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Green Ambitions: Can the Paris 2024 Olympics Set a New Standard for Sustainable Events?



As the Paris 2024 Olympics approach, the spotlight will be on athletes achieving remarkable feats. Titles like the fastest, strongest, bravest, and greatest will be awarded. Yet, the environmental cost of these events often goes unspoken. Our planet, akin to an exhausted marathon runner, continues to be pushed beyond its limits.

Large-scale events such as the Olympics, football World Cups, and international music tours generate significant environmental impacts. This raises a critical question: can such events ever be truly sustainable?

The Paris 2024 organising committee has emphasised sustainability by declaring their commitment to delivering the first Olympic Games fully aligned with the Olympic Agenda 2020. They are aiming to halve the carbon footprint of these Games compared to previous ones through innovative solutions in energy, food, venues, transport, and digital services.

Decarbonising Major Events

Sam Booth, AEG Europe’s Director of Sustainability, oversees efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of numerous high-profile venues and events. AEG Europe manages various renowned venues and organises significant events, including BST Hyde Park, Country 2 Country, and the Eden Sessions.

 

Paris 2024 aims to reduce carbon emissions by 50% compared to the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games. Their comprehensive carbon budget covers all planning and operations, including indirect emissions from spectator travel. Most of the competition venues are either pre-existing or temporary, and new constructions use low-carbon methods.

Booth highlights that while achieving net zero emissions is not feasible now, significant steps are being taken. For instance, AEG Europe’s catering partner, Levy UK, has pledged net zero food menus by 2025. Retrofitting older venues for sustainability is challenging and costly, but necessary steps are being taken, such as exploring renewable energy options.

Performers can also play a crucial role in advocating for sustainability. Sam mentions that some artists are hesitant, but initiatives like The 1975's carbon-removed concert show potential for influence.

The Legacy of Sustainable Mega Events

Dan Reading, Co-Founder of Sporting Giants, acknowledges the contradiction in the term "sustainable mega event" but believes in creating a lasting positive impact. Drawing from his experience with London 2012 and World Sailing, he illustrates how major events can drive industry-wide changes, such as the push for sustainable support boats for Paris 2024.

Reading stresses the importance of legacy in these efforts. Capturing success stories and learning from challenges are vital for future events. Sustainability must become an integral part of event management, with sponsorship and fan engagement playing key roles in promoting sustainable practices.

The journey to truly sustainable major events is long and complex, but initiatives like those seen at Paris 2024 and within AEG Europe are crucial steps forward. The goal is to ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy these pinnacle events while preserving the planet we all rely on.


In line with these efforts, CAFA is dedicated to driving significant change within the association sector, mirroring the proactive sustainability measures championed by events such as the Paris 2024 Olympics and the ISO 20121:24 Event Sustainability Management Systems Standard.

By empowering membership organisations to align with global initiatives aimed at sustainability, CAFA assists in setting the stage for a more sustainable future. This approach not only supports environmental stewardship but also positions these organisations as leaders in fostering lasting positive impacts on a global scale.

 

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