Tokyo 2020 Olympics paved the way for low-carbon sporting events, study finds

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A study on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has given clues as to how international sports competitions can reduce their environmental impact.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics demonstrated that major international sporting events can significantly reduce their carbon footprint, if organizers are willing to make some changes, according to a new study from Japan’s Chukyo University.

A team of researchers came to this conclusion after looking at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the carbon emissions of last year’s Olympic Games – pushed back from their original 2020 date due to international lockdown measures. .

The results showed a dramatic decrease in the environmental impact of the competition, compared to that of previous years, and shed light on possible actions that major international events can take in the future to contribute to decarbonization efforts.

Due to the pandemic, the number of incoming event-related personnel who attended the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was significantly reduced from 141,000 to 41,000 participants.

The researchers did not examine the number of spectators, who were not allowed to fly into the country to watch the Games. Instead, they looked at the number of people who attended the competition as part of the International Olympic Committee, as well as officials, including referees and judges, media and marketing partners.

According to the study, this staff reduction saved 129,686.0 tCO2 in travel-related broadcasts.

“Our results indicate that taking action to reduce the number of event-related staff attending the Olympics is an important strategy that aims to mitigate the carbon footprint of sporting mega-events,” said Prof. James Higham, one of the authors of the article.

To determine the reduction in emissions from the recent Olympics, the researchers first identified the number of people visiting Japan on temporary visitor visas in July last year and subtracted the number of Olympic athletes, followed by visitors to Japan in June to account for non-Olympic visa holders.

Then the team estimated round-trip flight distance (miles) and CO2 emissions (kg) per passenger between major and hub airports in each country and region and Narita International Airport using a carbon calculator of flight, and calculated the results in multiplying the number of incoming (international) Olympics-related personnel (30,212) by the air transport carbon emissions per passenger for each country and region.

“It shows that there is huge potential to reduce the carbon footprint of the Olympics in terms of transport and people traveling overseas to attend,” said Higham.

Although the document suggests that all future events should take place in empty stadiums, the researchers pointed out that reducing unnecessary staff and taking measures to combat the carbon emissions caused by major sports competitions can have an impact. important on the environment.

Some of the report’s suggestions for decarbonizing international sporting events include finding local or regional officials, providing opportunities for virtual reality livestreams and online press conferences, and ensuring that all unavoidable emissions related to events are encrypted. Higham also pointed out that event sponsors may be challenged to report their event-related emissions to leverage their commitment to a low-carbon event.

“We have to challenge ourselves to decarbonize these types of sporting events,” Higham said. “Small first steps will inevitably lead to bigger changes over time.”

In addition to a reduction in Olympic Games-related staff, the organization of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 has also demonstrated a commitment to sustainability by reuse or recycle 99% of non-consumable items purchased for the Games, use hydrogen to power the Olympic torch and manufacture the 5,000 medals awarded to athletes from precious metals extracted from discarded electronic devices.

The Games has also involved businesses in its decarbonization plans. By establishing a cap and trade program as well as the Saitama Target Emissions Trading System, up to 217 companies provided certified excess reduction credits, amounting to 4.38 million t-CO2 available to offset the Games. This amount exceeded the calculated total carbon footprint of the competition, 1.96 million t-CO2, by 2.42 million t-CO2.

Moreover, in order to ensure that future Olympic Games continue on the path of sustainability, the International Olympic Committee has pledged to plant an “Olympic Forest” over the next four or five years. The forest will be formed of more than 350,000 trees spanning an area of ​​more than 2,000 hectares in nearly a hundred villages in Mali and Senegal in what is better known as the Sahel region, said the Committee.

Some of these measures could possibly be applied in the future to other sporting events, such as the FIFA World Cup. According to a 2020 study, FIFA staff have the largest individual carbon footprint when hosting this competitiona number that could be reduced by decisions similar to those made by the organizers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

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