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World Cup Elite Eight From A Green Perspective


Happy Almost 4th of July, GreenSportsBlog readers! With the 2014 FIFA World Cup in a two day break between an exhilarating Round of 16 (great run, USA; congratulations to Belgium on a well-deserved win) and the Quarterfinals, which start tomorrow, GreenSportsBlog is taking a look at the upcoming games through a green lens, matching up the teams based on the greenness (or lack thereof) of their soccer stadia.



On the pitch, this promises to be, as any British soccer announcer might say, a “gripping match” between two world soccer powers, with France’s freewheeling style up against the organized and favored Germans.  My pick for the match: France. In terms of the greenness of their football stadia, both countries are also world class.

France has taken a leadership role in the green-stadium movement with the first two energy positive stadia (generate more energy than they use) in the world, Allianz Riviera in Nice and Stade Oceane in Le Havre.
Germany leads the world in solar power generation and for renewable energy generation overall. That leadership extends well to its many modern, environmentally-friendly football stadia.

Weser Stadium in Bremen and the Mage Solar Stadion in Freiburg both feature on-site solar (heck, one has solar in its name!). Second division (i.e. top level minor league) FC Augsburg in Lechwerke opened the first carbon neutral stadium in 2009. Germany built on the FC Augsburg example when it hosted the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup as eight of the nine stadia used implemented “sustainable environmental management systems”. Those systems provided advanced technological solutions in energy generation, water, waste, mobility and catering in order to reduce negative effects on the environment and also help fans to understand and get involved in environmental initiatives.

While France is doing exemplary green-sports work, Germany is simply at the top of the pack. GERMANY gets the nod.


Mage Solar SC Freiburg
Freiburg, Germany’s Mage Solar Stadion, home to SC Freiburg and one of several German soccer stadia with on site solar. (Photo Credit: SC Freiburg)




Brazil, widely expected to get at least to the final game, has looked shaky through the Round of 16 (scraped through on penalties vs. Chile in the last contest). Colombia, which never progressed to the quarterfinal stage, doesn’t look out of place at all, with the incredible James Rodriguez leading the way. Brazil, which hasn’t lost at home since the mid-70s (I’m not kidding) is favored to win but I see a Colombia upset.

On the sustainability scoreboard, conventional wisdom also favors Brazil since it built many high-tech, green stadia for the World Cup and since Colombia, with a relatively low-ranked and cash strapped domestic league, would be expected to have sub-standard stadia. But can an upset be brewing on the green side?

GreenSportsBlog has certainly covered the green aspect of Brazil’s 1st World Cup since 1950 (Uruguay beat them in the ’50 Final, for those keeping score at home). The solar-powered stadium in Recife is one of the 5 LEED certified venues* (out of 12).

But some of those stadia were built in remote locations (like Manaus), with populations that certainly won’t be able to support venues with capacities of 45,000 and up. How does one “score” a green stadium that is also a white elephant? Local residents certainly view these stadiums with concern if not outrage. That’s why grading Brazil on green metrics is trickier than meets the eye.

As for Colombia, the truth is that environmental sustainability seems not to be a priority for the private and public entities financing construction and renovations of its stadia.

Most of the over-30,000 capacity stadia were initially constructed in the 1970s or earlier. Renovations undertaken since then have mainly dealt with keeping the facilities in workable condition and improving sight lines (many were built with running tracks on the perimeter, keeping fans a long distance away from the action). Colombia spruced up much of its stadium stock in advance of the 2011 FIFA U-21 (Under 21 years of age) tournament but not with sustainability in mind.



I am picking Colombia to win the match on Friday and, it says here, COLOMBIA also has the greener football ecosystem.

Notice I didn’t say greener stadia. The actual stadia are light years greener in Brazil, no question. But, when one factors in the White Elephants in Brazil, along with the diversion of promised education and infrastructure funding that finance the venues, I give Colombia the nod because of Brazil’s net negative green scorecard.

There are no White Elephants in Bogota, Cali or Medellin.



This could be the best of the quarterfinals (and that’s saying something). Argentina has the best player in Lionel Messi; Belgium has a supremely talented team from back to front. Somehow, some way I think Messi and Argentina pull it out but it will be very, very tough. The two countries have a much better on-pitch record than they do on the green score sheet.

Argentina is similar to Colombia in that its stadium stock is largely 50+ years old and so there isn’t much to chew on, sustainability-wise. The one exception is the Estadio Ciudad de La Plata in Buenos Aires, opened in 2003 but not actually completed until 2011. Home to Estudiantes, one of Argentina’s top clubs, the Estadio gets sustainability points for using locally fabricated steel and for a roof that’s state-of-the-art, from an environmental point of view.

A small country with small facilities (only one with a capacity of 50,000), Belgium is taking some small but important sustainability steps. Most notable is the 20,000 seat Ghelamco Arena, home of KAA Ghent. The stadium, which opened last year, features energy saving LED lighting and also a rainwater capture system. Also, the compactness of the country means that fans and the teams themselves travel short distances to home and away contests.


Estadio Stadium Guide
Interior view of Estadio de La Plata in Rio de la Plata, Argentina. It’s futuristic and environmentally friendly roof help make this Argentina’s greenest sports venue. (Photo Credit:


Tough call as each country has one green stadium. Because the capacity of Estadio Ciudad de La Plata is much greater than that of Ghelamco Arena, I’m going to give the slightest of edges to ARGENTINA.



This matchup features two small countries in terms of area but one soccer giant (Holland) and one Cinderella. I’d love to pick Costa Rica in Saturday’s match but I think the Dutch have too much and will advance. Similarly, the green matchup favors the Netherlands. But is that just on (recycled) paper?

Why does such a small country have two names (Netherlands and Holland) and a different name for its people and language (Dutch)? I have no idea but, when you look at Whatever-You-Call-It’s Soccer stadia from a sustainability point of view, you can see it has done a world class job.

From Feynoord’s (Rotterdam) planned new state-of-the-green-art stadium (solar, harvested rainwater, etc.) to solar panels on Ajax’s Amsterdam ArenA to the solar array at FC Groningen’s Euroborg Stadium, the Dutch get high marks.

Costa Rica is a country that has done a great deal to protect its environmental riches (i.e. legal protections for the tropical rain forest, leadership in eco-tourism).

Despite being a relatively poor country, one would expect it to bring an environmentally friendly approach to its sports arenas. Unfortunately, that was not the case with the construction of its National Stadium (capacity 35,000) in San Jose which opened in 2011. The stadium was a gift from China (perhaps in exchange for access to some unprotected natural resources?) and that meant workers and construction materials were transported across the Pacific. There are no visible green features and, given China’s leadership in solar and wind, one would think that if there were green aspects to the stadium, we’d know about them.


I love the underdog, and I understand Holland is a rich country and Costa Rica is not, but I gotta call it like I see it and so the green pick is the NETHERLANDS.
What about the semis and finals? Let’s see who gets there and then we’ll make our green picks. And as with all pre-game sports speculation, we welcome the ‘trash talk’ on this post, so bring on your comments below!


* The other 4 LEED Certified World Cup facilities in Brazil are in Fortaleza, Salvador, Manaus and the renovated Maracanã in Rio, host of the final match on July 13.


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