From October 30th to November 1st 2013 the 10th World Conference on Sport and the environment will take place in Sochi, Russia. The venue is because Sochi, on the Black Sea, is the site for the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. The impact of the Olympics has long been a hot topic, and the opening session of the conference will be devoted to celebrating the achievements that have been made.

The International Olympic Committee’s awards for achievement began in 2009, at the prompting of the IOC’s Sport and Environment Commission. Appropriately, they will be handed out on World Water Day. Five awards, one for projects in each continent, will be handed out.

The modern Olympic Games are more than just a celebration of sporting achievement. The notion of ‘Olympism’ is based on the principles in the Olympic Charter.  As well as sporting excellence, responsible attitudes to the environment and sustainable development are the third pillar of Olympic ideals, alongside education and culture.   

There are those who see the Olympic Games as a money spinner for host nations around the world, though this prosperity is far from guaranteed, with some expensive failures over the years when it comes to profits. The organizers counter such scepticism by arguing that sport is a catalyst that can unite people across the globe in support of many good causes, including the fight to conserve global environments and resources.

The Olympic organisers are keen to position the Games as more than an event that is staged every four years, often with considerable disruption to people in the host cities, who are regularly relocated to make way for new sporting venues. The Olympic committee tries to emphasize the importance of creating a lasting legacy, underwritten by social and environmental awareness.

The long term legacy of the 2012 London Olympics are still being assessed, but some notable achievements deserve recognition. The London Games created the largest new parkland space created in Europe for 150 years and boasted of sustainable construction practices. The carbon footprint of the Games was monitored and the impact of waste kept to a minimum. The 2013 awards aren’t about the big players, however, but are aimed at recognizing grassroots initiatives that fulfil the Olympic ideals in communities around the world.

Sports, proponents say, have a place in a green economy. The United Nations’ Environment Program is appealing for sports initiatives to be included in future strategies, with an agenda to promote inclusivity in green initiatives, via sport. The 31st Olympics, to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, will be part of the efforts to put these ideals into practice, with various plans to make the next Olympic Games the greenest in this great sporting occasion’s history.

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