World Cup: environmental red card?

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Temps de lecture : 2 minutes  

The second round of the World Cup began this weekend and it is the perfect occasion to take a look at the impact such a sporting event can have on the environment, explains Nathalie Durand, the managing director of the French Observatory of Sport and Sustainable Development.

What impact does an event like the World Cup have on the environment?

International sporting events are increasingly spectacular and their impact on the environment is therefore likely to be ever- increasing. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimated that 2.75 million tons of CO2 will be emitted during the World Cup compared to 1.18 million during the Olympic Games in Beijing last year. Moreover, there will be consequences in terms of waste and water consumption, and there will also be social consequences. The country could be turned into a huge theme park and people might forget about the local population.

Did the organisers take steps to make sure the World Cup would be mindful of the population and the environment ?

These matters are gradually growing in prominence. The FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa and the city of Cape Town joined forces for the “Green Goal 2010” program (1) to reduce waste, promote ecotourism, install energy-saving urban equipment, plant trees in host towns… Moreover, the stadiums were built with these factors in mind. In Durban for example, energy efficiency has been improved and a reservoir has been installed to collect rainwater and recycle water used for watering. But the effort must be shared : being a supporter does not merely boil down to admiring performances. Sport goes hand in hand with values like solidarity and ethics and everyone, from organisers and sportsmen to the public, should remain true to this spirit.

So it’s more of a ‘green card’ then?

No, because the actions are not yet wide-ranging enough and there is no global strategy. A few examples : the thousands of jobs that were created are temporary and badly paid. Pedlars are not allowed near the stadium, the tickets are too expensive for most South Africans and there is a stark contrast between the brand new stadiums and neighbouring housing with no water or electricity.

Moreover, according to Raquel Rolnik, a UN expert on Human Rights, at least 20 000 people were evicted from Cape Town because of the World Cup. All this also raises questions on the long term use of the new equipment and the effect it will have on local populations.

However, the media exposure of an event like the World Cup can be used to further certain causes. It is estimated that the event will attract 35 billion viewers. That is 5 billion more than in 1998. Hence why the United Nations took advantage of the World Cup to launch the “1 goal: Education for All” campaign.

(1) Supported and funded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Interview by Caroline Hocquard.

This interview is taken from the 14th issue of Néoplanète.

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