News and Notes

The Summer of Green-Sports

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Climate change news stories, with their tragic (German floods), scary (heat waves in the Pacific Northwest) and, yes  hopeful (the EU set targets to reduce emissions by 55 percent by 2030) aspects, are invading our in-boxes this summer at what seems like an hourly clip. 

The pace of Green-Sports news has also quickened, as today’s Summer of Green-Sports News & Notes column demonstrates.

 

SIGNIFICANT AIR TIME FOR GREEN-SPORTS THANKS TO SKY SPORTS NEWS’ SUMMER OF SUSTAINABILITY

Last week, the UK’s Sky Sports News kicked off its Summer of Sustainability with a day of live news coverage that highlights examples of positive climate action from British athletes, clubs and other sporting organizations.

David Garrido, a Sky Sports News presenter (or sportscaster for US readers) who is passionate about climate solutions, especially through sports, is leading the network’s coverage, traveling the country in an EV throughout the country. He and other SSN reporters are covering a myriad of stories at the intersection of Green & Sports from Southampton to Scotland and beyond that encourage viewers to take positive climate actions. These include:

  • Tottenham Hotspur, the winner of the 2020-21 Premier League sustainability table
  • McLaren, the elite auto racing team that will be entering a team into Extreme E, off-road EV circuit
  • The Oval, South London’s iconic cricket ground that continues to be at the forefront of sustainable sports venue innovation
  • Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford’s commitment to encouraging fans to change their behaviors around climate

 

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David Garrido (r) at a recent Cricket World Cup (Photo credit: Sky Sports News)

 

Climate change editorial features aired during this weekend’s Open Championship at Royal St. George’s and the F-1 British Grand Prix, which delivered a carbon neutral broadcast. Later in the summer, Sky Sports Cricket will feature a short-form documentary, Cricket’s Climate Crisis.

 

GSB’s Take: We have been beating the drum for sports media companies to cover climate as it relates to the athletes and the games they play. Why?

Because only a tiny fraction of sports fans actually attend a sports event; exponentially more follow sports on TV, mobile devices, than who go to games.

US sports media companies have largely been on the sidelines so far but their UK counterparts have been stepping up. BBC World Service radio recently interviewed yours truly about EcoAthletes. And Sky Sports News, thanks in large part to David Garrido’s passion, is really leading the way. It’s past time for the sports networks on this side of the pond to follow suit.

 

PUTTING GREEN: A GREEN MINI-GOLF COURSE GROWS IN BROOKLYN

Over the past 20 or so years, Williamsburg, Brooklyn has become the hipster capital of New York City.

And thanks to Putting Green, a new 18-hole mini golf course open to the public on the East River waterfront, the neighborhood is most certainly getting greener. That is because the pop-up course was built to showcase the problems and solutions for some of the most pressing climate change issues we face.

Each of the 18 holes was designed by a member of the community, with artists,  designers, school groups, environmental advocacy organizations and public agencies pitching in. All profits are being donated to local organizations addressing climate change in New York City.

 

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One of the holes at The Putting Green on the Williamsburg, Brooklyn waterfront (Photo credit: Putting Green)

 

Like Augusta National, each hole is named. Unlike the home of the Masters, Putting Green’s 18 hole names showcase a broad range of climate change themes, from green and blue infrastructure to animal habitat to energy to emissions. Each hole was created by a different design team and has signage that impart relevant climate messaging to mini-golfers at the tee.

As an example, the 7th hole’s moniker is Two Paths. Designed by the YMCA of Greater New York/Greenpoint (another hip Brooklyn neighborhood), its forward-looking description begins with “A new generation of environmental activists is advocating for a regenerative future that prioritizes nature, ends our reliance on fossil fuels, protects biodiversity, and creates equal opportunities.” Amen!

Another example is the 15th, The Big Oyster, developed by the local Billion Oyster Project nonprofit along with designers Chris Edmonds and Nat Quinn. There, you will learn that “Oysters pump water through their gills, filtering toxic particles. Once ubiquitous in New York Harbor, they have nearly disappeared due to overfishing, pollution, and habitat loss. Restoring oysters is critical to healthier waterways.”

Not only does Putting Green’s hole design highlight climate issues, the course itself was constructed with the environment and climate in mind at every turn:

  • The entry globe was made from recycled plastic bottle caps and scraps of left-over turf.
  • Decking wood and planters have been re-purposed from the original planks of the old Domino Sugar factory.
  • All curbing around the holes is made of 100 percent recycled tires.
  • The course’s turf was created with sustainably sourced and bio-based materials from SYNlawn.
  • All plants in and around the course are native species.
  • Hole #2 features crochet décor made from recycled materials and salvaged marine debris.
  • The water tower on Hole #5 is a repurposed steel drum from a previous construction site.
  • In order to preserve an existing tree at Two Paths (#7), it was incorporated into the design and the decking was built around it.
  • Hole #14 uses fallen — not cut — tree branches.
  • The Big Oyster (#15) includes oyster shells and debris found locally at the waterfront.

 

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Putting Green's Entry Globe (Photo credit: Putting Green)

 

GSB’s Take: I know what I’m doing this weekend — getting a tee time at the Putting Green! LOVE it!

