How great is it when an iconic cause-based event like the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games embraces another cause — in this case, environmental sustainability? We’re talking really great.
GreenSportsBlog spoke with the sustainability team for Special Olympics USA 2018 Seattle — Karlan Jessen, Director of Volunteers and Sustainability; David Muller, Sustainability Consultant; and Tim Reeve, Sustainability Advisor — to find out how it came together, what worked well and what could’ve been better.
And, since there had never been a sustainability effort at any of the three prior quadrennial USA Games, the odds were that Green would not be a part of the 2018 version.
Karlan Jessen, David Muller and Tim Reeve collectively and figuratively said “to heck with those odds,” and formed a Sustainability All-Star team of sorts. They created and implemented a greening program in what had to be record time.
Karlan Jessen (Photo credit: Karlan Jessen)
David Muller (l) and Tim Reeve at the University of Washington (Photo credit: David Muller)
Jessen’s experience owning two used sporting goods stores, managing bicycle tours and running events made her an ideal pick for the Director of Volunteers and Sustainability role. Muller has deep experience consulting on sustainable events, focusing on environmental impact mitigation and positive social impact. And the Vancouver-based Reeve heads Reeve Consulting Group, a sustainability advisory firm. He’d worked with the Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on sustainability and responsible sourcing issues.
“I THOUGHT THERE SHOULD BE A SUSTAINABILITY EFFORT SO I RAISED MY HAND”
As general planning for the Seattle Special Olympics got started in earnest, Jessen started to get questions about sustainability from some of the event’s existing corporate partners. “ESPN in particular asked about what could be done. Nothing was being planned at the time” Jessen recalled. “I thought there should be a sustainability effort, and even though we only had a year or so to make it happen, I raised my hand. I knew David from our sustainability studies at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (which later merged with Presidio Graduate School), so it was natural to team up with him.” It wasn’t long before Reeve joined to make the group a triumvirate.
The team quickly established a plan that was made up of six sustainability pillars. Four were environmentally focused, while the other two fall in the social portion of the broad Environmental-Social-Governance (ESG) definition of sustainability:
Microsoft, based in nearby Redmond and the title sponsor of the 2018 USA Games, quickly bought into the social pillars. “Education and legacy were very important to Microsoft,” Jessen noted. “Inclusion, especially fair hiring practices, also was a big deal to them. And when you think about it, the Special Olympics demonstrates inclusion by its very existence!”
“Education and legacy was a home run,” chimed in Reeve. ”
BIGGEST ENVIRONMENTAL SUCCESSES: WASTE AND TRANSPORTATION
The environmental sustainability portion was more challenging. The success stories came from waste and transportation.
“Our waste-to-recycling program and food donations programs worked really well, thanks in large part to the University of Washington food service team,” reported Reeve. “Recycling is one of the most highly visible examples of a greening program at a sports event so we had to get that right. And we did.”
Green Team Volunteers sorting recycling, compost, and food donations (Photo credit: Tim Reeve)
Coca-Cola pitched in by bringing their reverse vending machines to the event. Fans and athletes would put empty plastics into the machine and a 5¢ donation would be made to Special Olympics for each donation. Per Muller, “Final numbers were not made public but it’s safe to say that thousands of bottles were recaptured.”
“Transportation was also a big win — that’s where we saw the biggest greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” added Muller. “The University of Washington was a great set up — it’s compact, very walkable and is located on a transit route. There is a robust bike share infrastructure at UW. Energy efficient shuttles ferried athletes and their families to and from events. And Lyft provided discounted as well as free ride sharing.”
Athletes and coaches taking light rail to T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field) for the Special Olympics’ Night at the Ballpark (Photo credit: Cori Dixon)
The nearly 4,000 athletes and their families noticed Seattle’s greening efforts around the Special Olympics.
“We had numerous conversations with athletes and their families during the Special Olympics and they were really impressed by the city’s commitment to making this a green event,” recalled Reeve. “A sustainability passport was provided for the athletes for things like transportation so they were involved with the greening effort almost as soon as they arrived in the city.”
