These sports are smashing climate change out of the park!

At Rio 2016, amid all the celebrations and sporting glory, there was a strong showing for climate change.

It began with a film in the opening ceremony describing the dangerous impacts of climate change. They asked the millions of viewers to get behind a campaign to limit global warming to safe levels. Not your usual parading and fireworks we know and love.

And they matched it with some action, too. The cars they used to race VIPs around the Olympic park are electric, and they looked a bit like spaceships (the cool kind). They served sustainably sourced meat in their dining hall, and tasty veggie options too. Plus, the organisers are planting 11,000 trees in Rio to represent every Olympic athlete competing - so one legacy of the games will be a new wood sucking up plenty of carbon emissions. With all this going on, it's safe to say the infamous diving pool wasn’t the only thing green about Rio!

Now, Brazil contains half the Amazon rainforest, so it may not be surprising that they’ve got an environmental slant on things. But they’re not the first get tough on climate change.

Back in 2009 Kaohsiung, Taiwan, hosted the World Games, the Olympics for the sports not featured in the Olympics. The new stadium built for the contest was absolutely covered in solar panels. It’s the largest stadium in Taiwan, and still gets used for football matches. The solar panels provide almost all the electricity they need. Oh, and the stadium is also shaped like a dragon.

Football clubs in the UK are stepping up as well. In January this year, Storm Desmond hit the UK causing masses of flooding and damage. It left Carlisle United’s pitch under water too. Not only did replacing the pitch cost around £150,000, it had quite an impact on other clubs.

“The sight of Carlisle United’s pitch under water and the devastation caused underlines the threat climate change poses on our doorstep” said Tony Scholes, Chief Exec of Stoke City FC. It prompted Stoke City to try to raise awareness among fans of the need to tackle climate change during their next match.

Bristol FC’s home ground Ashton Gate just went through a £45m rebuild. And high on their list of requirements was carbon cutting. They installed 460 solar panels on their west stand, and included smarter heating and low energy lighting in their buildings. The club are hoping it’ll cut their carbon by 20% straight off the bat (or football boot), as well as saving them money on their bills. Plus seeing their team (solar) power their way to victory every Saturday at matches will certainly get fans thinking about ways they can give climate change the red card themselves.

The UK’s biggest clubs aren’t about to be left behind either. In 2015, Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea FC, became the first stadium to get LED floodlights installed. The super efficient bulbs save masses of energy, and will only need replacing every ten seasons, whereas before it was every three. And it’s not just the environment they’re good for. The LEDs don’t produce glare like the older bulbs, meaning players can see much better in evening matches.

If football isn’t quite your thing, basketball is also getting in on the action.  Leicester’s Community Sports Arena, home of the Leicester Riders, just installed 980 solar panels, and the Nottingham Wildcats installed around 600 panels earlier this year. The panels will cut their energy bills by a few thousand pounds every year, and the club will spend their savings on grassroots basketball projects locally, including training sessions for local primary schools.

There are plenty more - from the swimming pools in Iceland heated by volcano power to the motor racing tournament that uses 100% electric cars, the sporting world is really stepping up to the plate and playing hardball with climate change. 

This It’s Happening blog is funded by our pals at Ben & Jerry’s

Photo: thearcticblues, Creative Commons