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SPORTS: Green Goals for World Cup Nets

Julio Godoy* - Tierramérica

BERLIN, Jun 7 2006 (IPS) - With its Green Goal programme, the organisers of the 2006 Football World Cup aim to reduce the environmental impact of the international sports tournament that is expected to draw more than three million spectators in Germany beginning Jun. 9. But environmental groups say the efforts will come up short.

Water conservation, garbage recycling and reduction of contaminating emissions into the atmosphere through wider use of public transport and clean energy sources, are some aims of Green Goal, implemented by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the German government.

In the 12 stadiums where 32 national teams from around the world will test their talent in the “beautiful game” are tanks installed to recover rainwater to be used for the sanitation system. In some cases, the men’s room urinals are cleaned automatically, without using water. With the aim of curbing vehicle use, the admission tickets for the 64 matches allow the fans to ride public transportation services free of charge within a 24-hour period. And in some stadiums, like the Fritz-Walter in the southwestern city of Kaiserslautern, electricity is produced by solar cells. Some train stations and other public spaces are also using solar energy.

In total, solar energy generation for the World Cup will be around 2,500 kilowatts during peak hours. At the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, in 2000, the installed capacity equivalent was just 1,000 kilowatts.

In the German cities that are home to the 12 stadiums, signs in many languages suggest how visitors can reduce garbage. For example, instead of buying beverages in throwaway bottles or cans, drinks will be sold in recyclable containers.

With Green Goal, the FIFA World Cup 2006 will be the second global sporting event to apply environmental protection criteria. The first was the Sydney Olympics. But despite these efforts, Green Goal will not compensate for all of the pollution and waste arising from the football championship.

According to the German Institute of Applied Ecology, which designed the programme, just the flights and local travel of the 3.2 million tourists who will visit Germany during the World Cup represent around 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the principal gas in the greenhouse effect, contributing to global climate change.

To make up for these emissions, Germany invested some 1.5 billion dollars in environmental protection projects in Africa and Asia in a green credit exchange. Under the Green Goal framework, it financed installations in India that produce biogas from fermented cattle manure to supplant the use of fossil fuels in community kitchens there.

However, the programme has not satisfied all German environmentalists, who have even criticised the Nici company for using a dangerous chemical in the manufacture of the stuffed toy version of the World Cup mascot, Goleo, a lion wearing a football jersey. The company denied the claims made recently by the German group Okotest, which studies the safety of consumer products.

“To think that the destructive environmental effects of a global tournament can be 100-percent compensated is an illusion,” Rüdiger Rosenthal, of the German federation for environmental protection, BUND, told Tierramérica.

Rosenthal stresses that the official environmental balance of the 2006 World Cup underestimates the carbon dioxide emissions from the extra commercial flights that will be transporting the national teams, guests of honor and tourists. Instead of the 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions projected officially, the environmentalists calculate that the transportation emissions associated with the month-long event will reach 250,000 tonnes.

Nor do the official tallies for environmental protection include the supplementary costs derived from international television broadcasts, or, in general, the additional consumption of electricity associated with the World Cup, said Rosenthal.

In its latest edition, the German magazine Neue Energie states that just one of the 12 stadiums – the Frankenstadion in the central city of Nurmeberg – satisfies all of the environmental criteria. And it praises the efforts made in Dortmund, Hamburg and Stuttgart. The other eight stadiums, it says, have a negative ecological balance.

In general, says the magazine, “Green Goal will only make up for half of the supplementary emissions of carbon dioxide during the World Cup.”

But “an honest balance of Green Goal can only be made after” the tournament, Christian Hochfeld, assistant director of the Institute of Applied Ecology, said in a Tierramérica interview.

During the sporting event, “Germany will import energy from Switzerland, generated by hydroelectric dams that do not contaminate the environment,” said Hochfeld. “At least Green Goal is trying to reconcile the event with environmental protection.”

Hochfeld also emphasised that the efforts to reduce energy consumption during the international football tournament include recovering heat from the air conditioning systems of all of the stadiums and using highly efficient, emission-free gas boilers, as well as low-energy lightbulbs.

According to FIFA president Joseph Blatter, Green Goal’s benefits are undoubtable. “The contribution of the World Cup to environmental and nature protection in German will be long lasting, allowing the matches of the Bundesliga (the German federal football league) to substantially reduce pollution,” Blatter told a press conference.

(*Julio Godoy is an IPS correspondent. Originally published June 3 by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.)

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