In a survey conducted after the Special Olympics among athletes and their families by Brian McCullough of Seattle University showed that 60 percent said, “My attitude toward environmental sustainably has improved due to the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games initiatives.”
TIME WAS THE SUSTAINABILITY TEAM’S BIGGEST ENEMY
Here’s a note to the leadership group that is organizing the 2022 Special Olympics USA for Orlando: Jessen, Muller and Reeve agreed that a year was not nearly enough time to maximize the effectiveness of a sustainability plan.
“Lack of time really challenged us in terms of getting buy-in on the value proposition of a robust sustainability effort from the CEO and Executive Committee,” noted Reeve. “That kind of early support would have been crucial in terms of being woven into the budgeting and sourcing processes, as well as securing sustainability-focused sponsors. That would have helped us on food donation, signage and more.”
The team had a plan to offset emissions but there was no budget for it.
“About 90 percent of event emissions came from air travel,” Muller said. “We were looking at offset costs ranging from $25,000-$60,000 but there was no budget for it. Had we started earlier, we certainly could’ve found a partner to fund the offsets.”
What kind of time frame would be ideal to develop and manage an effective sustainability effort at a Special Olympics?
Consider that planners for the FIFA 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the USA will have eight years to get sustainability right, and the organizers at the LA 2028 Olympics will have had eleven years since being award the Games in 2017.
Now, no one is saying that the Special Olympics USA is of a similar scale as those two mega events.
Given that’s the case, what is the ideal length of time to put a sustainability plan in place that the team would be proud of?
The verdict was unanimous:
“Three years!,” said Judges Jessen, Muller and Reeve.
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Ann Duffy has been working at the intersection of mega-sports events and sustainability for more than a decade. She was hired as Chief Sustainability Officer for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. Since then, Ann has been involved in some way, shape or form with the sustainability efforts for several of the Olympic/Paralympic bids, as well as with the successful United Bid of Canada, Mexico and the United States to host the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup. No one is better positioned to talk about sustainability and mega sports events than Ann Duffy so GreenSportsBlog is honored to offer this two part interview.
In yesterday’s Part I, Ann shared how mega-sports events are in her blood, how she came to lead the sustainability efforts at the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games and what she and team were able to accomplish there.
Today, in Part II, we examine Ann’s post-Vancouver 2010 work with a variety of Olympic and FIFA World Cup bid and organizing committees. We also discuss what future bid and organizing committees can do to engage fans on climate change and other environmental issues.
GSB: Kudos to you and the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee (VANOC) team for advancing mega-event sustainability. What did you do for a follow up act once the Olympic Flame was doused?
Ann: Thanks! Like I said before, this was the best job I ever had. It was also incredibly intense. Once the Games were over I decided I didn’t want to work in such a cauldron. So in 2010, as my work with VANOC wound down, I started quietly to build The Ann Duffy Group as a sustainability-focused consultancy to mega-event bid and host committees, with an emphasis on the broader, ESG definition of sustainability. The organizing committee for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics reached out in June, 2010 and asked “Can you help us more fully reflect environmental, social and governance goals of the IOC?
GSB: I’m sure you could and did help them. My question is did the Russian authorities allow the sustainability plans to actually be implemented. Aside from the insanity, in my view, of awarding a Winter Olympics to a Mediterreanean-like city on the Black Sea, it sure looked like the Russian government engaged in a serious greenwash. Was that the case?
Ann: Well, I worked with the Sochi committee for one year until the fall of 2011. My experience with my Russian colleagues was incredible; they were totally committed. We put together a sustainability management system including an environmental protection program, a process for sustainable procurement, and a new sustainability reporting structure.
Ann Duffy (2nd from right) and her colleagues at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Organizing Committee (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)
GSB: They didn’t have one in place?
Ann: No. Sadly, the program didn’t get fully implemented and the sustainability team was terminated 18 months before the Games. It’s just different in Russia, obviously. I mean, there was no warning in the run up as to how they would turn on the LGBTQ communities the way they did.
GSB: That was awful…and not surprising.
Ann: Thankfully, Canada showed how it’s done by having a Pride House at Canada House in Sochi. And the Deputy Mayor of Vancouver at the time went to Thomas Bach, head of the IOC, and pressed him to ensure that the IOC would expand the Olympic Charter to address LGBTQ issues and they did. On sustainability, I worked on the IOC’s Sustainability and Legacy Commission as part of the development of its Agenda 2020 (a strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic movement).
GSB: Good job, Ann; good job, Canada! And despite the problems with Sochi that were way beyond your control, congratulations on getting The Ann Duffy Group up and running quickly.
Ann: I was very blessed and very busy. From 2013 to 2015, I worked with the local organizing committees of three, count ’em three mega-events, all of which were happening in Canada in 2015.
Ann: The Canada Winter Games were held in Prince George, BC in February of that year. Then the FIFA Women’s World Cup were held across Canada^ in June-July. And then Toronto hosted the Pan Am Games in late July.
England (white) battles Mexico during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup (Photo credit: Zou Zheng/Xinhua)
GSB: That’s a mega-event trifecta right there! Did you get any sleep?
Ann: Not much. Especially when you factor in that, in 2013, I also was working on the sustainability aspects of Istanbul’s bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, which ultimately went to Tokyo.
GSB: Talk about what you did for the 2015 Canada mega-event trifecta…
Ann: We built on the sustainability efforts of Vancouver 2010 with all three mega-events. The Canada Winter Games are by far the smallest, featuring younger, pre-Olympic athletes. We raised the green bar for all Canada Games going forward by improving sustainability practices, beefing up sustainability-related community engagement and issuing a sustainability report. The FIFA Women’s World Cup was a much bigger yet different animal…
GSB: How so?
Ann: Well, first of all, FIFA put greater emphasis on the Men’s World Cup. But that just meant we had to push extra hard and we did. We worked to leave a sport legacy with integrated environmental management processes and sport development opportunities for women and girls in each of the six host cities and national soccer association. The Pan Am Games were more focused on economic and social sustainability than the environment…
GSB: Why do you think that was the case?
Ann: It comes down to the opportunities and preferences of leadership, plain and simple.
GSB: I guess. But if mega-sports events are really going to lead on sustainability, what can be done to ensure environment and climate are never relegated to the sidelines again?
Ann: I think the prevalence of visible best practices in Europe and other host cities and stadia that demonstrate responsibility for climate impacts, waste impacts, water and biodiversity will help. Environmental stewardship and respect for human rights are now bid requirements for FIFA and Olympic bids. North American professional sports leagues like the NHL, NFL, MLS and MLB are demonstrating leadership. Stadium owners that have built or renovated stadia to green building standards like LEED are also leading on green operations and supporting community initiatives.
GSB: Speaking of leadership, what kind of sustainability projects do you like to lead more: Bids or organizing committees?
Ann: Good question. I guess I love both, but for different reasons. Creativity and “visioning” are crucial for bid work. Organizing committee work is also satisfying — it involves not only organizing and implementing but also coaching, and that means everyone from volunteers up to the C-suite.
GSB: Talking about bid work, you consulted with one of the most sustainable mega-event bids to date, LA 2028.
Ann: Actually, when I started working with them on sustainability it was the LA 2024 bid. But the IOC awarded Paris, another incredibly sustainable bid, those Games and slid LA to 2028. It was great to work with Brence Culp and the LA sustainability team.
Ann Duffy (l) and Brence Culp, head of sustainability for LA 2028 (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)
Ann: LA 2028 is an example of what you can do sustainability-wise, when all the stakeholders get it: The city, county, state and local utilities were “all in”. So were the sponsors.
GSB: It doesn’t hurt when most of the venues for LA 2028 already exist…You recently worked on another bid in which no new venues are needed, the United Bid between Canada, Mexico and the US that won the right to host the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup over Morocco.
Ann: The environment, including climate change, along with community and fan engagement took central roles in both the United Bid and the LA 2028 bid. In addition to no new permanent venues, both have robust and sophisticated climate action plans that include new partnerships and collaboration with city and state utilities, public transit providers, stadia/venue owners. Host cities will showcase urban policies such as bold commitments to clean energy.
GSB: What was your role on the United Bid?
Ann: I was a sustainability-legacy advisor. It was a real sprint as the timeline was short but we were fortunate that FIFA had established a strong sustainability mandate.
GSB: They needed to do that, especially in light of the mega-laundry list of mega-problems with Qatar 2022: Human rights violations, indentured servitude, deaths of perhaps as many as 1,200 construction workers building eight stadiums in a country of only 2.5 million people, stadiums that will have air conditioning even though they’re outdoor venues because of the country’s extreme heat…What did the sustainability mandate, well, mandate for the 2026 bid?
Ann: It went deep, Lew. And the United Bid stepped up. GRI sustainability reporting, a climate action plan, ISO 2012-1 certification for sustainable events. Human rights, labor rights, ethical business conduct standards. Green Sports Alliance Board member Mary Harvey took the lead on human rights. I took the lead on the rest, working with the financial services firm Grant Thornton on ethical business and Arup, the global design and engineering firm, on some of the environmental aspects.
GSB: I’m so glad you and Mary were on the case and that the United Bid won the day. Now I’d like to widen the lens a bit. You’ve been involved in the greening of the Olympics and World Cups from the early days of Vancouver 2010 through LA 2028. My main concern, as it is with the whole of the Green-Sports movement, is that most fans — attendees and the much bigger number who watch on TV or online — have no idea this is going on. None.
Ann: Lew, I’m with you 100 percent! We need to do a much better job of using the platform of the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup to share the great greening stories with fans.
Ann: Funny you mention Rio 2016. I helped on the Rio 2016 with communications during the actual Games.
GSB: I would be surprised if you weren’t involved with Rio!
Ann: I was fortunate to be at the rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies. When the powerful climate change vignette came on, I started bawling. Mainstreaming climate change messaging was so…powerful. Incredible, really.
Ann Duffy and her colleagues on the 2016 Rio Olympics Organizing Committee at the rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)
GSB: So how do we make sure that climate change vignette is not a one off?
Ann: Well, the Olympics…and all sport event hosts, frankly, are desperately trying gain relevance and traction with younger audiences…
GSB: …Millennials, GenZ and the rest…
Ann: And those young people want to have an exciting sport event experience. Young people expect responsible action that includes all of it — climate solutions, environmental solutions, diversity and ethical solutions. Sometimes these features will take the lead in the event experience and most of the time they will support the event experience. Mega-event hosts need to recognize this. Well executed, eco-themed fan engagement programs will go over well. Sponsor brands are already stepping up, as well. I am confident this will happen at Paris 2024, the United 2026 FIFA World Cup and LA 2028.
SB: What about Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022, and Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022?
Ann: I’d love to say “yes” to the engagement question with those events but it’s a bit complicated. I haven’t worked with any of those mega-events so what I know about them is from a distance. As far as Tokyo 2020 is concerned, I know that, from a technical innovation perspective, the Summer Games will be at the leading edge of sustainability, from energy efficiency to tree planting and much more. On the other hand, from what I’ve heard, on social aspects of sustainability like LGBTQ issues, they’re not so advanced. And on fan engagement issues, I don’t know what they’re going to do. I do know that Pyeongchang 2018 did not follow the lead of Rio and communicate their greenness to fans.
GSB: True. And based on my conversation with the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee sustainability team, it seems, sadly, like they will be more like Pyeongchang than Rio in terms of fan engagement. I don’t have any intel on the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and sustainability as yet…
Ann: …One thing I can say about China is that, as a country, it is stepping up on climate action nationally far more aggressively than the USA is. I don’t yet know of any specific action by the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics…
GSB: …Maybe the Beijing Organizing Committee will surprise in a good way. Speaking of 2022, what are your thoughts, sustainability-wise, regarding the aforementioned Qatar FIFA World Cup?
Ann: The problems, human rights-wise and otherwise, have been horrible. And that Qatar was a weird choice in the first place given the size and climate of the country is an understatement. The one heartening thing is that, as we heard at the GSA Summit in June, there are some striking environmental innovations underway with the stadiums and the strong national commitment to renewable energy will be a part of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
GSB: I hear what you’re saying, Ann, but I guess, as the expression goes, I’m from Missouri on Qatar: Show Me! At least it looks like environmental sustainability will play a big role at the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, the United 2026 FIFA World Cup and the LA 2028 Summer Games…What do you think?
Ann: Mega-events like the Olympics and FIFA World Cups generally have seven year planning cycles. The key from an environmental sustainability perspective is to develop an integrated set of environmental actions that tackle climate, water, waste, pollution and biodiversity all together throughout the planning cycle. For both Paris 2024 and LA 2028 I am confident we will see “net positive solutions.”
GSB: What does “net positive solutions” mean?
Ann: That hosts will be adding more environmental assets and benefits to their communities and host region than they consume.
GSB: I love that. Two things: 1. Paris and LA really should engage fans on “Net positive solutions” and 2. I only wish Pyeongchang, Tokyo, Beijing and Qatar went the “Net positive solutions,” mega-event route.
Ann: Well, we know we need bolder leadership on sustainability engagement, in all walks of life, from business to government to mega-events. The progress on engagement at mega-events won’t be linear but, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the arc of mega-events is long but it bends towards sustainability and engagement.
GSB: Amen, Ann, AMEN!
Ann Duffy shares her thoughts on the intersection of sustainability, innovation and mega-sports events (3 mins 4 secs)
IN TUESDAY’S PART I: Ann shared the story of her beginnings as an Olympics-loving girl in Western Canada through her time leading the sustainability efforts at the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver.
^ Edmonton, Moncton (New Brunswick); Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg were the host cities for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
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The past 10 years has seen a boom in new stadium and arena construction in North America and beyond. Readers of GreenSportsBlog know that the sports facilities industry has done a strong job in making sustainability a priority, from construction (i.e. LEED certification) to operations (i.e. zero-waste games) and much more. But what about the effects of stadium and arena construction and operations, as well as the conduct of mega-events like the Olympics, on biodiversity — i.e. animal and plant life? That is a topic we have not touched on — until today.
Giulia Carbone is Deputy Director of the Global Business and Biodiversity Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN. In the GSB Interview, and on World Biodiversity Day, Giulia delves into what is being done to limit the sports industry’s impacts on biodiversity loss.
GreenSportsBlog: We need to give more oxygen to the effects of sports on biodiversity so, Giulia, I am so glad we are talking with you! How did you get into the intersection of sports and biodiversity?
Giulia Carbone: Well Lew, from the time I was a girl in Torino…
Giulia: Oh, Torino ABSOLUTELY! Anyway, during my youth, I always loved nature and the also felt that it was only fair that people, no matter their circumstances, needed to have access to it and co-exist with it. Then I went to the University of California at Santa Barbara…
GSB: UCSB — the Gauchos!
Giulia Carbone, Deputy Director of the Global Business and Biodiversity Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN (Photo credit: IUCN)
Giulia: Best. School. EVER! I focused on the environment, especially marine issues, and the coexistence of people and the environment. That held true when I started my work life in London, focusing on marine issues. Then I worked with UN Environment for eight years on tourism and the environment.
GSB: What did you work on for UNEP? When was this?
Giulia: I started at UNEP in 1999, and focused on environmental initiatives for tour operators. Our approach was to bring together like-minded operators and give them the tools and the vision to integrate effective supply chain management, eco-friendly destinations and other protocols.
GSB: What tour operators took the lead back then on the environment?
Giulia: Tui, a German tourism company now headquartered in the UK — was really aggressive. They wanted to set the agenda for the tourism sector on supply chain and other sustainability elements and were successful, at least to an extent.
GSB: What is the IUCN? It seems like something I should’ve heard about.
