April 15, 2024
World Cup: distances cause a sustainability problem

“When you organize such a large event in far-flung destinations, obviously that results in insane air traffic. It’s simply not sustainable in principle, ”says Susanne Becken from dpa. She is a professor of sustainable tourism at Griffith University in Brisbane.

Above all, the large crowds of fans expected during the tournament from July 20 to August 20 will cause problems. Traveling from Europe in particular is anything but environmentally friendly. Those who fly from Berlin to Sydney and back consume around 4.7 tonnes of CO2 emissions. For comparison: the average annual consumption in Austria is almost ten tons per person.

Huge distances

The World Cup takes place in nine cities, including four in New Zealand and five in Australia. Especially in “Down Under” the distances are enormous. For example, if you want to travel from Brisbane on the east coast to the city of Perth in Western Australia, you need to travel over 4,300 kilometers overland. A flight takes between four and five hours. In the group stage, teams stay in one country, but from the knockout stage onwards they have to fly back and forth between countries.

At last year’s Men’s World Cup in Qatar, FIFA proudly pointed out that all matches were played in the vicinity of the capital, Doha, and that journeys were no longer than 75 kilometres. To this end, host country Qatar has invested billions in building new stadiums and improving infrastructure. For declaring the tournament climate-neutral, FIFA recently received a rebuke from the Swiss Integrity Commission, the communications industry’s self-regulatory body.

The silence of FIFA

FIFA is now silent on the long away games and long distances of the women’s tournament. Instead, the association emphasizes in its sustainability strategy that matches are played in existing stadiums, which should “minimize costs and the impact on the environment”. All ten stadiums have received a “green certificate” from the Green Building Council. This seal is awarded to environmentally friendly buildings that conserve energy and water and use recycling.

FIFA had declared the certification a sustainability goal for the tournament. “This is a huge step forward that will have an incredible and lasting knock-on effect for the staging of major sporting events in the future,” said Sheila Nguyen, the tournament’s sustainability manager, in a FIFA statement in mid-June. .

The current measures are only a “consolation”

But do sustainable stadiums actually offset the CO2 emissions of air travel? FIFA writes in its sustainability strategy that football fans should be encouraged to properly dispose of their waste and to think about climate change. “The usual little things” made all the difference, Becken said. However, these measures are only a “consolation”, judged the sustainability researcher.

If you really want to make mass events sustainable, you need to drastically reduce the presence of fans in stadiums. “You could definitely have technological innovations that still allow you to be there live, maybe with virtual reality,” Becken said. “But these are ideas that would revolutionize key events like this.” In the beginning, half-empty or even completely empty stadiums are unlikely to be greeted with enthusiasm by the majority of fans.

The plans for the 2026 Men’s World Cup also show how far FIFA is from a radical and sustainable transformation of its tournaments. As far as long trips are concerned, they go even further: the World Cup will be held in Canada, the USA and Mexico – for the first time, 48 teams will compete in a total of 16 cities.

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