World Cup Shoots for Greener Games

Stefan Lovgren in Dortmund, Germany
for National Geographic News
June 13, 2006

Organizers of soccer's World Cup finals, which began here in Germany last Friday, hope the games will score an important goal for the environment.

From promoting public transportation to using rainwater to water the soccer fields, they hope to offset the environmental damage caused by millions of visiting soccer fans.

"We are confident that this will be the greenest World Cup ever," said Thomas Hackbarth, a spokesperson for the games.

(See a National Geographic magazine feature on the World Cup.)

The transportation, construction, and maintenance of the 12 World Cup stadiums, as well as the presence of 3.2 million spectators, are expected to generate more than 110,000 tons (100,000 metric tons) of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Most scientists say carbon dioxide, emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, is the main cause of global warming.

Cup organizers aim to offset all carbon dioxide emissions by financing climate projects, including the planting of forests in far-away places such as India and South Africa. Forests soak up carbon as they grow.

"We aim to neutralize all effects of World Cup travel, the construction of the stadiums, and the hotel overnights, including [the] heating of water," Hackbarth said.

Taking the Train

FIFA, the world soccer governing body, does not have specific guidelines for environmental practices, unlike the Olympic Games.

In 1994 the International Olympic Committee established "green" criteria for its games together with the United Nations Environmental Program.

"For the World Cup we have modeled ourselves on the Olympics," said Christian Hothfeld, an environmental scientist and the deputy director of the Berlin-based Ö-ko Institut, which has consulted on environmental issues for the World Cup.

Continued on Next Page >>


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