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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GSB News and Notes: LA Coliseum Goes Zero Waste; The Green(er) Aussie Open; Last Day in Office for First POTUS to Talk Green-Sports

A busy GSB News & Notes kicks off with the newly minted Zero-Waste Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (the Zero-Waste part is new; the Coliseum opened during the Harding Administration). Also greening is tennis’ first major championship, the Australian Open, now underway in Melbourne. And, finally, a brief send off from GreenSportsBlog to President Obama, the first POTUS to publicly talk about the importance of the intersection of Green + Sports, on his last full day in office.

 

LA COLISEUM GOES ZERO-WASTE

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is huge, both literally—it holds 93,607 for football— and in terms of its place in American and global sports history.

la-coliseum-usc-neil-leifer

The Los Angeles Coliseum, packed and jammed for USC-UCLA crosstown rivalry game in 2005 (Photo credit: Neil Leifer)

 

Just consider that the Coliseum:

  • Hosted the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics. If Los Angeles is chosen to host in 2024, the Coliseum will play a key role.
  • Was the landing place for the Los Angeles Dodgers when they moved west from Brooklyn in 1958 (until Dodger Stadium opened in 1962)
  • Hosted Super Bowl I in 1967
  • Is the home of USC Trojans football. UCLA shared the Coliseum with its crosstown rival from 1928-1981*.
  • Starting last season, is the temporary home for the NFL Rams after a 20 year hiatus in St. Louis. The club will move to the gaudily-named City Of Champions Stadium—for the 2019 campaign#.

And, as of 2016, this west coast sports mecca became a Zero-Waste facility—the second-largest such stadium in college football and the largest in the NFL. 

“We’re proud to be a part of a program such as the Zero Waste Initiative at the Coliseum. This is an opportunity for USC Athletics and our fans to lead the way in terms of taking ownership of our environmental impact on game days,” said USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann. “Our university, fans and alumni should be proud of the success of this program.”

“A large part of making our communities a better place includes making as little an impact on the environment as possible,” said Molly Higgins, the Rams’ vice president of community affairs and engagement.

The Zero Waste program diverted over 400,000 pounds of waste over the season. It took a 3-step effort between fans (who first sorted waste into bins), a crew of 80-100 custodial and sustainability staff (who further sorted the waste), and Athens Services, the Coliseum’s recycling partner, to make the grade. 

usc-recycle

Recycling bin outside of the LA Coliseum on USC game day (Photo credit: USCTrojans.com)

 

 

Corporate green-sports stalwarts BASF and EcoSafe added their waste management expertise as partners of the Coliseum’s Zero-Waste efforts. They were joined by Legends Hospitality (sustainable catering), ABM Janitorial Services (green cleaning), and Waxie (sustainable sanitary supply). 

THE GREEN(ER) AUSTRALIAN OPEN

The team responsible for sustainability at the Australian Open—Tennis Australia (governing body of tennis in Australia), Melbourne & Olympic Parks (host facility of the Australian Open), and the State of Victoria—is in the midst of a 15 year, $AUD700 million redevelopment project with the goal to establish Melbourne & Olympic Park as “one of the most sustainable sports and entertainment venues in the world.”

About a year ago, GreenSportsBlog gave the Australian Open “Green Team” high marks for their on-site sustainability efforts but saw room for improvement in 2016 in terms of fan engagement and awareness of their sustainability good works.

How did they make out?

Thanks to a fine case study from the Sports Environment Alliance (SEA, Australia’s version of the Green Sports Alliance), it looks like the Tennis Australia and the Australian Open continued its strong greening performance on site but the fan engagement portion still rates an “Incomplete” grade. The Tennis Australia Green Team:

  • Continued its decrease in water usage. The effort, which started in 2008, has now reached 25 percent, in part by:
    • Irrigating Melbourne Park with recycled water thanks to large underground water tanks installed onsite.
    • Switching irrigation systems from overhead spray to drip and sub surface.
    • Installing above ground water tanks at Hisense Arena with 550,000-liter capacity to use rainwater for washing courts, stadiums and irrigation.
  • Invested in smart solar powered lighting 

  • Converted 100% of takeaway food packaging to recyclable materials
  • Ensured all seafood is served according to Australia’s Marine Conservation Society’s Seafood Watch “avoid list”

  • Added state-of-the-art roof coatings that reflect 70 percent of the sun’s heat, keeping buildings cooler on the many very hot days that often plague the tournament.

