Guest Blog

Competing to Improve the Environment at The Clean Games Intercontinental


Today’s guest blog comes from GreenSportsBlog’s communications assistant Cheryl White. She joined the team after an internship with Active Giving, a Berlin-based startup — featured in a May, 2020 GSB post — that turns workouts into funding for environmental causes, including tree planting.

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Today's guest blogger Cheryl White (Photo credit: Cheryl White)


Cheryl will be graduating from Western Michigan University in December 2020 and hopes to pursue graduate work in sustainable development.

Her work in environmental advocacy and passion for sports and running motivated her to join the Green Sports Blog team. Combine that with Cheryl’s interest in international relations, and you can easily understand why she chose to write about  The Clean Games International.




The Clean Games Intercontinental 2020 used the passion of international sporting rivalry to spur environmental good works. Almost 150 teams and 594 participants from Russia and the United States battled each other to collect 13.83 tons of trash on one day, October 10th.

Founded by IT specialist, entrepreneur, and social activist Dmitry Ioffe in Russia’s St. Petersburg region in 2014, the Clean Games is a trash-collecting tournament aimed at cleaning up cities, parks and beaches from garbage and further segregating the waste collected. Teams earn points when participants find artifacts, solve environmental puzzles, as well as collect and separate waste. All statistics are shown in real-time on the website during a tournament.


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Dmitry Ioffe, founder of The Clean Games (Photo credit: The Clean Games Organizers)


Thanks to Ioffe’s software, The Clean Games mobile app, teams are able to compete from anywhere across the globe and see live score results.

Ioffe and his team aim to teach contestants about sorting the materials they collect during the Games. Contestants separate the trash collected, gaining an increased awareness of the need to recycle and incorporate it, and other positive environmental behaviors into their lifestyles. More than half of the trash collected is sorted and sent for recycling.

The trash-collecting tournament has spread to 20 countries and over 850 “games” have been “played”, with one to three tons of trash being collected on average per game. Most of the tournaments have been held in Russia, but they are gaining popularity around the world, with The Clean Games having been hosted in 17 countries thus far.

In the most recent international tournament between Russia and the USA, citizens from these geopolitical rivals were able to connect over a common goal — improving the health of our shared environment.

The Comrades team from Appleton, Wisconsin took first place honors. Coming in second was the Ashley-Jonathan duo from New York City, while team ECO Patrol from Lodeynoye Pole in Leningrad Oblast, Russia earned the third place spot.

In an interview, Ioffe explained that scores are not based only on the amount of trash collected, but also on how well participants sort their collected items. The Clean Games also does its best to tailor the trash sorting to local recycling guidelines in a given city. Even when some regions lack sophisticated waste-sorting systems, the Games’ organizers will still use the opportunity to educate participants on recyclable materials and trash sorting.

In an interview with Top50, Ioffe offered: “Ecology is a new religion,” and that one of the quickest ways to positively impact your environment is to “consume less”.

Now that ‘plogging’ (picking up trash while jogging) is gaining in popularity and more sports are going plastic free, perhaps it’s time to add the “Clean Games” to the list of internationally sanctioned sporting events.



While the Clean Games were being held, shocking photos of dead fish, octopi, mollusks, sea urchins and seals washed up on the beautiful beaches of Kamchatka on Russia’s Pacific Coast went viral on social media.

The mass marine die-off was first reported by surfers, who suffered stinging eyes, irritated skin and burning sensations after emerging from the water. Scientists investigating this disaster say that a staggering 95 percent of all marine life at a depth of 10 to 15 meters were killed due to high levels of phosphate ion, iron and phenol in the water.


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Large amounts of dead mollusks and other marine creatures were found onshore in the area of Khalaktyr beach in the Kamchatka region of Russia (Photo credit: Vasily Yablakov/Greenpeace)


The Kamchatka region is host to both the Radygino Military Range and Kozelsky Landfill, which some speculated to be the source of the pollution. The Russian government began formal investigations into this event on October 7th.

On October 12th, local and federal governments stated that the marine die-off was not due to chemical toxification as was assumed earlier. Oceanologist and microalgae researcher Irina Kravtsova from the National Science Center for Marine Biology clarified that this ocean die-off was cause by unusually active algal blooms, known in Russia as the “Red Tide”.

Algal blooms are common to this region but have rarely been seen in such concentrations before. Human actions such as releasing waste into bodies of water and using phosphate-containing laundry detergent contributes to the growth of microorganisms such as the Red Tide. The EU has restricted use of phosphates in laundry detergents, but many other countries around the world continue to use them in cleaning products.

The report has been confirmed by marine biologists and Greenpeace, which was actively investigating the issue as well.

“They (the algae) created this planet. They are able to kill people,” biologist Tatiana Orlova stated on this matter. “This event shows us how little we know about the ocean.”


Cheryl White’s Take: Environmental initiatives like the Clean Games Intercontinental are spreading around the world, but as demonstrated by Kamchatka, they’re not growing fast enough to get ahead of the cancer that is water pollution. We need to take preventative measures for the well-being of our planet, rather than running clean-up duty.

Consuming less, taking time to sort and recycle trash, gaining awareness of the potentially hazardous chemicals that we release into the water, and talking about how important a clean, healthy environment is to you, are simple but effective ways to begin reducing our environmental footprint.


Photo at top: Contestants in the recent Russia vs. USA Clean Games race to pick up trash and recyclables (Photo credit: The Clean Games organizers)



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