On Earth Day, 22 April, a first of its kind guide for organizers of international sports events was launched by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The guide has been prepared by the IUCN in collaboration with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Any sports events depend on a healthy natural environment and their organisers should take concrete steps to protect it, the IUCN said in a press note.
The guide, “Mitigating biodiversity impacts of sports events,” offers advice to sports event organisers on how to reduce the impact on biodiversity and promote its conservation throughout all phases of event planning. The IUCN notes that sporting events attract some of the largest audiences, creating an opportunity to create public awareness about the value of nature and encourage people to support conservation.
“A healthy environment is essential to successful sports events as it is to society at large. We know that we can enjoy sports and celebrate our athletes while managing the environmental impacts of these events,” said IUCN Acting Director General, Dr Grethel Aguilar. “As this new guide shows, sports events can end in a win-win for both people and nature if they are planned, designed and executed with conservation goals in mind.”
According to the guide, there is increasing recognition by governments, regulators and athletes themselves that sports events need to be conducted in environmentally responsible ways. A number of sports events are already adopting good practices to reduce their environmental footprint and protect biodiversity.
The examples listed include the UK’s Royal Yachting Association, which joined forces with conservation charities in 2016 to support the ‘Check-Clean-Dry’ initiative, the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, which trained thousands of volunteers, workers and contractors to collect and recycle rubbish, and the London 2012 Organising Committee which carried out detailed ecological surveys with local nature conservation organisations to ensure that the road cycle race route would not disturb species-rich habitats.
“We see it as our responsibility to reduce our own impact on nature but also to use the power of sport to actively promote its protection,” says IOC Director General Christophe De Kepper. “This guide, which is the result of our ongoing collaboration with IUCN, shows clearly that it can be done. It highlights the crucial role event organisers can play to protect biodiversity, and by doing so, protect the future of sport.”
The guide provides a step-by-step approach throughout the different stages of the sport event lifecycle – from concept and strategic planning to the event delivery phase – that will help reduce risks to nature. Some of the actions include: conducting biodiversity impact assessments; ensuring the event’s lighting and sound systems do not disturb endangered wildlife near events; erecting barriers to ensure spectators do not disturb fragile ecosystems; taking action to stem the spread of invasive species; and, adopting good stewardship practices on site.
The IOC has placed sustainability at the centre of its reform programme, Olympic Agenda 2020. It is supporting the Olympic Movement and the broader sports community in tackling some of the world’s most critical challenges, such as climate change and biodiversity loss.
This guide is the third in a series produced by IUCN as part of a collaborative agreement with the IOC. The first report examined the overall links between sport and biodiversity, while the second report focused on minimising the environmental impact of new sporting venues. The IUCN has also provided advice on the candidature process for the Olympic Games 2024 and has undertaken other tasks related to the IOC’s sustainability strategy.
There is growing recognition of the need for sport and sports events to be conducted in socially and environmentally responsible ways and this is reflected in the attitudes of governments, public authorities and regulators. This means that taking a proactive and diligent approach to environmental management is a vital part of the sport sector’s licence to operate as well as growing and sustaining fan bases. Biodiversity conservation should be a key element in any environmentally responsible approach to sports event management. These guidelines focus on the often complex links between biodiversity and sport, and highlight that sports events can also benefit biodiversity.