The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) have earned themselves a reputation as an innovative, pioneering event since their inception in 2010, and, a decade on, Lausanne 2020 has maintained this strong tradition.
As the world begins to learn more about climate change and the importance of protecting the environment, this edition of the Winter YOG has seen more initiatives and greater enthusiasm around sustainability than any Youth Olympic event before.
Whether it’s the mass use of public transport to limit vehicle emissions, the comprehensive effort to ensure that waste is recycled correctly or the brand-new approach to accommodation at the YOG, everyone has been doing their part.
Lizzie Carr, an environmental activist, was on site at the YOG to pass her eyes over the sustainability efforts of the event, as well as the young talent on show.
“I’ve spent the last few days here just travelling around by public transport,” she said. “We’ve gone up to a couple of different mountains to see different sports. It’s so accessible for anybody who wants to be a part of the YOG in some way.”
As of the conclusion of the first week of activities, approximately 80 per cent of delegation personnel had used the public transport system to travel to and from their events. For Christophe Jemelin, Head of Transport at Lausanne 2020, it’s important that this usage continues at this pace among local residents and visitors alike.
“We hope that the transport legacy that is being created will carry on, and that future tourists as well as our local population will turn to our excellent Swiss transport in the future,” he said.
As part of this effort, the “Guide Me Yodli” app was developed. Not only does the app inform users of multiple ways to travel to venues, it also tells them about the carbon impact that will be created by their travel, incentivising those who are willing to take different routes to limit their carbon footprint.
The benefits of taking public transport extended beyond the environmental ones, too. For Norwegian curling skip Lukas Høstmælingen, who won gold in the mixed team event, travelling from the Youth Olympic Village to the venue in Champéry provided an opportunity to get to know athletes from other countries, which is a central value of the YOG.
“When I first took the train and the bus, I was really surprised at how fast the time goes,” he explains. “You talk to people and meet new people, and it’s actually a very good place to connect with others. So I found it really cool to take public transport – and [the journey] to the mountains is pretty beautiful too.”
Switzerland already has a robust recycling system available in most public locations throughout the country, but with Lausanne 2020’s extra impetus, separate bins for food waste, PET plastic bottles and other categories of recyclable materials have been visible at all venues. Accessibility and creating an easy way to responsibly dispose of materials is key to encouraging athletes and spectators, young and old, to recycle.
Finally, the Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 have broken new ground with the “two-wave” concept used for the first time at an Olympic event, meaning that athletes who compete in the first week of competition are on site for only seven days, while those who are competing in the latter stages of the YOG arrive later and take over the rooms of the departing athletes. This has the twin benefits of increasing the quality of competitions and the number of athletes who can enjoy the YOG experience, without creating any additional impact on resources or the environment.
In addition to this, the Vortex, site of the Youth Olympic Village, will become permanent accommodation for students of the University of Lausanne after the YOG, which represents a specific effort by the organisers to leave a sustainable legacy for all to see.
“We’ve created apartments for the athletes that will be used by students afterwards, which I think is amazing. Our country sees itself as a country which respects nature a lot, and this shows that it is possible [to host sustainable events],” says Simonetta Sommaruga, the President of Switzerland.
As much of a success as the YOG’s sustainability efforts have been, the hope is that future events will look back at Lausanne 2020 and see it as a benchmark. If future sporting events follow the example of this year’s Winter YOG, the world will undoubtedly be a cleaner, more environmentally friendly place.