PyeongChang 2018: How Green will the Winter Olympics Be? A Conversation with Sustainability Manager Hyeona Kim

PyeongChang, South Korea will be the center of the sporting world starting February 9 when the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics take place in the city that lies about 77 miles to the east of Seoul. Environmental sustainability has been a key factor in Olympic bids going back to the Vancouver in 2010 (winter) and London 2012 (winter) Games. How will PyeongChang fare, sustainability-wise? GreenSportsBlog talked with Hyeona Kim, Senior Project Manager in charge of sustainability for the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) to find out.

 

 

Sustainability is now a core facet of the Olympics host city bidding process. In fact, any bid submitted since the 2014 adoption of Olympic Agenda 2020 must have a robust environmental component. Since a host city has seven years between being awarded the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the opening ceremonies, the 2022 Winter Games, awarded to Beijing in 2015, will be the first to have fully adhered to the Agenda’s guidelines.

How does the sustainability scorecard look for the upcoming 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, given that the PyeongChang Organizing Committee, or POCOG, won its bid in 2011, three years before the Agenda took effect? GSB spoke with Hyeona Kim, Senior Project Manager in charge of sustainability for POCOG to answer that question.

 


 

GreenSportsBlog: Hyeona, how did you get involved in the POCOG sustainability effort?

Hyeona Kim: Ever since I joined POCOG 5 years ago, I have been interested in what real impact PyeongChang 2018 can bring to local communities and our country. Helping with the initial venue development phase, I learned of the sustainability area, and thought ‘this is why I came to PyeongChang in the first place’ and I needed to commit my work to it. I was fortunate to be involved with the sustainability team, from the development of overall sustainability strategy to its implementation today. I really value the opportunity to experience the whole process.

 

Hyeona Kim

Hyeona Kim, Senior Project Manager, POCOG. (Photo credit: PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games or POCOG)

 

GSB: So you are definitely the person to talk to! Given that Olympic Agenda 2020 was not in force in 2011 when PyeongChang bid for the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, and thus sustainability was not a “must have” in Olympic Bids, how did it fit in your bid?

HK: Though it was not “must have” for Olympic Games bidding, sustainability was a strong global trend already back then, and was part of the ultimate goal to bring the event to South Korea. Naturally, sustainability and the environment were integral to our bid from the very beginning. Our focus started from the environmental sphere of sustainability. POCOG set out the environmental vision of “O2 Plus”, an ambition to go beyond the Games carbon emissions in our carbon reduction and offset efforts.

GSB: Impressive that POCOG planned to be “Net Positive”—to be responsible for the reduction of more carbon emissions than the Games would create. Were such efforts tried before?

HK: Vancouver 2010 raised the bar by achieving “Net-zero carbon Games”. PyeongChang felt responsible for sustainable Games and we thought of going one step further.

GSB: How does POCOG go about doing that?

HK: First of all, PyeongChang 2018, together with Gangwon, the host provincial government, has funded and is funding wind farms that will produce more than the minimum amount of electricity need to power the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Some of the wind farms were built during the bidding phase and then, after we won the bid in 2011, POCOG ramped up its funding for the remaining wind developments.

GSB: So how much wind power are we talking about?

HK: We expect to have 190 megawatts (mW) of electricity demand during the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. As of now, 145 mW is of wind electricity is already operational, another 32 mW is secured and another 100 mW is still under construction.

GSB: That’s a lot of wind, more than enough to power the Games. Where are these wind farms located? Close to PyeongChang?

 

POCOG Wind farm 1

Wind turbines in Gangwon Province, part of the wind farm developments funded by POCOG that will, in total, generate more energy than the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games will use. (Photo credit: PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games or POCOG)

 

HK: Yes, all of the wind farms are in Gangwon Province. And our use of renewables goes beyond wind. Six of the newly constructed competition venues will feature either solar power or geothermal. Several of our venues are certified for G-SEED, the Korean green building protocol, similar to LEED. Gangneung Olympic Park, the site of four venues—figure skating/short track, speed skating ice hockey, and curling…

GSB: …I LOVE curling. And, yes, I have curled before. Have you tried it? If not, you have to give it a go!

HK: Yes, actually I tried it once, and it was more active than it looked. It was fun. Anyway, part of Gangneung Olympic Park was transformed from a landfill site to a cultural and sports park, protecting the local ecology and nature in the process.

 

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0054.JPG

Aerial view of Gangneung Olympic Park. (Photo credit: PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games or POCOG)

 

GSB: Very impressive on both the electricity generation and facilities sides of the ledger. What about mass transit and low emissions vehicles?

