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Like any activity, sport has an impact on the environment as well as being affected by it. Tomorrow’s 2010 World Environment Day, initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), provides a good opportunity to remember that sport and environment are deeply interlinked and need to be addressed jointly. Whilst the sports world can play an important role in safeguarding the environment, a degraded environment can have a negative impact on sport, the Olympic Games and, most importantly, the athletes. Accordingly, sport and the environment have become a full-time activity area, with initiatives and projects implemented worldwide.
Since 1996, the environment has been the third “pillar” of Olympism, after sport and culture. This philosophy has been brought to life by many actions and programmes during and beyond the Games, and by the various stakeholders of the Olympic Movement, such as the Olympic Games Organising Committees (OCOGs), the 205 National Olympic Committees (NOCs), the 33 Olympic International Sports Federations (IFs) and the TOP partners. The IOC has taken the lead in these efforts – guiding its partners through means such as seminars, manuals and practical tools.
Looking at the Olympic Games, environmentally sustainable benefits that can be applied to host cities and, ideally, elsewhere in the world, need to be ensured. UNEP has become an important partner to Olympic Games Organising Committees in this matter. As the most recent example, the Vancouver organisers and UNEP worked together for three years to improve the environmental footprint of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, which set completely new standards in environmental protection and will be remembered as the greenest Games ever.
For instance, every venue was built according to Canada’s green-building standards; rain was captured to irrigate landscaping; heat was captured from used bath water; nearly 70 per cent of the heating for the Olympic Village came from waste heat recovery systems, including heat from sewage; and transportation improvements reduced emissions and encouraged the use of mass transit, bicycling and other alternatives to commuting by cars.
Raising awareness for environmental protection among the young generation is at least as important as tangible projects. The Youth Olympic Games (YOG), which will be held for the first time in Singapore in August 2010, will bring together more than 3,600 athletes between the ages of 14 and 18. Alongside the competitions, all the young athletes will participate in a Culture and Education Programme, which will make them aware of their roles as responsible global citizens. They will also take part in environment-related activities, including hands-on activities in gardens, workshops on sustainable water management, and interactive displays on threats to our natural ecosystem.
Looking at grassroots level, it is a reality that worldwide sport is regularly used as a tool to ensure environmental sustainability, which is the seventh UN Millennium Development Goal. For instance, the IOC has supported UNEP-inspired projects in Kenya which are particularly benefiting young people in the slum areas of Nairobi. Sports equipment and kits for cleaning the settlements have been provided to hundreds of youngsters who have signed up for inter-state competitions and environmental activities which aim at creating dialogue and friendship across community divides.
Another example for action comes from the NOC for Slovenia which launched a nation-wide, voluntary action, “Let’s Clean Slovenia”, on 17 April. Slovenian sport currently uses its reach to implement the largest environmental action in the country’s history, including the production of the first digital register of illegal waste dumps in the country, the removal of at least 20,000 tons of illegally dumped waste and the education of the general public about waste management.
World Environment Day 2010 is initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and aims to be the biggest, most widely celebrated, global day for positive, environmental action. Commemorated on 5 June since 1972, this day is one of the principal vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action. It is about mobilising individual as well as organised action and advocating partnerships among different stakeholders.
Learn more about this day and how you can contribute on http://www.unep.org/wed/2010/english/ . This year, you can share your activities with UNEP and it will publicise them on a world map on their website.