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World Conference on Sport and the Environment 2009 Convenes in Canada

Olympic hosts, hopefuls and head honchos from around the globe are gathered in Vancouver BC for a two-day crash course in sustainability -- the eighth World Conference on Sport and the Environment.

Prince Albert of Monaco photo on EnergyPriorities.com

His Serene Highness Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco, IOC member and former Olympic athlete, addresses representatives of the IOC, several Olympic host nations, and other major sports event organizers, at a conference in Vancouver about environmental sustainability. (Energy Priorities photo)

The World Conference on Sport and the Environment is a conference about sustainability in the Olympics and other sporting events. The International Olympic Committee and the United Nations Environment Programme stage WCSE every two years in the upcoming Games' host country. The Winter Olympics are coming to Vancouver BC in 2010, and hundreds of delegates have converged here from around the world.

Thanks to those readers who sent e-mails and tweets with your questions. Your topics ranged from best practices, to greenwashing; and from how much carbon dioxide, to why people attend the conference.

The attendees and speakers here are serious about the power of big sports events to promote environmental sustainability. The IOC promotes the sharing of best practices between past and future host countries. When it comes to sustainability, WCSE is the platform for that collaboration. For any country with a bid to host the Olympics (I met a group of delegates from Germany, which is bidding for the 2018 Games), WCSE is something of a sustainability school. Other related, closed meetings are being held in conjunction with the conference.

Greenwashing and the need for third-party verification have been the topic of some panel questions and hallway discussion, but otherwise WCSE has been very optimistic about the greenness of various sporting events, most notably Vancouver 2010.


 
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Many delegates are here from countries that are not Olympic hosts and have no bid to become one. Some are looking for ideas and best practices for sustainability; some want to learn to use sports as a way to reach youth with a message of environmental responsibility. BC Premier Gordon Campbell said in a luncheon discussion that young people in all countries view high-profile athletes as role models because the athletes are successful. As a delegate from Africa told me, "young people don't attend conferences, they do attend sporting events."

2010 Olympic sponsor companies are well represented among the delegates and on the panels. I spoke with Coca-Cola executives about the company's intention to be carbon neutral with respect to all of their 2010 Olympics-related activities. Coca-Cola made a detailed announcement on the eve of WCSE.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee today made a less-detailed announcement of its plan to offset carbon dioxide emissions, which has been the subject of speculation about just how "green" the 2010 Olympic Games would be. The Suzuki Foundation in 2007 estimated the CO2 emissions from the 2010 Games to be 330,000 tons. VANOC intends to find sponsors who will offset 300,000 tons of CO2. VANOC is going for the lesser amount because it still intends to find more ways to reduce its carbon footprint, before arranging offsets. The goal is more ambitious than past Olympics. Linda Coady, VP of Sustainability for VANOC, told Reuters, "We have expanded the scope by taking in air travel and starting when VANOC started," to include venue construction as well as the Games.

WCSE's blue-chip speaker list includes IOC member and former Olympian Prince Albert of Monaco, BC Premier Gordon Campbell, many members of IOC and the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee, and many others.

If you weren't following @cleantech on Twitter, here's a summary of today's stream:

Keynotes: environment is the "third pillar" of Olympic sports. Keeping it above global econ mess is #1 challenge.

VANOC's CEO Furlong: "it is simply not possible to totally eliminate carbon emissions from the 2010 Winter Games."

Olympic Games would produce an estimated 110,000 tons of direct carbon emissions and 220,000 tons from air travel.

Thomas Van Dyck supports both carbon tax and cap/trade policies, says neither alone will work. [BC has recently passed a carbon tax.]

Erich Vogt: "World Bank might become the World Environment Bank" at G-20 in London. Climate drives econ development. [Vogt said the economic recovery will "ride piggy-back on the booster rocket of climate protection." He also said that doping threatened the credibility of sports and thus its influence on public opinion.]

IOC's Felli: "Sustainable Sport and Event Toolkit" profiles best practices of Olympic Organizing Committees. [The toolkit is a collaborative effort and is also available to non-Olympic organizations.]

Prince Albert of Monaco & BC Premier Gordon Campbell hamming it up for the cameras with 2 Olympians. [2010 sponsor and regional electric utility BC Hydro staged the photo opp.]

Russia's sustainability guy for the Sochi 2014 winter olympics outlined climate-related measures being planned there.

Ann Duffy speaking about supply chain -- Using spotlight & purchasing power of 2010 Olympics to achieve environment benefits.

David Stubbs - London 2012 will set new standards for sustainability. "LOCOG has 1 shot to get it right," unlike longer-term organizations that can learn from trial and error.

Every language imaginable at the reception, people from around the world here to learn about sports & sustainability.

Protesters outside say the "Greed Olympics" & sponsors cause environmental & social damage.


The conference concludes tomorrow.

Comments

"BC Premier Gordon Campbell said in a luncheon discussion that young people in all countries view high-profile athletes as role models" what's sadder, that politicians push this idea or that it's true? pro athletes are the last group that young people should look up to for just about every reason imaginable, including: they're immature; becoming one has the longest odds of any conceivable future; they sacrifice everything in life for a highly specialized and all-but irrelevant skill set; they burn out young, usually with life-changing injuries; and they contribute virtually nothing positive to the world.

enjoyed catching up on your tweets from the past two days ! I was very intrigued by the commitment by those presenting and attending to truly take on tasks to make a difference. It was also very inspiring to hear David Chernushenko's summary of the session, given that he had attended many in the past. It truly reflected a progress report. He also commented at lunch on day one that it used to be so hard to get into corporates and sponsors on environmental action...really great to see corporate sponsors embracing the opportunity. As official beer supplier to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games,we look forward to playing our part and are finalizing those plans over the next couple of months. Cheers.

Cool magazine! I just stumbled on it and now I’m a dedicated reader.

'15 green sports venues' by Katharine Wroth http://www.grist.org/article/2009-04-07-15-green-sports-venues/