hour Racing-Enright-Towill campaign is a unique platform for the Danish company to promote its vision, which is to be the global leader in sustainable energy solutions.

“Our partnership with 11th Hour Racing sends a very strong signal with two leading players within sustainability combining forces to promote sustainable solutions within wind and water,” said Vestas President and CEO Anders Runevad.

Wendy Schmidt, 11th Hour Racing Co-Founder and President of The Schmidt Family Foundation, added: “Mark and Charlie have been serving as ambassadors for 11th Hour Racing for the past two years, having witnessed first hand during the last Volvo Ocean Race the many ways pollution and plastic debris are destroying ocean life and threatening all of us. Our partnership with Vestas is about inspiring positive change in the way we think about energy and the natural resources of the planet.”

The Vestas-11th Hour Racing sustainability message will start its circumnavigation of the globe with Enright and Towill when the race departs Alicante, Spain in late October. They then will travel 45,000 nautical miles with stops at Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff and Gothenburg before the finish in The Hague.

Volvo Ocean Race Map

Map of 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race (Courtesy Volvo Ocean Race)

 

 


 

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LA 2024: Smartest, Greenest Olympics Bid Ever

Paris and Los Angeles are the two cities still in the running to host the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games—the International Olympic Committee will make that decision on September 13 of this year in Lima, Peru. GreenSportsBlog reported on Paris’ sustainability efforts last month; now it’s LA’s turn to shine in the Green-Sports spotlight. We were pleased to speak with Brence Culp, Sustainability Director of the LA 2024 Bid Committee, about the many substantive sustainability initiatives her team is planning.

 

The greenest sports venue and/or Olympic and Paralympic Village is the one you don’t have to build.

That has been and is the mantra of LA 2024, the committee handling the bid for Los Angeles to host the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, and especially its sustainability team. The bid process is now in the home stretch—the International Olympic Committee (IOC) votes in September in Lima, Peru—and only Paris stands in the way of Los Angeles becoming the host for the third time (1932 and 1984).

GreenSportsBlog documented Paris’ strong and comprehensive sustainability plan in February; now it’s Los Angeles’ turn to have its say.

Wait.

Before we get to LA 2024’s sustainability story, let’s reflect on this: How GREAT is it that the two remaining bids to host the 2024 Summer Olympics are in a figurative, innovative battle to see which is the most sustainable? Would this have been the case five years ago? I think not. To channel my inner Joe Biden, this is a “big…deal!”

OK, now back to LA 2024 and its sustainability story.

 

THE MOST SUSTAINABLE OLYMPICS VENUES ARE THE ONES YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUILD

When the LA 2024 bid committee first began planning the Olympic and Paralympic Village and Media Center, it, like pretty much every other Olympic bid in recent memory, was looking at massive redevelopment alternatives. Thus, it made sense to recruit Brence Culp as its sustainability director. You see, Ms. Culp had been in charge of many big redevelopment and urban renewal projects as the second in command to the CEO of Los Angeles County (appointed, not a political position) for five years. Prior to that, she worked at a redevelopment agency in LA.

Brence Culp LA 2024

Brence Culp, Sustainability Director, LA 2024. (Photo credit: LA 2024)

 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the major redevelopment projects for LA 2024. The bid committee team visited the UCLA and USC campuses. “Before we got to the campuses, we thought ‘oh, the dorms and the food will not be up to par,” recalled Ms. Culp. “But, both UCLA and USC were absolutely stunning, from the dorms to the recreation facilities to the landscaping. The food was fantastic. So, it turned out the most sustainable Village and Media Center were the ones we already had!” In the LA 2024 bid plan, UCLA will be home to the Olympic and Paralympic Village and USC, near the downtown venue cluster, will host the Media Center.

Now don’t get the idea that, because she is not supervising a big urban redevelopment project, Brence Culp is at all disappointed. Far from it.

“Sustainability is core to our bid and our DNA,” declared Ms. Culp, “Gene Sykes, LA 2024’s CEO has a long background in conservation and environmental stewardship. So our core principals of sustainable environmental and financial stewardship, as well as social inclusion are baked in to everything we do. When we, (LA) Mayor Garcetti and our sustainability consultants, AECOM, looked at, oh, two dozen urban redevelopment sites for the Village, we kept on coming back to UCLA and USC^. Great for the athletes and media. Sustainable from an environmental and financial sense. Innovative in that we don’t have to build something new and shiny.”

And LA 2024 doesn’t have to build new and shiny sports venues. The area boasts a veritable Hall of Fame lineup of stadia and arenas from which to choose, including:

  • Honda Center (Anaheim Ducks)
  • LA Coliseum (USC football and host of Olympic Track and Field as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in 1932 and 1984 as well as Super Bowls I and VII)

Coliseum 2024

Artist’s rendering of the renovated LA Coliseum. (LA 2024)

 

Since the venues are largely in place, the sustainability team’s initiatives focus on making them greener. Exhibit A is the StubHub Center.

