Everybody loves sports and loves watching their favourite team or athlete triumph, but every game and sporting event leaves our planet more polluted. The harsh reality is that major sporting events contribute significantly to environmental degradation.

Prestigious tournaments like the FIFA World Cup, Olympic Games, Grand Slam tennis events, and Formula 1 championships have substantial environmental footprints. For instance, on average, the Olympic Games generate about 3.5 million tons of CO2 emissions. A significant portion comes from the construction of new stadiums and infrastructure, fan travel by air, and operational aspects like cooling systems.

While playing sports makes us fitter and healthier, it is important to keep our planet healthy as well. That is why sustainability should be a crucial priority for sporting bodies and events, to allow us to keep enjoying the magic of sports without destroying our environment.

Embracing the Sustainable Path
In recent times, major sports organizations have begun recognizing the need for eco-friendly practices. Governing bodies like FIFA, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and various other sports federations have announced initiatives and roadmaps for reducing emissions, managing waste responsibly, and nurturing sustainable infrastructure. However, implementation has been slow, and much more needs to be done through consistent actions.

The future hosting of prestigious tournaments provides an opportunity for nations to set new benchmarks in green event management regarding renewable energy usage, waste reduction, public transport solutions, and raising fan awareness.

Leading by Example

  • Bengaluru’s Chinnaswamy Cricket Stadium was the first stadium to install Rooftop Solar panels. This helps the stadium generate around 40,000 units of electricity, massively reducing both the carbon footprint as well as electricity costs. 
  • Formula E, a motorsport series introduced in 2012 has been recognised as the most sustainable sport. The cars used in this racing sport are fully electric, being the only motorsport event to do so. Apart from this, Formula E also helps promote the development and adoption of Electrical Vehicles.
  • England’s Forest Green Rovers F.C. in 2018 became the first football club to be certified carbon neutral under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The United Nations also recognised the club as the world’s first carbon-neutral club and FIFA called it the “greenest club in the world”. They achieved it by building a stadium running on solar energy, implementing rainwater harvesting, and maintaining a vegan approach to the stadium’s food offerings.

Such initiatives pave the way for wider adoption of sustainable practices at all levels of global sport.

Outstanding Events

  • The 2022 World Cup in Qatar featured solar-powered air conditioning, reused water for landscaping, and modular stadium infrastructure for reassembly elsewhere.
  • The 2026 FIFA World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico plans to be the first carbon-neutral World Cup.
  • The 2020 Tokyo Olympics incorporated extensive recycling programs, renewable energy sources, and reusable construction materials.

By learning from such best practices while considering local climatic and infrastructural challenges, sporting bodies worldwide can craft contextual sustainability roadmaps.

The Way Forward
Reducing environmental impact requires a multi-party approach involving government policies, corporate initiatives, economic incentives and increased public environmental consciousness. But the sports community, with its universal popularity, can be a powerful catalyst for change by inspiring fans across the globe.

Sports stars can raise awareness and promote action on key sustainability themes like conserving water, managing waste responsibly, switching to renewable energy sources and embracing energy efficiency. Even simple steps like using reusable water containers at games and using public transport to travel can make a difference when multiplied by millions of fans.

Ultimately, balancing humanity’s passion for sports with preserving a habitable planet for future generations is both an obligation and an opportunity. As the world embraces sports as a unifying force, a sustainable approach will determine whether we celebrate our future athletic glories on a withering or thriving Earth. The choice is ours to make.