Large sporting events: having fun and protecting the environment

Large sporting events such as the Olympic Games or the Football World Championships can carry messages effectively to a wide audience of people around the world. Firstly, these events are always huge media events with enormous reach and, secondly, messages can be communicated on an emotional level, which increases their efficiency. In this way environmental protection is a message that can be communicated into the homes of viewers as well as to local clubs and amateur sports.

The organizers of large-scale sporting events of this kind can also send a positive signal to small clubs and events by implementing measures to reduce the environmentally harmful impacts of the event they are organizing. Negative impacts on the climate and the environment are the constant companions of sporting events of any size – small or large. For example, greenhouse gas emissions arise during the journeys of the athletes and fans to and from the events, and as a result of high energy consumption. Flyers, paper plates and plastic cups also produce immense quantities of waste; and sensitive open areas are often detrimentally affected.

Appropriate measures can contribute to reducing the negative environmental impacts. Oeko-Institut is involved in different projects aiming to make major sporting events more environmentally-friendly and to embed environmental protection more strongly in the sporting sphere.

Green Champions 2.0 – Internet portal for event organizers

Oeko-Institut has developed – in cooperation with the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) and the German Sport University (DSHS) of Cologne – the internet portal “Green Champions 2.0”.

Portal "Green Champions 2.0" (in German language)

The portal allows organizers of sporting events of any size to learn about appropriate environmental protection measures for their event. It provides best practice examples and information about suitable environmental measures in the areas of transport, energy and resource consumption, waste management, catering and merchandising, nature and landscape, and sustainability management. Development of the portal was funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, and builds upon the practical guidelines elaborated by Oeko-Institut and the German Sport University of Cologne ("Green Champions for Sport and Environment. Guide to environmentally-sound large sporting events").

Green Goal! Environmental concepts of 2006 and 2011

For the 2006 Football World Cup and the 2011 Women's Football World Cup, the German Football Association (DFB) commissioned Oeko-Institut to prepare and implement an environmental concept for each event, with the aim of keeping negative environmental impacts as low as possible. Within the scope of the “Green Goal 2011” project, Oeko-Institut analysed the then status of all nine World Cup stadiums in Germany and implemented measures of environmental and climate protection in collaboration with the stadium operators. These measures include the introduction of an environmental management system, the across-the-board use of returnable cups, organic catering and the installation of water-saving sanitary fittings. Particularly challenging in this context was the consideration of typical usage patterns of a football stadium with peak loads on days on which games are played and the relatively quiet in-between periods. These patterns include a great potential for efficiency improvements. For the researchers at Oeko-Institut it was important not only to ascribe measures of the environmental program to the stadiums, but also to incorporate as many of the people involved as possible.

Green Champions for Sport and Environment. Guide to environmentally-sound large sporting events

Green Goal™ – Legacy Report (Environmental Concept for the 2006 FIFA World Cup)

Large sporting events as a model for the future

From the perspective of Oeko-Institut, the environmental concepts for the Football World Cups in 2006 and 2011 were a success for greater environmental protection at major sporting events. But it is crucial that environmental sustainability considerations are now incorporated in the many sports clubs in Germany and generally in grassroots sport. If one looks at the greenhouse gas emissions for example, much higher emissions arise on the level of local sport clubs, their events and day-to-day operation than as a result of the relatively low number of large sporting events.