Giulia: You should have! It’s been around for 70 years, since 1948. It’s a membership organization that includes governments, NGOs large and small and, unlike the UN, groups of indigenous peoples. Today, it is the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network. We have a Congress every four years, and, just like for the Olympic Games, there are bids and organizing committees. The host of our June 2020 Congress is going to be in Marseilles, France; in 2016, we met in Hawai’i, and before that in 2012, we convened in South Korea.
GSB: What does IUCN do?
Giulia: Programmatically, we work in a number of critical conservation issues related to water, forests and oceans, dry lands and more. Where possible, we also engage with corporations to show them that leading on the environment, and taking biodiversity conservation into account in their planning and operation, is actually good business. At the beginning of my time at IUCN, my work focused solely on tourism. But then I branched out to the extractive and energy sectors…
GSB: Energy? Mining?…That sounds like a BIG conservation challenge.
Giulia: Yes, but to our way of thinking, it is crucial for mining and energy companies to figure out how they can operate successfully in ways that limit biodiversity loss. As part of this work, we have also focused on the role that biodiversity offsets can play in conservation.
GSB: I imagine IUCN has taken some criticisms from others in the environmental movement for working with companies seen as bad actors…or worse.
Giulia: There is some of that for sure but we believe that collaborating with companies like Rio Tinto in the mining world and Shell in the energy world is important and necessary. They know that their opeations have environmental impacts and they are interested in working with us to improve things. Another example was with LafargeHolcim, one of the largest cement companies in the world, who owned hundreds of quarries at the time. In just four years of working with IUCN, biodiversity indicators were put in place, employees were trained to respect and account for biodiversity, standards were adopted — and biodiversity became recognized as an important risk factor, something that had value in being managed.
GSB: That’s hard to believe and yet I believe it. Amazing… So now sports? Why did IUCN decide to get involved with sports in the first place?
Giulia: The impacts of sport on biodiversity are also significant, but the opportunities to address them are equally huge. The sports industry has enormous influence and reach, so just being able to talk about the value of biodiversity and the role that species play with this audience is incredible.
GSB: Absolutely! How did IUCN get started in sports?
Giulia: The IOC approached us about four years ago about one of its bid cities. They were concerned about the bid damaging a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That led to conversations about how the IOC could influence sports federations on biodiversity loss. We were engaged to help bid committees and teams on how to limit biodiversity and species loss during venue construction, allocate funds for conservation and protection, and even to educate them on the value of purchasing climate-related offsets.
GSB: Did IUCN work with the summer and winter Olympics bids?
Giulia: Yes, we were involved with the bids for the Olympic Games 2024 and reviewed all the bids from a biodiversity perspective. We are also providing maps of the areas considered to be of high biodiversity value to the potential candidates for the 2026 Winter Olympics. For each of the cities, we have created maps that highlight the location of protected areas, World Heritage sites, Ramsar (intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources) sites, and Key Biodiversity Areas. Additionally, we have provided reports that list all the species of animals and plants that have been classified as threatened or close to extinction, in proximity of these sites. These maps are an amazing tool to help the cities plan better on where to place the venues and new infrastructures, and thus reduce the risk of having an impact on important plants and animals as well as key ecosystems.
GSB: As of now, it looks like there are seven cities considering bids to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, a marked increase as compared to recent cycles. These include Graz, Austria; Calgary, Canada; a joint Italian bid amongst Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Torino; Sapporo, Japan; Sion, Switzerland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Erzurum, Turkey. How does IUCN get the word out about its work in the sports sector?
Sion, Switzerland is one of seven cities looking into bidding on the 2026 Winter Olympics
Giulia: We just issued the first of a series of reports on Sport and Biodiversity. It’s an overview for all of the industry’s key constituents…What is the intersection of sports and biodiversity? What are the risks and opportunities? The next report will be more technical than the first one, and it is almost complete. It focuses on how to mitigate biodiversity loss from venue construction. Then, the third one will focus on how to manage impacts on biodiversity in the organization of sporting events, including recommendations for athletes, venue managers and the fans. In the future, we hope to focus on things like Natural Capital Accounting^ and sports; how to manage invasive species; and, how to engage fans on biodiversity and involve the media more in these issues. We have quite a challenge ahead of us!