Per Ms. Culp, “Under the leadership of the venue’s owner, AEG, StubHub Center is going ‘all in’ on sustainability as it will be the location of LA 2024’s Green Sports Park, highlighting the best in sport and green innovation. AEG is implementing robust water efficiency strategies, including use of municipal greywater for irrigation. They also built and manage an onsite garden that includes a large chicken coop and a greenhouse. StubHub Center’s chef uses the garden’s fruits and vegetables in meals prepared for staff, athletes and other guests. AEG also came up with an innovative way to harvest honey from relocated beehives found onsite –located safely away from spectators! Leading up to the Games, we will actively explore ways to enhance AEG’s current practices, including onsite solar.”

 

MASS TRANSIT RAMPING UP IN LA IN TIME FOR 2024

Moving from chickens and bees to pachyderms, the big elephant in the room, sustainability-wise, is transportation. LA is a sprawling area—Paris’ geographic footprint is significantly smaller—and its mass transit offerings have been, relatively speaking, limited. But that is changing fast, to the benefit of the LA 2024 bid.

“The LA area is in the middle of an historic mass transit investment and much of it will be operational by the 2024 Opening Ceremonies,” offered the LA 2024 sustainability director, “And leading up to the Games LA 2024 will work with Metro to further incentivize comfortability with public transportation among Angelenos.”

 

FINANCIALLY LEAN, INNOVATIVELY GREEN

An important facet of LA 2024’s sustainability equation is financial. It stands to reason if an Olympic host committee can use existing athletic venues and existing structures for an Olympic and Paralympic Village and Media Center, it will save money. But how much? Well, LA 2024’s budget is projected to be $5.3 billion as compared to Paris’ projection of $9.3 billion. Both sound like lots of dough but consider that Rio 2016 spent $12 billion and Tokyo 2020 is looking at $30 billion. Russia spent $50 billion to put on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games ($50 billion??? On a Winter Olympics, which is a much smaller enterprise than its summer cousin?? That’s insane.) London 2012, considered the sustainability gold standard among Olympics, spent about $12 billion. So both LA 2024 and Paris 2024 are demonstrating that sustainability is not good Olympics business, it is great Olympics business.

Despite its lean budget and its reliance on existing structures, LA 2024 is not skimping on sustainable innovation. “One of our priorities is bringing together folks who are advancing sustainable practices through sport. Thus, we have allocated $25 million in seed funding for high impact, sustainability-focused projects with our partners,” Ms. Culp said, “The goal is to leave a positive long-term legacy for the community.”

 

WILL FANS KNOW THE LA 2024 SUSTAINABILITY STORY?

This wouldn’t be a GreenSportsBlog column on the sustainability impacts of a mega-sports event if we didn’t delve into how LA 2024 plans to communicate its sustainability initiatives to the fans at the Games and to the potentially billions who will be watching on TV, online and who knows how else in seven years time. Rio set the marker, with its Opening Ceremonies vignette on climate change that was seen by an estimated 1 billion people worldwide.

While there are no firm fan-focused sustainability communications plans in place (that would start to take shape if LA wins the bid), Ms. Culp is confident that “the more sustainable we make our Games, the more that broadcasters and other media will pick that up. And we will have plenty of eye-catching, sustainability stories, accented with a distinctly diverse and innovative LA flavor from which the media will be able to choose: From the aforementioned region-changing mass transit expansion to the use of locally sourced food to the use of recycled construction materials, and much more.”

 

LA 2024’S SUSTAINABILITY LEGACY GOES BEYOND VENUES AND MASS TRANSIT

A recurring theme to our conservation was this: Go big on environmental sustainability and innovation, add a diverse and vibrant culture and you have Los Angeles—and LA 2024. “I tell you, wherever I go throughout the area, people across the demographic spectra—gender, age, income, race—are very excited about the bid, with public support running at 88 percent” said Ms. Culp. This is in stark contrast to other cities in this cycle which had to withdraw their bids due to lack of public support; Boston, Budapest, Hamburg and Rome among them.  Sustainability is a foundational building block of that strong level of public support, opines Ms. Culp: “It is almost impossible these days to get people in a mega city to row together in the same direction. We know that our emphasis on sustainability in our bid has helped to make this happen.”

 

This 3 min 24 sec LA 2024 Venue Plan video demonstrates the bid committee’s commitment to use existing facilities.

 

 

^ UC Riverside is another university that is lending its facilities to the LA 2024 cause; it is designated to host the rowing competition.

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Paris 2024 Promises Greenest Games Ever

Paris 2024, the committee managing the city’s Olympic bid, is promising to host the Greenest Games Ever. The centerpiece of the plan is to slash carbon emissions dramatically vs. the benchmarks of London 2012 and Rio 2016. But before this happens, Paris must win the 2024 Olympics sweepstakes against Budapest and Los Angeles.