 

aus-open-infographic

Infographic detailing Australian Open/Tennis Australia’s greening efforts from Sports Environment Alliance

 

Tennis Australia still needs to better communicate the existence and benefits of the green initiatives to fans. This last point is echoed in the SEA case study: “Australian Open organizers know all about these greening efforts, however there remains a need to engage” the 700,000+ fans expected to attend the tournament about the greening efforts. I would add that fans watching on TV and online also need to be made aware that the Australian Open is a leader of the Green-Sports movement.

 

LAST DAY IN OFFICE FOR FIRST POTUS TO TALK GREEN-SPORTS

Today is the last full day in office for Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States. It is not at all a stretch to say he was the first Climate Change President:  Obama, mainly through executive actions, authored more stringent fuel economy standards for automobiles; enacted the Clean Power Plan, which is leading to a reduction in carbon emissions; signed a meaningful carbon emissions deal with China, and led the effort that resulted in the Paris Climate Accord, signed by 195 countries. He also is the first POTUS ever to publish a peer reviewed journal article,“The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy,” appearing in Science.

Obama, a serious sports fan and, at 55, still a competitive basketball player, was also the first POTUS to publicly discuss the power of the intersection of Green + Sports. GreenSportsBlog chronicled Obama’s and his administration’s dives into Green-Sports, from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz speaking to the 2015 Green Sports Alliance Summit to the White House Sports-Climate Change Roundtables to POTUS’ mention of the NHL’s and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ commitment to sustainability (“we wanna continue to have ice so that we can play hockey”) at the latter’s White House ceremony celebrating its 2016 Stanley Cup win.

President Obama talks Green-Sports at the October 2016 ceremony honoring the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (Green-Sports section of the talk starts at 6:41 mark of the video).

As Vice President Joe Biden so eloquently put it after Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) in 2010, Obama’s Green-Sports forays were “big BLEEPING deals” for the movement. Because, while the sports world has done incredible work greening the games themselves over a very short time span (the Obama presidency began before the Green Sports Alliance was launched), it has a long way to go as far as generating fan awareness of, and interest in said greening is concerned. A President talking about Green-Sports automatically generates both.

Obama used sports to promote social causes beyond Green-Sports. Has there ever been a POTUS who embodied Nelson Mandela’s “Sport can change the world!” ethos more than the 44th President? I think not. Among other things, Obama:

And, it seems likely that the first black President was a key catalyst for the recent expressions of social conscience by African American athletes. That’s one of the points made in “Obama’s Basketball Jones Connected Him to Hoopheads Everywhere” by Mike Wise^. His STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW AND READ THIS column appears in the January 17 issue of ESPN’s The Undefeateda website that explores “the intersections of race, sports and culture.”

obama-souza

President Obama, driving to the basket during a pickup game with White House staffers at Martha’s Vineyard in August, 2009. (Photo credit: The White House/Pete Souza, official photographer)

 

Will President Trump link sports and social causes? If so, which causes will he pursue? It is safe to assume that Green-Sports will not be a high priority for the 45th President. But that’s a discussion for another day.

For now, I say a heartfelt thank you to President Obama for his service, leadership (especially on climate change), integrity and dignity.

* UCLA has called the Rose Bowl home since 1982.
# The Rams will be joined by the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers.
^ Wise cited a June 6 piece in The Undefeated by colleague L.Z. Granderson, “Will Current NBA Stars #staywoke After Obama Leaves Office?”, as the source for his linkage of the activism of African American athletes and President Obama.

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