HK: POCOG made an aggressive move into EVs—our fleet has 300 of them—and the charging infrastructure is being built in and around PyeongChang as we speak. Our goal is to do what we can to make EVs a mainstream choice for as many Koreans as possible as quickly as possible. On the mass transit side, POCOG and the Korean government has invested heavily in high-speed rail (HSR) as that is a great carbon emissions reducer. High-speed rail from the Seoul area will transport a significant percentage of total fans to PyeongChang and we expect such mass transit will help us reduce 6,654 tonnes of C02 equivalent^ from our carbon inventory. All of the efforts described here helped us become the first Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games to be ISO 2012-1 certified…

GSB: …For those unfamiliar, ISO 2012-1 is a global standard for sustainable events. Congratulations. Now, on the flip side of POCOG’s sustainability successes, what have been its greatest challenges?

HK: Ahhh, this is a good question. When we were on our learning curve, the IOC and past Organizing Committees always screamed one common message at us “Start EARLY with sustainability planning.” And, six years after winning the bid I can see that, even though we did start early on the environmental front in 2012, it would’ve been more successful if the bigger comprehensive plan came along at the same time.

GSB: How so?

HK: Well, the comprehensive strategy would’ve balanced initiatives amongst our three sub-categories of sustainability—environmental, social and economic—and solidified specific actions and messages. Olympic Organizing Committees are always on the steep growing curve, and once it hits the operational phase, it is not easy keep the sustainability ethos alive in daily minds in office. It takes extra efforts from sustainability unit to remind and ensure delivery of sustainability initiatives.

GSB: I echo that sentiment wholeheartedly. Ensuring that sustainability, no matter what aspect, is truly part of an organization’s DNA takes constant care. But I have to say, despite the challenges; it looks like POCOG is moving the sustainable Olympics ball forward, especially in terms of Winter Games and especially when compared to an environmentally challenged Sochi 2014. Now let’s pivot to a comparison vs. the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. They had their own environmental sustainability challenges, to be sure, but one thing they got right was communicating the seriousness climate change poses to humanity to a global TV and digital audience, estimated to be up to 1 billion people. They did so with a climate change themed vignette during the opening ceremonies. Will POCOG have anything similar in store? Also will POCOG be conducting any research on attendees and/or Korean TV viewers about awareness of its environmental efforts?

HK: We were also envious of the climate change vignette from Rio 2016’s opening ceremony. No other method I think can be paralleled in terms of scale and impact of the message. It is a shame that I cannot openly discuss POCOG’s public campaign for environmental awareness at this point of time, but I can reassure you POCOG has already unfolded different programs – carbon inventory establishment and management, International Forum on Climate Change and Sustainable Olympic Winter Games – and also is keen to do more for public awareness on environment and climate change.

GSB: Those are great things, to be sure. And, congratulations to you and all of POCOG for the innovative sustainability strategies and initiatives you are championing, especially O2 Plus. But, with all of the great, net positive greening initiatives POCOG is undertaking, it’s a shame that it chose not to close the sustainability loop by communicating its greenness, its climate change fighting chops, to fans at the venues and watching on TV and elsewhere. It’s like a golfer who hits a phenomenal tee shot and a great approach shot to within a foot of the hole. All she has to do is tap in and she wins the tournament. But she chooses not to putt and walks off. Let’s hope the folks in charge of Tokyo 2020 Summer Games and the Beijing 2022 Winter Games decide to take that putt, close the loop and communicate their greenness to a global audience.

 

^ PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Sustainability Interim Report, February 2017, pgs. 26-27.

 


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GSB News and Notes: Self-Driving Buses at 2018 Winter Olympics; Reebok Pioneers Plant-Based Footwear; Vestas, Leader in Wind, Teams with 11th Hour Racing to Bring Sustainability Message to Volvo Ocean Sailing Race

Innovation is fast becoming a Green-Sports watchword and it undergirds today’s GSB News & Notes: PyeongChang, South Korea, host of the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, will be the first to feature self-driving buses. Reebok will bring plant-based footwear to the market later this year. And Vestas, the only global energy company dedicated solely to wind, partners with 11th Hour Racing to bring a forward-looking sustainability message to the 2018 Volvo Ocean Sailing Race.

 

 

SELF-DRIVING BUSES AT PYEONGCHANG 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS

South Korean telecommunications company KT Corporation plans to launch its next generation 5G cellular network in 2019. The Official Telecommunications Provider of the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in PyeongChang will use the quadrennial event to pilot the new technology. State-of-the art cell phones, 22nd century virtual reality devices and drone deliveries are only some of the 5G applications that will be on display at the Games.

