UN effort for eco-friendly sports wins gold with new report on 2006 Winter Olympics

UN effort for eco-friendly sports wins gold with new report on 2006 Winter Olympics

United Nations-backed efforts to promote eco-friendly sports events won another gold medal today with the release of a report showing that the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy, set new records in the quest for environmental sustainability in mass sports.

Some 70 per cent of greenhouse gases generated by the Games were offset by investing in forestry, energy efficiency and renewable energy schemes both at home and abroad, according to the report released at the Global Forum Sport and Environment (G-ForSE) in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“We are proud to have been associated with TOROC and even more delighted at their successes,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said, referring to the Torino Olympic Organizing Committee.

“Torino 2006, in which UNEP has been a partner, set targets and timetables across a wide range of environmental and sustainability criteria… I sincerely hope that the next Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, in 2010, along with operators of winter sports globally, pick up the Torino torch en route to the ultimate goal of realizing sustainable sporting events and leisure activities across the world,” he added.

A cornerstone of the ‘green’ effort was the Heritage Climate TORino (HECTOR) project designed to make the Games carbon neutral. The organizers calculated that the 16-day event would generate the equivalent of just over 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide with the main sources coming from transport and the operation of the venues.

Under HECTOR much of these emissions were offset by ‘credits’ in line with the international climate change treaty, such as financing renewable energy and sustainable energy projects. Some 5 million Euros were invested in domestic projects such as district heating projects, while internationally “verifiable emissions reductions” were purchased from certified green and cleaner energy projects in Eritrea, Mexico and Sri Lanka.

A tree planting project in Kenya, under UNEP’s Plant for the Planet initiative, also contributed.

Close to 700,000 tonnes of the 103,500 tonnes produced, or just over 67 per cent of the greenhouse gases are thus being offset and the local Piedmont region is looking at funding additional projects to offset the remaining third not covered under HECTOR.

Other eco-friendly schemes included water-saving measures, soil and land use rehabilitation, and waste management.

UNEP has been conducting a sports-wide campaign for major events and has already an agreement to make the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games the greenest ever, from cutting air, water and noise pollution to transport, landscaping and disposal of solid waste.

It reached a similar agreement with the International Football Federation (FIFA) for last summer’s World Cup in Germany, the “green Goal” project, and the score-card on that will be released tomorrow.

The two-day G-ForSE conference, organized by UNEP and the Global Sports Alliance, brings together some of the leading experts from around the world involved in sports and the environment.

These include architects, specialists in rainwater harvesting, energy experts, environmentalists, members of various sports organizations such as the Environment Director of the United States-base National Football League (NFL), and Olympic Federations such as the International Rowing Federation. During the meeting UNEP is scheduled to sign an agreement with a new partner – the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM).