Sports’ role in greening Earth | Sunday Observer

Sports’ role in greening Earth

Environmental pollution is a global crisis related to the exploitation of natural resources. People battle with natural disasters resulting from human activities every year. Among all the moves which stand to protect the environment, “Greening of Sports” is exceptional in terms of its intervention in preventing environmental pollution. Signifying World Environment Day on June 5, Dr. Samantha Nanayakkara, a renowned Sports Educationist from the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo, spoke to the Sunday Observer on how greening of sports could contribute to save the environment.

Q: Tell us what a sport is and how it functions in Sri Lanka?

Dr. Samantha Nanayakkara

A: History reveals how human life is interconnected and interacted with sports. It has become an important factor in society as people intend to involve in sports formally or informally for pleasure and for inter-personal relationships. Even though digitalisation and industrialisation challenged sports, people embraced sports to overcome health issues due to the lack of physical activities.

The rapid growth of consumerism of sports is powered by sports promotion businesses. Non-Governmental Organisations and Government organisations are committed to developing the sports industry. As a result, it highlights a positive growth in economic, political, social and cultural aspects.

It not only benefits health, but strengthens mutual connections between different cultures and religions. This can be named as a huge achievement, but on the other hand, mishandling sports holds a negative effect like environment pollution.

Q: How is sports involved in environmental pollution?

A: In fulfilling supply over demand in the sports industry, environmentalists point to long term and short term negative effects on the environment. Sound pollution is a short term effect caused by high volume loudspeakers and ice cream vendors. However, we can call it temporary as it ends when the event is over. But contests, such as off-road racing and other motor vehicular races cause the emission of toxic gases to the air while also creating sound pollution. A larger number of viewers put more weight on pollution by travelling in vehicles.

Resources, such as water and electricity are misused and wasted during sports events. This is obvious in sports events at night time. If they are held during daytime, the energy used to keep the stadium alive can be saved.

The negative outcomes of sports result in long-term permanent damage to the environment which is hard to recover. Deforestation and the construction of sports stadiums is a new trend. This harms the ecosystem and threatens biodiversity, particularly the endangered animals by destroying their natural habitats and by dumping construction waste and other disposals.

Even though polythene is banned, after a sports event plastic bottles and other non-degradable materials such as, food containers and plastic cups are carelessly thrown away by sports fans. Improper disposal of damaged sports equipment adds more weight to the issue.

Environmentalists have claimed the situation to be a global emergency as repercussions have emerged in the form of climate change and natural catastrophes.

Q: How can we enact the concept of ‘greening sports’?

A: The concept of ‘greening of sports’ should be put into action without delay. Researching on the factors that cause environmental pollution will provide the best guide to find solutions. By having information whether the sports event is merely for recreation or for competition, finding out whether the sport is outdoor or indoor, the amount of space allocated to the particular sport and the number of participants, such as sportsmen, event related staff and spectators would show the scale of pollution during an event. Implementing guidelines to minimise the use of food containers and encouraging people to use bicycles to reach the event could create a huge effect on reducing emission of CO2.

The quality of sports equipment plays a major role in the reduction of pollution. Low quality sports equipment are easily damaged. Categorising decaying and non- decaying sports equipment is a step towards the systematic process of disposing or recycling. It is the responsibility of event organisers.

Q: How do international sports communities react on this global issue?

A: The International Olympic Committee has paid attention to this growing issue and taken steps to minimise it while educating different communities around the world. The Olympic torch is eco-friendly as is ignited by the direct energy which symbolises the mutual bond between sports and nature. The sports and games in the Olympics recall the three main concepts in the International Olympic Committee: sports, culture and environment. The 21st clause in the Olympic Charter said that it is important to maintain an environment which comforts the health of competitors during practices and throughout the competition. The International Olympic Committee has joined the United Nations to work on projects to protect the environment.

Since the London Olympics, the event of releasing pigeons that symbolise peace and harmony was cancelled. The firework at the opening ceremony of Olympics was also cancelled as it created adverse effects on the atmosphere. The organisers of sports competitions under the International Olympic Committee are advised to minimise the use of plastic bottles and people are encouraged to reuse them.

This regulation is strictly obeyed during competitions such as, surfing, sailing, athletics, rugby, golf, triathlon and ice hockey. For instance, ‘Volvo Ocean Race’, the superficial yacht racing held under the supervision of the International Sailing Federation covers 45, 000 miles through eight months while following rules with regard to plastic use and educating people around the world about clean ocean use.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) also follows specific rules and regulations on environment conservation. People are educated to dispose materials according to their physical quality.

They have initiated major projects which alter the life of garbage to the next level. They have succeeded in making bio gas and compost manure out of decaying disposals. Non- decaying materials are directed to recycling plants.

The UK has supported the concept of ‘greening of sports’ by banning the intake of plastic materials to events at the Oval Stadium in London. They provide drinking water for free and have also given reusable water bottles to spectators. The Twichenham rugby field, the largest rugby field in England has earned the reputation for being eco-friendly.

The spectators get coffee in degradable cups and by having a second coffee in the same cup the spectator could earn one pound for being eco-friendly. The organisers of London marathon events have initiated the use of degradable cups instead of plastic and have increased spots providing drinking water.

During the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in 2018, releasing Helium balloons in the air was omitted to prevent air pollution. The spectators were encouraged to have their own supply of water. The distribution of plants at the end of an event has become popular nowadays. At the 2016 Olympics held in Rio, Brazil ‘the greening of sports’ concept was put into action with the participation of athletes and sportsmen.

Q: Is Sri Lanka ready to go ‘green’ in the sports industry?

A: On some occasions, we see how the youth get together and clean the stadiums after international cricket matches. But a few people are engaged in this.

Educating people and implementing rules and regulations are essential to overcome the issue. Giving away a plant along with the award is a good concept that should be introduced to the Sri Lankan sports culture. Banning the use of polythene by the Central Environment Authority is a good step.

Consumerism of spectators isn’t under observation by the officials in charge of sports.

It is high time the Sri Lankan sports officials focus on environmental conservation. The Central Environment Authority must participate in quality survey to avoid the deforestation of lush green areas.

National sports organisations, provincial sports organisations and the commercial organisations must be provided with a set of principles with regard to environment conservation during sports events.

A sports environment management unit is appropriate to keep the environment clean.

The Ministry of Sports and the Central Environment Authority should collaborate to work on the rules and regulations implemented by the International Olympic Committee and work on educating people and sports leaders Islandwide.