In 2020’s first GSB News & Notes column:
Sports Illustrated’s long-time tennis columnist Jon Wertheim dives directly into the links between climate change, the Australian bushfires and the implications for the upcoming Australian Open.
Formula E, the open-wheel electric vehicle racing circuit in the early stages of its sixth season, is placing a greater emphasis on the environmental benefits of EVs.
Forest Green Rovers, the English fourth division soccer club that is the “Greenest Team in Sports,” won approval from its local district council to build a new, all wood stadium. This represents a reversal of a decision made in June.
SI’S TENNIS WRITER TALKS AUSTRALIA’S BUSH FIRES, CLIMATE CHANGE, AND THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN
Sports Illustrated executive editor and Tennis Channel correspondent Jon Wertheim is, arguably, the most influential tennis journalist in the United States. His SI.com mailbag is must-read for tennis junkies.
Wednesday’s mailbag led with this question from a reader from Cherry Hill, New Jersey: What are we going to do when the Australian Open gets cancelled because of climate change?
Wertheim’s detailed response leads with climate change:
Let’s start on this uncomfortable note.
If you still need convincing that climate change is real and the effects are (and will be) catastrophic, these climate activists aren’t tinfoil hat crackpots, science and facts have value….well, a chunk of Australia is burning to a crisp right now.
The rest of his answer, which you can read by clicking here, delves into whether the first major championship of 2020, which is scheduled to start in Melbourne on January 20, should be cancelled or postponed due to the devastating bushfires engulfing chunks of Australia.
GSB’s Take: Wertheim has a much higher profile than most sportswriters and perhaps all tennis writers. In addition to his SI and Tennis Channel roles, he also is a correspondent on CBS’ iconic and highly rated 60 Minutes, reporting on all manner of stories, not only sports.
Thus Wertheim’s decision to make a climate change question the lead of his mailbag and to offer a blunt acknowledgement of the climate crisis’ “catastrophic” current and future impacts is a big deal.
The bushfires will no doubt be a major story during the Australian Open, assuming the tournament is not cancelled or postponed. GSB expects climate change to be discussed on Tennis Channel since Wertheim will play a key role in its coverage.
Will ESPN, which will air the matches in the U.S., delve into climate change? That likely depends on whether the network sees climate change as a political issue or simply a scientific reality. ESPN has, over the past year and change, decided to stay out of politics.
Watch this space — because we will be watching ESPN to see if they talk about climate change during the Australian Open.
BRINGING FORMULA E’S ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGE TO FANS
The E in Formula E of course stands for E-lectric, as in electric vehicles.
But that E has always had a secondary association, as in En-vironment.
Now, as 2020 dawns, with the severity and immediacy of the climate crisis impossible to put on the back burner, Formula E’s focus on the environmental benefits of electric transportation is growing.
“Our enhanced sustainability platform has three pillars,” shared Julia Pallé, Senior Sustainability Consultant at Formula E. “Pillar 1: Make our race events more sustainable. Pillar 2: Have a positive environmental impact on the cities in which we race. And Pillar 3: Emphasize the positive impacts of EVs on climate change and on urban air quality.”
Formula E is bringing those pillars to race fans in its 12-city circuit.
“We are making a big push on air pollution at our fan zones,” Pallé said. “There will be oxygen bars and other environmental content for fans to experience. Also, we are back with the second season of our Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY support series — all cars in those races are modified race-ready versions of the road vehicle, the fully-electric Jaguar I-PACE. This is very important because our fans see that they can buy and drive these cars that can impact air quality and climate.”
The organization is also using social as well as broadcast media to share the various aspects of their environmental program to its growing number of fans around the world.
Before each race, each announcer receives a sustainability briefing specific to that city, with factoids on EV adoption, the effects of EVs on urban air pollution and more. Formula E’s hope is that the announcers pepper their commentary with the environmental factoids to raise the issues important to that race location. The organization is not tracking the frequency of those announcements but Pallé expects that will change in the not-too-distant future.
Formula E’s enhanced focus on the environment should be well received by its audience. According to its research, that audience is, on average, 40-something, more male than female, with kids.
“That our fans have kids means they are likely to care more for the environment,” said Pallé. “One other thing our research shows is this: Fans first come to us — whether as attendees at our races, on the web, on social media, on broadcast — because they’re interested in motor sports. After they experience Formula E, their interest in sustainability increases.”
NEW FOREST GREEN ROVERS STADIUM PLANS PASS IMPORTANT HURDLE
Forest Green Rovers of English Football’s (soccer’s) fourth tier, has long been regarded by GSB as the Greenest Team in Sports. With all-vegan concession stands, an organic pitch that is mowed by a solar powered MoBot, on site solar and much more, that designation is not in doubt.
Now, if the December vote of the local district council stands after an expected February appeal, the club will have the green light to build an all-wood stadium in Eastington in the heart of the Cotswolds. In that case, the New Lawn Stadium, FGR’s current home about eight miles to the east in Nailsworth, will be demolished and replaced with about 80 zero-carbon affordable homes.
The planning application states the new venue will be “low carbon and low impact, with measures introduced to minimize energy use, water, waste and pollution”. The stadium, which will include parking and two training pitches — one of which will be open for public use — is part of the £100 million Eco Park development
Team chairman Dale Vince said the new stadium will be “a very graceful, elegant structure…In the parkland we’re going to plant 500 trees and 1,500 km of hedge, so it’s going to be a green location.”
According to the BBC, that same district council had rejected the plans for the new stadium amid concerns over noise, traffic, and impact on landscape; views also shared by Eastington Parish Council.
Zaha Hadid Architects and Team Vince came back to the council with a revised proposal that included a revised landscaping strategy, increased game day mass transit and noise control.
Those changes won the day as the committee voted 6-4 in favor of the new development.