 

The Paris 2024 Olympics bid committee promises to host the “Greenest Games Ever” by slashing carbon emissions by more than half compared to London 2012 and Rio 2016. To have the opportunity to make good on that guarantee, The City of Lights first has to win its competition with Budapest and Los Angeles to host the 2024 Summer Games—that decision will be made in September at the IOC meeting in Lima, Peru—and both of those cities have put forth very strong sustainability plans of their own. 

With the bid process coming into its home stretch—the Paris team submitted the third and final version of its “Bid Book” to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on February 2nd—leaders of each of the three remaining bid committees are aggressively making their cases. Paris bid co-president and three-time Olympic canoeing gold medalist Tony Estanguet said in an interview with South China Morning Post on January 30th, that, for his committee, sustainability is at the top of its priority list. 

“For us it is quite simple. Our vision is the most sustainable Games ever,” Estanguet said, adding that the bid was in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.

estanguet

Tony Estanguet, head of Paris 2024 Bid Committee (Photo credit: Paris 2024)

There seems to be substance behind Estanguet’s “Greenest Ever” claim, at least if the comparison is between Paris 2024 and its predecessors, London 2012 and Rio 2016, and not its rivals for the 2024 Games or, for that matter, Tokyo 2020. Should Paris 2024 become a reality, the bid committee says it would produce an estimated 1.56 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, down 55 per cent from the roughly 3.4 million tonnes created by the Rio and the London Games. Here are some of the key ways Paris plans to meet those aggressive targets:

  • Rely on existing venues and temporary structures. The only major new venue scheduled to be constructed is an aquatics center. 

stade-de-france

Stade de France, site of the Opening Ceremonies of Paris 2024 should that city win the right to host the Olympics. It is one of many already-existing structures, the use of which will keep carbon emissions low. (Photo credit: Stade de France)

 

  • Build the aquatics center as well as the temporary facilities with low carbon materials.
  • Following in the footsteps of EURO 2016 (hosted by France), greatly restrict private car parking at the Olympic venues. This will lead 100 percent of fans to use public or shared transit. You read that right: 100 percent of spectators will take public or shared transit. Metro, commuter rail, bus transit, bicycles and car sharing will predominate.
  • House 85 per cent of athletes  within 30 minutes of their competition venues, limiting their travel-related footprint.
  • Use existing infrastructure. According to Estanguet, “We have all the infrastructure – roads, hotels, airports – already in place. That allows us to claim we will be the most sustainable Games ever.”

To the Paris 2024 committee, embedding the notion of a sustainable Olympics in the minds of Parisians and people across France will be critical. Thus, the greenness of the bid will be promoted widely, and in a variety of ways, should The City of Lights be selected.  “During the seven years [between bid selection and the Opening Ceremonies], we want to educate people on sustainability,” said Estanguet.

While it is clear Estanguet’s “Greenest Games Ever” claim will be valid vs. London or Rio, we don’t know if Paris will have a lower carbon footprint than Budapest or Los Angeles.

LA24, in its third bid book, proclaims that it will be the first Energy Positive Olympics ever “by generating more energy through renewable sources and energy efficiency efforts than the energy needed to power the Games.” Take that one in. Who knew? And, as with Paris, the vast majority of venues and athletes’ villages already in place, and minimal construction required. Heck, the Zero-Waste LA Coliseum would be used for its third Olympics (1932 and 1984 were the first two).

As of this writing, Budapest’s third bid book has not been made available. In its first two iterations, the Hungarian capital city had proposed a scaled down, medium-sized city Olympics model, relying on boat transportation along the Danube and bike share to keep emissions down. 

According to Olympics bid experts, Paris is the favorite at this point.

  • Budapest is a first-time bid city with a growing Olympics opposition movement pressing for a late-in-the-bid-game referendum to exit the process. Needing 138,000 signatures within a month to force the referendum, organizers garnered 100,000 in the first two weeks. This cannot be helpful for Budapest’s chances.
  • Trying to bring an Olympics back to the Americas only eight years after Rio does not help LA.

Some also fear that the IOC, with a strong anti-American streak, will shy away from awarding the Olympic Torch to an “America First” President Trump. Of course, by the time of the vote, France, which has its presidential election on April 23rd, may well be led by Marine Le Pen of the far right Front National, “France First” party; well known for trafficking in Holocaust denial and xenophobia. Ms. Le Pen has disavowed herself of those positions. And, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán often called a “Putinist,” the strong-man (woman) leader issue may be a wash.

Regardless of what city is chosen, this much is clear: A smaller environmental footprint logically will lead to reduced costs.

These are the keystones of Agenda 2020, a process instituted by the IOC three years ago for bids starting with the 2024 cycle. The IOC is convinced, and I concur, that the Olympics simply have to get simpler, greener, and leaner so they remain an attractive proposition for future hosts. This is especially the case after a slew of candidate cities for the 2022 Winter Games (Krakow, Oslo and Stockholm) and 2024 Summer Games (Boston, Hamburg and Rome) withdrew due to the sheer size and costs of organizing and putting on such an ambitious, sprawling event. 

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