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IOC environmental sustainability management of the Olympic Games
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Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London
It is becoming clear that the sports community must be actively involved in addressing environmental issues.

The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) involvement in this kind of challenge is currently taking place at different levels and in different forms, but in one way or another, a certain structure nonetheless, can be seen.

Selection of the host city

An essential prerequisite for the selection of the Olympic host cities, apart from the provision of safety and infrastructure, is the preservation of the ecological balance. In particular, materials on the Olympics host city's compliance with the environmental strategy and environmental requirements are submitted to the IOC evaluation committee. 

These include climate conditions, assurance of environmental safety of sports activities, a high quality level of environmental protection measures and organisation of environmental education. 

An example of such commitment can be seen in the preparations for the 2000 Olympic Games. Back then, a real novelty for the Games was the adoption of environmental guidelines, on the basis of which all sports infrastructure facilities were designed. The environmental guidelines contained a number of objectives, such as the use of energy-saving technologies and renewable energies, water conservation and the use of environmentally friendly refrigerants.

This planning, although not fully implemented in some cases (like the use of refrigerants), has led Greenpeace to consider the overall result of the Olympic Games to be generally positive from an ecological point of view. 

It is worth noting that at the end of 2022, the IOC made a new proposal concerning climate change for potential hosts of the 2030 Olympic Games. The host country is now expected to provide decade-long data on average February temperatures below zero. 

Preparation for the Games

After receiving the right to host the Games, one of the tasks of the country's Olympic Committee is to improve the city's infrastructure and facilities (stadiums, swimming pools, sports facilities) in the host area. Modern "green" standards for Olympic venues include requests for renewable energy and environmental requirements for area design, lighting, water supply, cooling and heating, ventilation and air conditioning, noise control, and waste management.  

Likewise, the success of the Tokyo 2020 bid was ensured, among other things, by high priorities for the environment and the environmental sustainability of existing infrastructure, based on modern standards – concentrated location of venues, use of existing facilities, an advanced public transportation system.

Olympic Games

This phase of the direct running of the Olympic Games involves activities related to the organisation of transportation, the nutrition of athletes, the management of the awards ceremony and other activities – it is the focus of attention of the authorities, business and the international Olympic movement.  

For instance, at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, sustainability was demonstrated with medals that were made, among other things, from recycled materials.

Nikе, meanwhile, has developed eco-friendly sports jackets made from recycled polyester for US Olympians, exemplifying the actions of Olympic partners and sponsors.

The tourists are also a subject of influence. When the Games were held in the Chinese capital Beijing in 2008, a regime of restrictions on the use of private cars was imposed, especially in the areas of the Olympic venues. Beijing also switched all its buses to compressed natural gas, improving the city's environment. 

Guests could rent clean vehicles – bicycles. Simultaneously, Beijing significantly reduced the price of metro tickets in order to encourage people to use the metro.

Post-Olympics

One important way to mitigate the negative effects of the Olympic Games is to have a clear plan for the use of the Olympic venues. This may include long-term loans to private companies, dismantling of facilities for construction of other structures, or the initial building of venues for future use.

During the London 2012 Olympics, the Olympic projects led to environmental improvements throughout the East London area. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was built on a previously contaminated area, and after its construction, hundreds of thousands of plants were planted there, and the park became a habitat for many animals. 

Additionally, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic infrastructure was transformed into a multi-purpose center for the local community after the Games. 

Conclusion

The IOC's environmental requirements for organisers are expressed in the formulation as part of the ultimate comprehensive strategy, which essentially addresses the following main elements:

  • environmental justification for the choice of the host city for the Olympic Games and its environmental attractiveness;
  • provision of environmental sustainability of the sports activities during the Olympics and the further use of the infrastructure;
  • solution of problems concerning the ecological management and marketing;
  • organisation of ecological education;

All this indicates that the Olympics can be a tool for environmental protection. The Olympic Games promote environmental stewardship and sustainable resource distribution, serving as a significant reason for financing environmental protection activities.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

About the author

Nikita Bokserov is the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Youth Sustainable Development Goals Coordinator, and a sport for peace and development researcher.

Authors

PyeongChang Youth Peace Ambassador
PyeongChang 2018 Legacy Foundation

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Russia
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Sustainable Development Goals
11 - Sustainable cities and communities
13 - Climate action
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