27 Apr 2015

Spotlight : Sports and Energy Footprint !

The cricket world cup just got over and now it’s time for football Champions league and IPL. Sports as recreation existed since centuries but the current era has changed its dimensions drastically. Sports have become a global phenomena. The digital media enables you to enjoy your favorite sport, happening at any corner of the world to your comfort place. Competitions have gone international and the world is competing for glory each day. I see everything through the lens of environmental impact and the picture of sports does not please me. My concerns are on the carbon footprint of each big tournament for each sport and how this is becoming more vicious and recursive. Starting with cricket as it relates to India very closely. As a cricket fan I am aware of following major tournaments: a world cup every four years, a T20 world cup also every two years, IPL each year, a Champions league each year and various domestic leagues in continents. Apart from these there are numerous other cricket tours and series among the cricket teams. If I just narrow myself to 60 matches that are played in IPL each year, let’s look at the environmental impact of it.  For each single match the entire teams travel by flights and so do the cricket fans. There are so many other things to consider that leave a carbon footprint for every game played: the live transmission on TV and live streaming on internet, all advertising, power consumption for floodlights and other electronics in stadium, transportation of everything, transportation/stay of players, fans and off course, a lot of plastics. Imagine this is true for every league, every tour that happens throughout the world for cricket. This accounts to a huge carbon footprint which I do not see getting compensated anywhere.
IPL Schedule 2015 Cricket
60 matches in IPL 2015

With football, the story is similar but it amplifies owing it to be the most popular sport of the world. There are multiple leagues each year, much more than cricket, like UEFA Champions league, Premier league, La Liga and many others. Football world cup has its different charm altogether. There are bids fought to host the cup and a global competition unleashes every four years. While the environmental impacts are same as I discussed for cricket, another perspective I couldn't have thought until I learnt when Qatar won the bid for 2022 cricket world cup. The harsh environmental conditions of Qatar are to be countered with cooling systems for the venues, though claimed to be carbon neutral as it will use solar energy only, there are 9 new venues that will be constructed to host the show. That leaves behind a huge footprint of pollution and resource consumption, again not discussed or compensated for. And there is a huge debate about the working condition of migrant workers for these constructions. The human rights of migrant workers (mostly Nepalese) with dozens already dead and projected 4000+ deaths by 2022, tells the cost of our entertainment.

Bidding to host a game and constructing new stadiums is not new. It happens for Olympics and Commonwealth games too. There is always a debate about the sites where they are brought up, the environmental impact and human rights of the people relocated. The commonwealth games in New Delhi showed another dirty side called corruption. Are we paying too much cost for entertainment?

FIFA Football World Cup
      Protestors gather outside FIFA's headquarters in Zurich
The saga is same for other sports as well, be it baseball, basketball or hockey, though impacts are in different dimensions or levels. One last sport I want to touch is Formula one. Each year 15-20 championships at each corner of the world and each team travel with their cars and full equipment on air. Typically each race require accommodation and travel of 5000 visitors and their equipment. The sport itself has its emissions and the fans who travel from all over the world also to be counted.

FIA Formula One World Championship Racing

All discussed above worries me and should worry everyone residing on this planet. And this is becoming more and more recursive. The economic gap that exists in the world today has left the power to drive, almost everything, in the hands of top 1% capital holders of this world (holding 99% of global capital).

The sports and entertainment are driven hence by the funders at the top who are gaining more and more revenues from each league, each tournament. The bids at IPL auctions tell how much these houses are gaining from the events. On other side there will never be a shortage of viewers to support the TRPs and hence funding through advertisements. Lately, with upcoming leagues for almost all other sports like badminton, tennis, hockey and even Kabaddi, the picture that cannot be ignored and some solutions need to be worked upon.

I cannot run away by putting a problem and not suggesting any solution to it. I myself am a big fan of cricket. Sports are important and have a lot of positive impact on our societies. They bring people together, bring perspectives together, motivate you for physical activity and the lessons you gain about team work and sportsmanship are priceless. We cannot stop the viewers from watching these sports, in fact they should not, but there needs to be a voice at a global level to look over the carbon footprint of these events and ensure they are neutralized. There are regulations for carbon emissions for industries, enforced in some countries (recently Chile). If same can be ensured for the sports events also we can be sure of a sustainable future for sports as well. Some examples have already been set. The Winter Olympics of 2010, in Vancouver, were the first carbon neutral games of history. This shows the power of renewable energy and how we can look forward to neutralize all these sport events. We evolved as a society where many viewpoints prevail, but one common thing that we all share is our precious planet and a responsibility to sustain it. Environmental footprint should be in agenda of each sport event being organized, that should be discussed and explicitly neutralized to the extent possible. Viewers share responsibility to be considerate about what they watch, their individual footprint and show support towards sustainable future of sports.

(Written by Gaganpreet Singh, a passionate adventurer and nature lover, working with Microsoft as a Software Engineer. He is also associated with a social initiative 'Joy of Reading' )




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