A working session at the Olympism in Action Forum today highlighted the power of sport to call attention to the urgent need for sustainability practices, through discussions and collaboration among individuals and organisations to advance the cause of sustainability through sport.
Educating and empowering the public about sustainability is the first hurdle to tackle. Sport, with its ability to convene and inspire millions around the world, is uniquely positioned as a platform to educate and move the public to act.
One might recall the powerful moment at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 when weightlifter David Katoatau gained attention for dancing when he finished sixth. This was not a dance of celebration, but an opportunity to call the world’s attention to Kiribati, his small Pacific island homeland, which is losing a climate change battle to rising sea levels. Today at the Forum, Katoatau said, “When I was young in Kiribati, the sea was at eight feet [from his home]. Now it is much closer. That’s why I raise my voice to the rest of the world to protect my home. I send my message to the world: save my country. I tell them to be strong and fight for this.”
When I was young in Kiribati, the sea was at eight feet. Now it is much closer. That’s why I raise my voice to the rest of the world to protect my home. I send my message to the world: save my country. I tell them to be strong and fight for this.David Katoatau
Sports like skiing, sailing, surfing and countless others occur in natural environments, and the future of these disciplines requires a commitment to sustainable practices to ensure their protection. World Rowing President Jean-Christophe Rolland, who led World Rowing to become the first International Federation to formally pledge to respect UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, said today, “We always want to use a fantastic environment, but we also want to ensure we don’t leave a negative impact [from our events], so we have a process to mitigate the risk and make sure we don’t leave a footprint behind. With use comes responsibility.”
World Rowing is not alone in its philosophy. The IOC has championed the cause of sustainability, making it a focal point of Olympic Agenda 2020. It is adopting sustainable best practices in its day-to-day operations and leading the Olympic Movement through education and partnerships. The efforts focus on five focus areas of the IOC Sustainability Strategy: infrastructure and natural sites, sourcing and resource management, mobility, workforce and climate.
The Olympism in Action Forum itself is an environmentally-responsible event the IOC has hosted. It has been developed and carried out with the objectives of avoiding and minimising waste, minimising the event’s carbon footprint and raising participants’ awareness of sustainability, amongst others.
We always want to use a fantastic environment, but we also want to ensure we don’t leave a negative impact [from our events], so we have a process to mitigate the risk and make sure we don’t leave a footprint behind. With use comes responsibility.Jean-Christophe Rolland World Rowing President
The IOC believes achieving sustainability requires a collaborative team approach with Olympic Games host cities, Olympic Movement stakeholders and international organisations, in order to advance the cause of sustainability.
It’s a shared responsibility, and the private sector plays a critical role in the process. On the panel, Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi, from Olympic Partner Dow Chemical Company’s Global Technology & Sustainability Director for Olympic & Sports Solutions, said: “As we progressed in our partnership with the Olympic Movement, we realised we could do much more than provide chemistry knowledge. We could bring our sustainability and science-based knowledge to become the official carbon partner of the Olympic Games. …We need the IOC to help create a multiplier… The power of the IOC brand can get us there. The partnership of science and sport can catalyse change.”