 

ARE THE TOKYO OLYMPICS REALLY THE GREENEST EVER? DOUBTS PERSIST

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics that open on Friday claim these Games to be the most eco-friendly ever.

They may have a point.

After all, the Olympic medals use precious metal extracted from used electronics. Athletes are sleeping on cardboard beds. The podiums are made from recycled plastic. The Olympic torch has aluminum that was recycled from the temporary housing used after Japan’s Fukushima disaster. Add to that the fact that there will be no carbon emissions from spectator travel…because, of course, there will be no spectators due to the COVID outbreak that is bedeviling Japan and that “most eco-friendly” claim may be true.

Some environmental groups have applauded some of the efforts taken to lighten the impact such a huge international event has on the planet.

 

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A recyclable cardboard bed and mattress for athletes (Photo credit: Akio Kon/Pool via AP)

 

But, a recent report by National Public Radio (NPR) offers a more nuanced view, with some analysts saying that these green programs are at best symbolic PR gestures and at worst, represent cynical greenwashing.

 

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Gold tablets weighing three grams (l), which can be recycled from 100 cellphones. Per the Tokyo Olympic organizers, all of the gold, silver and bronze medals given out will be made of more than six million used cellphones and other electronic devices donated by Japanese citizens (Photo credit: Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

 

Masako Konishi, the climate and energy project leader at World Wildlife Fund Japan who is also a member of the Tokyo Olympics sustainability committee, acknowledged to NPR that some parts of the Games’ sustainability plan are better than others.

On the plus side, Konishi argued that, “The Tokyo Olympics has the best ever Olympic sustainability code for climate change,” telling NPR that the extra electricity that will be used for the Tokyo Olympics will be 100 percent renewable. And while the Games will, of course, still produce harmful gas emissions that cause climate change, she asserted that the organizers have already obtained more than enough carbon credits from companies that are saving energy or storing carbon. Konishi said that “150 percent of the credits [have] been collected,” making these Games the “first ever carbon-negative Olympics.”

But Konishi isn’t as upbeat about how the seafood for the athletes is being sourced. She told NPR that Japanese suppliers successfully lobbied Olympic organizers to water down their sourcing standards. As a result, she said, suppliers only need to submit a plan for sustainability, without actually having to achieve it.

Another well-documented environmental issue for Tokyo 2020 has been its sourcing of timber.

As reported by GreenSportsBlog in May 2017 and by others, the Rainforest Action Network said it traced tropical plywood from the construction of Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium to forests in Indonesia, where deforestation is a massive climate and public health issue. Such clear-cutting destroys some of the oldest forests on Earth, which also are home to endangered orangutans.

“We found that the majority of the Indonesian plywood that the Olympic organizers sourced was coming from rainforests that are being converted into palm oil plantations,” said RAN campaigner Hana Heineken.

RAN issued a formal complaint to Olympic organizers, but were rejected.

 

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Hana Heineken (Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network)

 

The irony that the Indonesian plywood-laden Olympic Stadium will be completely  devoid of spectators due to COVID-19 was not lost on Heineken: “What was all this for?,” she lamented to NPR. “Was it worth it to destroy the rainforests in Indonesia? Our view is: this was a real waste.”

 

GSB’s Take: Of course COVID-19 will be the story of these Olympics. But, with extreme weather also in the news all over the world, GSB is heartened to see some mainstream media coverage of the greenness (or lack thereof) of Tokyo 2020¹.

It sez here that the plywood-from-Indonesia story needs to be reported as loudly as the medals-from-recycled-phones and cardboard bed stories. I can easily see NBC Sports lead Olympic anchor Mike Tirico reporting on the latter. Will the plywood/deforestation of Indonesia story get oxygen on NBC? I highly doubt it. Watch this space. 

 

PARTING SHOT: FORMULA E VIEWERSHIP SURGES

We go back to Brooklyn for today’s last note, this time to also-hip Red Hook². That’s where Formula E held two races July 10-11. Germany’s Maximillian Gunther won the first and Sam Bird of Great Britain took the second for the increasingly popular all-EV racing circuit.

 

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Sam Bird in the light blue Jaguar I-TYPE 5 prepares to lead the field away at the start of the 2nd of two 2021 NYC E-Prix races at Red Hook, Brooklyn. He ended up winning the race (Photo credit: Formula E)

 

Per SportsPro Media, Formula E, now in its seventh season, has seen its live race viewership grow by 125 percent in key markets like Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. A cumulative audience of 150 million viewers have tuned in for the first seven races of Formula E’s 15-race season, nearly surpassing the total live audience for all of last season.

The surge in viewership is in part fueled by new broadcasting partnerships signed before the season:

  • An exclusive, three-year U.S. broadcast deal with CBS Sports to air every race
  • Deals with L’Equipe, Seven.One, Sky, and the BBC to broadcast races in France, Germany, Italy, and the U.K., respectively
  • A deal with DAZN to broadcast the series in several Asian countries
¹ These Games should be called Tokyo 202instead of 2020. It hasn’t been 2020 for 200+ days.
² There sure are lots of hip neighborhoods in Brooklyn, or so it seems.
Photo at top: The Polar Bear hole (#3) at the Putting Green mini-golf course in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Photo credit: Putting Green)

 

 


 

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