Before it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tokyo 2020 was set to be a ground-breaking Olympic and Paralympic games, with an unprecedented commitment to sustainability and climate change. This same commitment is being continued into the rearranged Tokyo 2021 Olympics, with the goal being a carbon neutral games.
In recent years Japan, and Tokyo in particular, have been experiencing the worrying effects of climate change with increasingly hotter weather and more frequent typhoons. In 2019 several games in the Rugby world cup, hosted by Japan, had to be called off for the first time in the competition’s history, due to typhoon Hagibis.
The organisers of the games want to begin reversing these climate changes. They want to ensure the impact of the games extends beyond the parameters of Tokyo and encompasses the whole of Japan, and the world. Indeed, the games has a sustainability concept of “Be better, together… For the planet and the people”. The organisers are embracing this concept, with a number of innovations to make the games more environmentally friendly. Such innovations include new roads in Tokyo which reflect heat and new water absorbing pavements.
To help reduce carbon emissions further worldwide Olympics partner Toyota will provide a fleet of zero emission vehicles
Recycling will also play a significant role in making the games greener. All medals will be made from metal extracted from recycled consumer electronics, including around 6.2 million mobile phones. And, the podiums will be made out of recycled household and marine plastic waste, as will the workers’ uniforms. To help reduce carbon emissions further worldwide Olympics partner Toyota will provide a fleet of zero emission vehicles. The fleet will include a number of hydrogen cars, electric cars, busses and scooters.
Tokyo 2021 represents a huge step towards the Olympics new climate positive future in general. The International Olympics Committee (IOC) announced in 2020 that from 2030 all Olympic games would be climate positive. As a start to this new climate commitment, the IOC president said he believed Tokyo would be “an inspiration for sustainable development”.
From 2030 onwards, each Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (OCOG), will required to go beyond the current obligations of merely reducing and compensating for carbon emissions directly related to their operations. Instead, they will have to do more in aiding the communities they work in to be more climate aware, and ultimately, greener.
[…] the planting of an Olympic Forest, from 2021 onwards. This will allow the IOC to support communities in Africa, working towards the sustainable use of its natural resources
The IOC have kick-started this new green Olympic vision, by collaborating with the UN in Africa. The IOC will contribute to the Great Green Wall Project which is Africa’s flagship initiative to combat deforestation.
The contribution will involve the planting of an Olympic Forest, from 2021 onwards. This will allow the IOC to support communities in Africa, working towards the sustainable use of its natural resources. As well as a new vision for the Olympics, Tokyo 2021 also represents a new vision for Japan. With the positive effect Tokyo 2021 is set to have on Japan’s carbon footprint, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has announced Japan will improve on their previous policy of cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Now, they will look to achieve zero carbon dioxide emissions within three decades.
Tokyo 2021 is therefore set to be a very exciting event and will likely be viewed as a milestone in years to come regarding the sporting worlds relationship with climate change. While the innovations and new green technologies used at the games will be very important, perhaps what’s more important is the legacy Tokyo 2021 will have on Japan, and the rest of the world.
This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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