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How the Sochi Olympic Winter Games Went Carbon Neutral


By Dr. Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi, Technology and Sustainability Director, Dow Olympic Operations Team

With the Sochi Olympic Winter Games upon us, athletes and fans around the world are now captivated with one of the world’s greatest sporting events. Nations have proudly united under their national banners, with a good spirit of global competition and sportsmanship running high.

However, much of what has garnered the media’s attention so far for these games has left the global audience wondering about what will be the true impact of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

While these issues will no doubt continue to be debated throughout and after the games as we reflect on Sochi, there is naturally a number of positives to examine with regards to any Olympics, such as the glory of global athletes, and even added excitement from local businesses and communities seeing a massive influx of spectators and media that is sure to spark commerce and leave a taste of the host country scattered across the world. And although this heightened activity can also be associated with an emissions burden from the organization and staging of such a massive event, an innovative partnership has been formulated to ensure that this facet of the games brings yet another positive to the legacy of the Olympics at large.

Protecting the environment is a priority of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In 1996, the IOC formally recognized its importance to hosting the games, naming the environment the third dimension of "Olympism," joining sport and culture. This created an opportunity for more positive action around the games and a chance to address a new challenge and drive tangible results.

As the official chemistry company of the Olympic Games since 2010, Dow evaluated the needs of the Olympic Movement and the role we could play in helping to make the games better by our participation. On this broader commitment to the Olympics, we stepped up to partner with Sochi 2014 to transform the aspiration to deliver "games with minimal impact to climate" into tangible carbon mitigation results.

As the official carbon partner of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, we at Dow strategized on how we could address a tangible and meaningful target related to the sustainability of the games, which led to the creation of a truly groundbreaking initiative -- the Sustainable Future program. This unique program is designed to mitigate the direct carbon emissions of the games and also to introduce more sustainable business practices in key industries for Russia.

Now, we are proud to say that we have helped the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games become the first Olympic Games in history to mitigate the entire direct carbon footprint of its Organizing Committee prior to the opening ceremony. As of today, we have delivered emissions reductions amounting to more than 500,000 tons of CO2 equivalents – as verified by international experts ERM.

Our partnership with the International Olympic Committee, along with an innovative technology program and approach, is what made this incredible feat possible.

The underlying guiding principles for this approach have been set out in the Climate Solutions Framework developed in partnership with international experts at Offsetters. Dow’s framework was launched at the United Nations’ COP 19/CMP 9 event in Warsaw, Poland, in November 2013, with broad recognition from private and public sector players from around the world.

Our program is focused on integrating more sustainable practices in three key markets in Russia: agriculture, construction and infrastructure. Our solutions range from training local farmers in more sustainable farming practices and introducing seeds to produce healthier oils, to weatherizing Russian homes to increase energy efficiency, and finally to improving the integrity of existing structures and new ones, such as bridges and roads, with the application of carbon fiber composites.

And, in addition to these innovative projects, we have purchased voluntary carbon credits to completely offset spectator and media travel associated with the games – a first in Olympics history.

And now through our program and accomplishments at the Sochi Games, we hope to provide a model in which the public and private sector can collaborate to address the environmental impact of all large-scale events, not just the Olympics. That’s the vision in which we designed our framework -- a model that is not only spearheaded by Dow, but one that can be adapted by a variety of organizations and institutions.

But when the games end on Feb. 23, our impact will carry on. While our immediate focus is on mitigating the games’ direct carbon footprint, our long-term goal is to position Russia for greater environmental prosperity with the opportunity to build both low-carbon and economically sound development.

Our agriculture programs will help promote more sustainable farming practices in Russia. Our construction programs will improve the energy efficiency performance of homes across the country. Our infrastructure program will have implications on the future emissions landscape as these public structures will require less maintenance moving forward. And we’re also promoting awareness of ways in which Russia’s citizens can reduce their environmental footprint every day.

So, while most will measure the margin of success at the Olympics on the number of medals won by athletes and their countries, we’ll be measuring our success in climate benefits -- and seeing Sochi 2014 as a bright spot on the podium.

Image courtesy of International Olympic Committee

3p Contributor

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