Cover of IUCN’s “Sport and Biodiversity” guide
GSB: Who are your audiences for these reports? Sports fans?
Giulia: No, our prime targets are senior level, C-suite executives throughout the sports world, who are not yet convinced biodiversity is an issue they need to be concerned about. We are also targeting those people involved in venue development and planning as well as those organizing sport events.
GSB: Do you have a sense as to what percentage of sports executives fit that “unconvinced” label?
Giulia: Actually, I just attended a very cool meeting on sport and the environment, the Sustainable Innovation in Sport Summit 2018 in Amsterdam, from 2-3 May, and I was very impressed by the level of commitment and involvement of the participants, mostly all representing sport federations, venues and teams. So I think this is a sector that it is already doing a lot of great work and is ready to do more.
GSB: That’s great! I look forward to reading the reports and seeing biodiversity taking its place in Green-Sports fan engagement programs in the not-too-distant future.
^ Natural Capital Accounting is the process of calculating the total stocks and flows of natural resources and services in a given ecosystem or region. Accounting for such goods may occur in physical or monetary terms.
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As cosmopolitan metropolises go, Paris and Los Angeles are as different from each other as two cities can be. But from an Olympics point of view, they have much in common. Each city has hosted two Summer Olympic Games (Paris, 1900 and 1924; Los Angeles, 1932 and 1984). Each will officially be awarded the right to host a third Olympics on Monday — Paris in 2024, L.A. in 2028. The latter was the last finalist in the contest for ’24 and, given the strength of its pitch, was awarded the ’28 Games before bidding even began. And each city put forth sustainability plans that will clearly become the gold standard for mega sports events.
Earlier this year, GreenSportsBlog profiled both bids from a variety of sustainability perspectives. Here are some excerpts, with the LA story changed to reflect the switch from 2024 to 2028.
Paris bid co-president and three-time Olympic canoeing gold medalist Tony Estanguet said in a January interview 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 told the South China Daily, adding that the bid was in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse gases. The Paris 2024 Olympics bid committee looks to make good on that vision by slashing carbon emissions by more than half compared to London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Tony Estanguet, head of Paris 2024 Bid Committee (Photo credit: Paris 2024)
The bid committee says it will 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, 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. And we’re talking financial as well as environmental sustainability —a smaller environmental footprint will lead to reduced costs. Thus, the greenness and efficiency of the bid will be promoted widely, and in a variety of ways. “During the seven years [between bid selection and the Opening Ceremonies], we want to educate people on sustainability,” said Estanguet.
Environmental and financial sustainability are two 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, Budapest, Hamburg and Rome) withdrew due to the sheer size and costs of organizing and putting on such an ambitious, sprawling event.
LOS ANGELES, FORMERLY 2024, NOW 2028
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 2028, the newly renamed committee (formerly LA 2024, of course) managing the recently announced Los Angeles 2028 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, and especially its sustainability team.
THE MOST SUSTAINABLE OLYMPICS VENUES ARE THE ONES YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUILD
When the LA 2028 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, Sustainability Director, LA 2028. (Photo credit: LA 2028)
But a funny thing happened on the way to the major redevelopment projects for LA 2028. 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 2028 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 2028’s CEO has a long background in conservation and environmental stewardship. So our core principles 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 2028 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:
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 2028’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 on site 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 on site –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 2028
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 LA 2028 attendees and the environment.
“The LA area is in the middle of an historic mass transit investment and much of it will be operational by the 2028 Opening Ceremonies,” offered Ms. Culp, “And leading up to the Games, LA 2028 will work with Metro to further incentivize comfortability with public transportation among Angelenos.”
FINANCIALLY LEAN, INNOVATIVELY GREEN
As with Paris 2024, an important facet of LA 2028’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 2028’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 2028 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 2028 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 2028 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 2028 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, Ms. Culp is confident “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 2028’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 2028. “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. “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.”
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