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2006 FIFA World Cup shoots a 'Green Goal'

Not only has the FIFA 2006 World Cup been a huge success in terms of football genius, camaraderie and goodwill, there’s another aspect to the games that not too many people know about: the environmental aspect.

Staging such a huge event, and hosting hundreds and thousands of fans from all over the world, for a month, places a tremendous burden on the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions from transport and electricity-generation, and the mountains of waste normally associated with large-scale events like these.

So, the local organising committee of the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the German Ministry of the Environment came up with the ‘Green Goal’ project. The project aims to reduce transport and electricity-generation emissions during the course of the tournament, minimise waste, utilise rainwater for pitches, and create greater public awareness on the environment among fans. Overall, the 2006 FIFA World Cup hopes to be the first such event with a limited impact on climate and the environment. Put another way, it aims to be ‘climate neutral’.

Global climate protection is one of the most crucial environmental challenges facing our generation. For the first time, a cross-section of the international community has committed itself to concrete targets by signing up to the Kyoto Protocol in the ongoing fight to reduce harmful emissions. A milestone towards better protection of the climate occurred when the Kyoto Protocol came into force in February 2005.

Early indications of the success of the ‘Green Goal’ project, which is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and private business, show that it has met, if not exceeded, expectations.

The local organising committee, whose president is German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, had hoped to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging 50% of the estimated 3.2 million fans to take public transport. Initial estimates show that around 70% of journeys to the football stadiums were made on foot or by train, bus, coach or bicycle; only 30% were made by private cars which use up a lot of fuel and contribute greatly to environmental pollution.

‘Green Goal’ is scoring in other areas too, for example in the area of waste reduction at the 12 stadia. This is partly a result of ideas like the ‘Cup of the Cup’, where, in order to avoid creating waste, fans are required to pay one euro for a special drinks cup with a container -- the only ones allowed inside the grounds. Surveys showed that the initiative is paying off with only the occasional paper serviette used for sausages marring what have become virtually ‘litter-free’ zones.

The organisers themselves are pleased. Achim Steiner, UNEP’s executive director, said: “Environmental considerations have made their first and very welcome appearance at a World Cup. And, according to initial assessments, they appear to be well on the winning side.”

Klaus Toepfer, ‘Green Goal’ ambassador and former UNEP executive director, said: “We will have to wait until the final whistle to fully gauge the success of the ‘Green Goal’. But the various tactics, from those aimed at encouraging public transport to the ones designed to minimise waste, appear to be hitting the net. The only losers so far appear to be car parks, with some only half or semi-full.”

Steiner added: “I hope and am confident that the ideas and strategies put in place for this tournament can be adapted and developed for other mass-audience events from football to pop concerts. I think the local organising committee, the Oko Institute and the companies involved should be given a big hand, maybe a Mexican wave, for conceiving this first ever ‘Green Goal’.”

Horst R Schmitt, first vice-president of the organising committee, says proudly: “This
FIFA World Cup set records nearly every day: top viewing figures, visitors at the fan festivals and sold-out stadia. That is why we are extremely happy that for the first time we were able to achieve environmental objectives. The share of spectators who leave their cars behind is sensational.”

Early data on the event, supplied by the Oko Institute, which is advising the committee on its environmental programme, is based on information from sources like the German police and Deutsche Bahn AG, the German railway operator. Here are just some of the statistics:

  • On average, 55% of spectators used public transport to travel to and from stadia.
  • Some cities exceeded expectations. For example, Munich estimated that 30%-40% of fans would take public transport. Early figures showed that an astonishing 60% used the underground train!
  • A significant proportion of fans walked to matches, especially in Dortmund, Hanover, Kaiserslautern and Leipzig. For example, at the first match in Dortmund, around 10,000 spectators enjoyed the fine weather to walk the 45 minutes from the train station to the ground to see Sweden play Trinidad and Tobago.
  • During some matches, up to 500 fans arrived by bicycle. Meanwhile, between 100 and 200 coaches brought fans to the matches. Environment-wise, coaches are considered equal to trains and buses. Peak usage was observed at the Japan versus Brazil match in Dortmund, on June 22, where 376 coaches were used -- that’s equal to a fifth of all fans attending the game!
  • Overall, early figures indicated that 70% of fans went to see the matches by means other than private motor cars.

One reason for these phenomenal figures has been the introduction of the Kombiticket, a special ticket that allows spectators to travel free on public transport on match days.

You can get more information on the ‘Green Goal’ project by visiting:



-- InfoChange News & Features, July 2006

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