The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics event has ended in success. What was amazing about this Winter Olympics was not only the high level of event management but also its practices and breakthroughs in sustainability. The Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games (BOCOG) published the “Sustainability for the Future – Beijing 2022 Pre-Games Sustainability Report” on January 13. Later on January 28, it published the “Low-carbon Management Pre-Games Report of the Beijing 2022 Games”. The two reports summarized the progress of sustainability practice and carbon management during the event’s preparation process from 2016 to 2021.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Sustainability
The IOC, organizer of the world’s largest sporting event, has pledged to reduce emissions by 30% by 2024 and 50% by 2030. The IOC’s journey toward sustainability commenced a long time ago:
- In 1999, the IOC adopted the Olympic 21 Century Agenda, which stipulated the Olympic movement should fully promote global sustainable development.
- In 2007, the IOC put forward the guidelines for sports, environment, and sustainable development to help member states translate the recommendations in 21 Century Agenda into specific action plans.
- In 2014, the IOC issued the key report “Olympic 2020 agenda”, which outlined the vision of future change in sustainability. In the report, the IOC listed “sustainability” as one of the three key pillars guiding the future development of the Olympic movement for the first time. The IOC further required host cities to “integrate sustainability into all aspects of the Olympic Games”.
- In 2015, the United Nations Summit adopted the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, pointed out 17 sustainable development goals for the future in 2030, and stressed that sports are an “important driving force” to achieve these goals. In the same year, the IOC established the Sustainability & Legacy Commission, with a department responsible for sustainable development.
- In 2017, the IOC issued and implemented the sustainable development strategy, which provided clear sustainability guiding principles and action objectives for the work practice of the Olympic movement.
Implementation of sustainability at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games
Sustainability was one of the three major concepts pitched by Beijing in bidding for the Games. The Beijing Winter Olympics was the first Olympic Games to implement the IOC Olympic 2020 Agenda in the whole process of bidding, preparation, and hosting. In 2017, BOCOG established a “sustainability leading group” and a sustainable development division in the overall planning department. In combination with the sustainability management system, it obtained third-party certifications from ISO 20121 (Sustainability Management System for large-scale events) and ISO 14001 (environmental management system) in 2019, as well as the highest five-star level of performance evaluation from ISO 26000 (Guide to social responsibility).
The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games’ work on sustainability can be summarized into the following four aspects:
1. Actively respond to climate change and promote low-carbon management
Climate change is a major global challenge facing mankind in the 21st century. To combat the impacts of climate change, in May 2019, BOCOG signed up to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework and set an overall target of carbon management, which was to neutralize all carbon emissions. The BOCOG specified 5 aspects of its low-carbon management: low-carbon energy, low-carbon venues, low-carbon transport, and low-carbon standards.
- Low-carbon energy: all venues and relevant facilities for the Beijing 2022 Games were powered by renewable energy supplied by the newly built Zhangbei flexible direct current grid.
- Low-carbon venues: three ultra-low-energy projects were built, including the Polyclinic of the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Village, the D6 area of the Yanqing Olympic, and Paralympic Village, and the Wukesong Ice Sports Centre.
- Low-carbon transportation: pure electric and natural-gas-powered vehicles were adopted. In total, there were 816 hydrogen-fueled vehicles, 370 pure electric vehicles, 478 natural-gas-fueled vehicles, 1,807 hybrid vehicles, and 619 conventional energy vehicles. Energy-saving and clean-energy vehicles accounted for 100% of all passenger cars and 84.9% of all vehicles.
- Low-carbon standards: the main principles of greenhouse gas emission accounting of Beijing Winter Olympic Games referred to the principles of GHG Protocol and ISO 14064-1, and innovatively used carbon sink in the forestry industry, enterprise sponsorship, and carbon generalized system of preferences to offset carbon emissions.
2. Manage resources effectively, from sustainable procurement to recycling
As of June 30, 2021, Beijing Winter Olympics Organizing Committee has signed 779 contractors, including 70 goods contractors and 709 service contractors. All contractors signed a contractor sustainability commitment. For social indicators, 100% of contractors met 14 or more of the 17 items; for environmental indicators, 66.7% of contractors met 8 or more of the 10 requirements; for economic indicators, 76.2% of contractors met 3 or more of the 4 items. 85% of entities obtained ISO 45001 (Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems) certifications and more than 90% of manufacturing companies obtained ISO 14001 Environmental Management System certifications.
For the construction of venues, recyclable materials, reusable materials, and building materials produced with waste as raw materials were used. From 2018 to 2020, about 24.6% of the construction waste was utilized in the venue construction and transformation site. The National Speed Skating Museum collected 654 waste pile heads from the project site, screened and crushed them, and made them into a concrete viewing platform, saving about 18 tons of cement in total.
3. Protect the ecological environment and biodiversity, and fully implement the concept of “traceless mountain forest”
In the process of venue planning, design, and construction, the venue construction unit has taken several measures to minimize the impact on animals and habitats. These include reducing night construction and light pollution, setting up wildlife paths to ensure the activity space for small mammals and reptiles, setting more than 600 artificial bird nests around the competition area, and deploying 200 infrared trigger cameras to monitor the activities of wild animals around the competition area. In terms of plant protection, experts of the Winter Olympic Games formulated a responsibility matrix and put forward 54 specific measures in six aspects: ecological environment, water environment, atmospheric environment, acoustic environment, solid waste, and economic and social sustainability.
4. Promote diversity and inclusion
To promote human development, the Beijing 2022 Games committed to fully reflecting diversity at every level of the preparation and hosting of the Olympic Games and opposed all forms of discrimination. In the pre-Games staff selection stage, BOCOG respects cultural and traditional diversity and equality for all. As of October 30, 2021, there were 1536 salaried workers, including 0.2% of disabled people, 8.5% of ethnic minorities, and 39% of female workers.
Aligning with diversity and inclusion, BOCOG is committed to protecting fair business practices and obeying rules of anti-corruption and anti-competition. BOCOG assigned a commission team to look into each avenue and set up a reporting mailbox to accept feedback and comments from the public. As of June 30, 2021, more than 300 sessions of anti-corruption training had been carried out for middle and senior managers.
To achieve its ambitious sustainable goals, the BOCOG had consulted with local and international stakeholders, raising awareness around sustainability topics in China and beyond. The IOC paid great attention to the Beijing 2022 Pre-Games Sustainability Report. According to IOC president Thomas Bach, Beijing 2022 helped accelerate sustainable development in China and showcased solutions for a more sustainable future. As all games have now been completed, two other reports will be published to supplement the sustainable development and low-carbon management of different scenarios during the games, and comprehensively analyze the carbon neutralization results from 2016 to 2022.
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