From running and swimming to skiing and biking, sport is an ideal way to connect with nature. But to continue enjoying our favourite physical activities, we must urgently protect the environment on which they depend. Following on from last week’s theme on gender equality, this week FASANOC takes a look at the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) initiatives on sustainability.
“As challenging and difficult as the circumstances may appear right now, if we draw the right lessons from the current situation, we can shape our future to even strengthen the relevance of our Olympic Movement in the world,” said the IOC President Thomas Bach in his recent letter addressed to the Olympic Movement.
“Therefore we should drive further the reforms of Olympic Agenda 2020, in particular with regard to sustainability, in order to address this crisis.”
In 1996, a clause on the importance of the environment and sustainable development was included in the Olympic Charter.
Today, sustainability is a key element of Olympic Agenda 2020 – the IOC’s reform programme introduced in 2014. It has become our guiding principle: when making decisions, we do everything we can to maximise their positive impact and minimise any negative impact in the social, economic and environmental spheres.
As an organisation IOC has taken an innovative approach with its new Headquarters 'Olympic House' considered one of the most sustainable buildings in the world, having received three of the most prestigious sustainable building certifications. The building’s rooftop solar panels produce electricity, while heating and cooling are generated using water from nearby Lake Geneva.
Olympic House is also home to eight hydrogen-powered vehicles and a hydrogen fuelling station – one of the first of its kind in Switzerland. Provided by Worldwide Olympic Partner Toyota, the fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) emit only water vapour and air.
Already carbon neutral thanks to its Official Carbon Partner Dow, the IOC now aims to become climate positive. This will include planting – in collaboration with UN Environment Programme –an Olympic Forest, which will be part of Africa’s Great Green Wall initiative. More than planting carbon-capturing trees, the Olympic Forest will provide wide-ranging social benefits to local wildlife and communities.
The IOC catalyses change by working with a variety of entities from across the Olympic Movement. These include International Sports Federations, National Olympic Committees, athletes, and the wider sports community.
The IOC offers technical support and publish guidelines to support them on their sustainability journey. The “Sustainability Essentials” series, for example, provides guidance to the Olympic Movement and the broader sports community on complex topics such as addressing plastic pollution, sustainable sourcing and climate action.
Through IOC's partnership with International Union for Conservation of Nature, a series of Sport and Biodiversity guides was developed to show how the sports community can avoid potential negative impacts on nature while contributing to and enhancing its conservation.
“Sport needs its athletes to be fit, but it also needs a fit and healthy planet in order to survive,” said Marie Sallois, IOC Director for Sustainability. “By inspiring innovative solutions, raising awareness and uniting people, sport has the unique power to make the world a better and more sustainable place.”
In Fiji, the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (FASANOC), through its Voices of the Athletes (VOA) Programme, encourages its athletes and sports administrators to be at the forefront of protecting the environment and raising awareness of its importance not only during World Environment Day which was on the 5th of June, 2020 but every day.
VOA Coordinator Jeegar Bhavsar said part of the VOA programme was a "Go Green" component which tackled issues concerning the environment.
"Our champions, are athletes who have represented the country, advocating on particular topics pertaining to the environment which includes marine life and plastic pollution," he said.
Jeegar said because of the current coronavirus pandemic, they are unable to organise the champions and conduct training and workshops at the moment.
"We are following in the footsteps of the IOC's environmental journey which began nearly 30 years ago at the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992," he said.
"And just recently our athletes have been taking a keen interest in minimising ecological footprints, protecting the environment and raising awareness about its importance to our communities."
FASANOC Chief Executive Lorraine Mar said that the FASANOC VOA programme was a means of placing sport at the service of society and in this instance by advocating on the importance of a sustainable environment and positively promoting its care, FASANOC hoped it was making a valuable contribution towards a cleaner and safer home for athletes and communities. She also acknowledged the support of the IOC and the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) towards the FASANOC VOA program.