In concert with the South Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and partner companies Samsung Electronics, Ericsson, Nokia and Intel; KT Corporation will unveil self-driving shuttle buses in PyeongChang during the Games.

KT Corp

Self-driving shuttle bus from KT Corporation will be featured during PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games in South Korea. (Photo credit: KT Corporation)

 

Per a story by Yoon Sung-won in the Korea Timesthe self-driving buses were tested Tuesday (Monday in the US) at an event in snowy PyeongChang. “The bus was connected to a control center through the 5G network at the venue and drove itself through a short route. It automatically stopped as a car appeared in front of it and slowed down over a slippery road covered with snow.”

The driverless shuttles, which will bring fans, staff and media from the city center to a variety of Olympics venues, are projected to reduce energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions and accidents vs. their human-driven counterparts.

 

REEBOK TO MAKE SHOES FROM “THINGS THAT GROW”

The athletic shoe and apparel industries are bringing innovative Green-Sports products to market at a breakneck pace. Nike’s new FlyKnit shoes cut waste by 80 percent. adidas recently-launched UltraBOOST Uncaged Parley sneakers are made from 95 percent plastic ocean waste.

Reebok, a division of adidas, will join the greening fray by bringing plant-based footwear to the market later this year; an initiative the company says will create shoes that are “made from things that grow.” The first release will be a shoe that has an upper, the part that goes over the top of the foot, comprised of organic cotton and a base originating from industrially-grown corn (a non-food source). Reebok is partnering with DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products to create the “Cotton + Corn” shoes.

Reebok

Prototype of Reebok Cotton + Corn sneakers, made of plant-based materials. (Photo credit: Reebok)

 

The Cotton + Corn initiative impacts all three phases of the product lifecycle in textbook “Cradle to Cradle” fashion. In the development phase, Reebok uses materials that grow and can be replenished, rather than the petroleum-based materials used today. When the product hits the market, the company has ensured consumers that they won’t have to sacrifice performance and style. Finally, the plant-based materials in the the shoes are compostable at the end of the lifecycle. Reebok says it will take back used sneakers and compost them to grow the materials for the next batch of shoes.

Cotton + Corn

 

Bill McInnis, head of Reebok Future, told Environmental Leader’s Jennifer Hermes on April 5 that the plant-based shoes will be a bit more expensive to create at first than their traditional rubber, polyurethane, and synthetic rubber counterparts: the company is using new materials that it has not used previously and the small quantities at launch limit economies of scale.

The Reebok Future team has been at work on this concept in various forms for over five years. According to McInnis, its focus is on “making more sustainable products and minimizing our environmental impact” that don’t compromise on quality so consumers will not be forced to choose between style, comfort and the environment.

The price of the shoes has not yet been disclosed, according to Boston Business Journal.

 

VESTAS AND 11TH HOUR RACING TEAM UP TO BRING SUSTAINABILITY TO VOLVO OCEAN SAILING RACE

Global wind power company Vestas recently announced a partnership with 11th Hour Racing, to bring a strong sustainability message to the ’round the world 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race by their sponsorship of the American duo of Charlie Enright and Mark Towill. Before that, 11th Hour Racing, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation which establishes strategic partnerships within the sailing world to promote systemic change for the health of our marine environment, will put sustainability front and center at this summer’s America’s Cup in Bermuda via its sponsorship of Land Rover BAR, the British entrant.

Enright Towill Billy Weiss VOR

Charlie Enright and Mark Towill will bring their sustainability message around the world in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, with the support of Vestas and 11th Hour Racing. (Photo credit: Billy Weiss/VOR)

 

The Vestas-11th Hour Racing-Enright-Towill campaign is a unique platform for the Danish company to promote its vision, which is to be the global leader in sustainable energy solutions.

“Our partnership with 11th Hour Racing sends a very strong signal with two leading players within sustainability combining forces to promote sustainable solutions within wind and water,” said Vestas President and CEO Anders Runevad.

Wendy Schmidt, 11th Hour Racing Co-Founder and President of The Schmidt Family Foundation, added: “Mark and Charlie have been serving as ambassadors for 11th Hour Racing for the past two years, having witnessed first hand during the last Volvo Ocean Race the many ways pollution and plastic debris are destroying ocean life and threatening all of us. Our partnership with Vestas is about inspiring positive change in the way we think about energy and the natural resources of the planet.”

The Vestas-11th Hour Racing sustainability message will start its circumnavigation of the globe with Enright and Towill when the race departs Alicante, Spain in late October. They then will travel 45,000 nautical miles with stops at Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff and Gothenburg before the finish in The Hague.

Volvo Ocean Race Map

Map of 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race (Courtesy Volvo Ocean Race)

 

 


 

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