The phases of a sports event

For both visitors and athletes, a sports event is essentially made up of the days or weeks when the competitions take place. Yet, the sports events themselves – especially those at the international scale – are only the tip of the iceberg: It includes everything from the venue application process to the often required extensive construction or modification of sports facilities, from the early planning of all areas concerned to infrastructure and visitor guidance. And it really only ends after the wrap-up work is completed: documentation, communication, assessment of energy and material flow, and often the dismantling of temporary constructions, too.

Preparation, execution and wrap-up can be roughly divided into five phases (see graphic). Each phase offers a variety of different approaches for making the relevant ecological issues – and the required concrete measures that come with them – as sustainable as possible.

Phase 1: Application and concept

Sports events are of great social significance, thereby also serving as models to follow. This is particularly true when it comes to environmental and climate protection. If questions of environmental protection are to be adequately taken into account at sports events, they must be addressed as early as in the application phase for, and conceptual planning of, the event. In the context of venue applications for major international sports events, this criterion is often included in the mandatory specifications. Even if no clear environmental specifications exist and environmental protection measures are basically optional, a customized ecological concept for such an event can result in a clear competitive advantage.

There certainly is no lack when it comes to legal requirements. In Germany, large sports events are subject to numerous laws and regulations both at the federal and regional levels. In addition, some local statutes, for example, stipulate that collected waste be sorted or that noise emission limits be set for large events in cities. Therefore, taking a legal view of environmental specifications as early as possible in the process can defuse potential legal and social conflict from the very start and possibly simplify the approval process as well.

Environmental protection saves you money. If, for instance, you calculate the energy and water consumption of your event early on and systematically minimize this consumption through modern technology or organizational measures, you will keep your costs down.

Phase 2: Constructing/modifying/extending sports facilities

For the most part, sports competitions are held in existing sports facilities, many of which are multi-purpose halls – the most sensible solution from an ecological point of view. Whenever facilities are too small, the construction of temporary facilities is an option for creating additional capacities. This may include tents for catering, medical treatment, restaurants and toilet facilities, media centres and offices, as well as patios and stages. Temporary buildings are becoming increasingly common due to the growing numbers of activities happening on the fringes of sports competitions, such as catering, shows, games or exhibitions. The relevant buildings for these activities are only needed for the duration of the event.

If a critical needs assessment shows that new buildings or modifications to existing structures are required, the course for an environmentally friendly operation should be set as early as the planning and construction stage. When the event is anything other than the Olympic Games, new buildings or modifications are typically carried out by the owners or operators of the sports facilities themselves, although the host or organizer of the event may also deliver them out. Even in such cases, the host and organizer are usually in a position to create a convincing environmental protection concept including the sustainable use of building materials and efficient building technology. Not only do efficient sports facilities make the specific sports event more environmentally friendly – they also constitute a “green legacy” for the future.

Phase 3: Planning a sports event

The focus of this phase is the organizational and technical implementation of environmental protection measures, such as decisions around who will be responsible for questions of environmental protection and what other relevant stakeholders will need to be included with regard to these issues. This planning phase also includes the taking into account of such technical aspects as the choice of suitable technologies and facilities. It also requires sound data including, for instance, as precise an estimate as possible of the water and energy consumption of the planned event. Such estimates enable the most significant potential savings to be identified and defined, and a precise performance review to be carried out after the event.

The success of an event depends not least on the sponsors and investors who support and promote both individual measures and the overall concept itself. They, too, must be integrated into the planning process at an early stage with concrete contributions regarding the implementation of the environmental protection concept.

Phase 4: Executing a sports event

Even the most rigorous planning over the course of several years cannot prevent problems and conflicts from arising during the event itself. In such cases, it is paramount to react quickly and efficiently through continuous controlling and monitoring. Should it suddenly emerge, for instance, that available shuttle bus capacities are lacking, it must be immediately clear who will look after the provision of additional buses.

Therefore, accountability around issues of environmental protection during the event must also be fully regulated. Ideally, one specific person at the coordination office or in a “crisis management” group should be responsible for all environmental protection issues. However, monitoring during the event not only serves to solve problems – it also enables compliance with statutory regulations, such as controlling noise or creating transparent reporting after the event.

Environmentally relevant data must be collected during the event in order to document what has been achieved and to review whether environmental objectives have been reached. This includes such aspects as electricity and water consumption and the number of visitors who have arrived by (local) public transport. Only by making such data available can transparent reporting about what has been achieved be compiled after the event.

Phase 5: Wrap-up and evaluation

After the match is before the match – this old piece of football wisdom also holds true for environmentally friendly sports events. This is because environmental protection is not static, feeding instead off continuous development, optimization and adaptation.

A general goal after the event is to use, reuse and recycle as many of the materials as possible. Which is why, from an environmental standpoint, the subsequent use of temporary extension buildings and materials after the event must be organized. This might include an auction or donation of leftover equipment and materials, converting banners into attractive bags or other products which, experience has shown, fans like to purchase as souvenirs.

Furthermore, successful implementation measures must be recorded and communicated during this phase. Such an analysis makes it possible to check whether one’s own environmental goals have been reached – and allows other organizers to learn from these experiences, too. Not least, it is about raising the environmental awareness of organizers, operators, sponsors and fans and about advancing the development of sustainable sports events.

Deutscher Olympischer Sportbund
Ressort Breitensport, Sporträume

Otto-Fleck-Schneise 12
D-60528 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Frau Inge Egli

Phone: +49 (0)69 6700 278

Frau Bianca Quardokus

Phone: +49 (0)69 6700 283