About UNEP, Sport and the Environment

There is growing consideration for the environment in the world of sports. The Olympic Movement, for instance, has incorporated the environment into its charter, alongside sport and culture.

It has a Sport and Environment Commission to advise it on environment-related policy and has developed an Agenda 21 for sport and the environment to encourage its members to play an active part in sustainable development.

Among the fruits of these initiatives was the first ever ‘green’ Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000, which showed clearly how development opportunities provided by the Games can be used to benefit the community and the environment. Since then UNEP has worked on both the Beijing and Vancouver Games and is planning with London and Sochi how to green future games.

UNEP started its work on sport and the environment in 1994 its objectives are to:

Promote the integration of environmental considerations in sports

There is growing consideration for the environment in the world of sports. The Olympic Movement, for instance, has incorporated the environment into its charter, alongside sport and culture. It has a Sport and Environment Commission to advise it on environment-related policy and has developed an Agenda 21 for sport and the environment to encourage its members to play an active part in sustainable development.

Among the fruits of these initiatives was the first ever ‘green’ Olympic Games. The Sydney 2000 Games were an advert for how the development opportunities provided by the Olympic Games can be used to benefit the community and the environment. The success of the Sydney Games will be felt far and wide. UNEP is now working with the Organizing Committees of the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics and the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games so they too can include environmental protection in their planning. Initial contacts have also been established with organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada.

Use the popularity of sports to promote environmental awareness and respect for the environment among the public, especially young people

The most significant way sport can benefit the environment and sustainable development is through its popularity. Sports stars are among the world’s most famous and revered people. They display qualities we all need: courage, application, refusal to submit to adversity, leadership. Their potential as ambassadors, as promoters of sustainable ways of living, is enormous.

The power for good that sport represents can be harnessed and channeled to help make our world a better place. By virtue of its prominence and influence, sport can become a powerful agent for change, leading society at large. It can lead by example, showing other sectors and the general public the road to and the benefits of sustainability.

Sports organizations can act as catalysts to protect and enhance the environment. They can work with government and industry to encourage them to bolster their attempts to improve environmental conditions. Sport has the power to unite people around common projects that benefit the natural environment and the community. An excellent example is the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA).

Environmental guidelines for Olympic Games

The 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway set new standards for mega-sports events. It ensured that future sports events would be required to include environmental measures as part of their basic mandates. The Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee received the UNEP Global 500 Award in 1994 for setting environmental standards which were absent from previous Olympic games.


The stadium in Lillehammer was designed to save energy in a cold climate

Environmental Guidelines for the Summer Olympics were developed to guide Olympic hosts to ensure that facilities are constructed in a more environmentally friendly manner. The Guidelines were successfully used in the Sydney Olympic Games. As a result, the organizers of the Sydney Games were honoured with the Global 500 Award in 2001 for organizing the greenest games ever.

Since 2002, UNEP has participated in a task force of the UN Secretary-General on the use of sport for the implementation of the United Nations Development Goals. A major aspect of UNEP’s work is with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). A cooperative agreement was signed in 1994 with IOC and an Agenda 21 for Sport and Environment developed. UNEP also supports the IOC in organizing world conferences and regional seminars on sport and the environment.


Solar panels provided power to the regatta timing tower in Sydney

UNEP also cooperates with the Global Sports Alliance (GSA), a Japan-based organization, to organize a biennial Global Forum for Sport and Environment. UNEP and GSA established, a Nature and Sport Training Camp in August 2001 for children from Africa’s biggest slum, Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. In February 2003, at the UNEP Governing Council in Nairobi, Kenya, UNEP’s work in the area of sport and environment received uninamous endorsement by governments. A long-term strategy on sport and the environment - adopted by the Council - required UNEP to increase its work on sport and the environment. On this basis, UNEP is approaching various international and sport organizations for partnerships.