As part of their long-term commitment to reduce the environmental impact of the sport, more than two dozen one-day athletics meetings and World Athletics Tour events have tested the Sustainable Events Management System (SEMS) and the Athletics for a Better World Standard thus far this season, a pilot programme that will continue at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, starting on 15 July.
The introduction of the SEMS, a best practice guidance that covers 15 key areas of event planning and delivery, and the Standard, a certification that measures and scores an event’s achievement in sustainable delivery, are among the key deliverables of the World Athletics Sustainability Strategy for 2022, as outlined in the global governing body’s first sustainability report, which was released today.
Embedding principles of sustainability into event delivery is a core component of the World Athletics Sustainability Strategy, the 10-year road map unveiled in April 2020 that has goals including transitioning to carbon neutrality across all of its operations and owned events by 2030. The World Athletics Sustainability Report 2020-2021 charts the organisation’s progress over the first 19 months since the launch of its strategy with a detailed look at each of the strategy document’s six pillars.
World Athletics introduced the SEMS (English, French, Spanish) and Standard (English, French, Spanish) to its one-day meetings, tour events and local organising committees of upcoming World Athletics Series events in November and has provided ongoing support since, via one-on-one meetings, a 12-part webinar series, a range of e-learning modules, visits to live events and the development of a knowledge bank of information and case studies on the World Athletics website.
The Standard will be tiered, with gold, silver and bronze levels that will eventually have to be met as part of the sanctioning process. Cities bidding to host upcoming World Athletics Series events, for which bids launch in the latter half of 2022, will be required to commit to a gold level achievement, making sustainability a core feature of all future events. World Athletics is urging all of its sanctioned events to pilot the system in 2022 and 2023 before implementing it at its editions in 2023 and 2024.
The World Athletics Championships Oregon22, which get under way in nine days, will be the first World Championship event to test the system and Standard. The State of Oregon and City of Eugene are world-renowned for their sustainability practices, a reputation that Oregon22 organisers were eager to build upon.
Sarah Massey, CEO of Oregon22, LLC, said: “Sustainability is a significant part of our ‘Drive Change’ initiative and has been a guiding principle in every aspect of our planning and delivery for this event.”
Carolyn Stein, the sustainability lead for the Oregon22 LOC, said: “We worked with local constituents, organisations and advocates to create and execute a vision to be the most sustainable World Athletics Championships ever. From our efforts to reduce single-use plastics to our food recovery programmes, from our materials management to our selection of vendors, we believe we have established a blueprint for sustainability at future large-scale sporting events.”
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said: “We’re very fortunate that our partners in Oregon have put such a strong emphasis on sustainability in the delivery of our championships this year. They want to set a really high bar and create a best-practice example that can be replicated throughout our sport. Their ambitions, experience and feedback will be invaluable as we begin to add stronger sustainability requirements to our World Athletics Series events.”
Arttu Salonen, the athletes’ liaison of the Paavo Nurmi Games World Athletics Continental Tour meeting in Turku, Finland, said that piloting the SEMS and Standard at their event last month helped to build a strong foundation.
“The Athletics for a Better World Standard gives a great overview of the types of issues that are very much present in the world we all share in a way that’s easily transferrable to the day-to-day operations of an athletics competition,” Salonen said. “It also helps meeting organisers to get started on working with themes in the sustainability sphere. The SEMS workshops have been great at breaking down sustainability issues into key problem areas with ideas on how an event organiser can make impactful choices.”
Michael Mottle, the CEO of the Stadtwerke Ratingen Mehrkampf-Meeting (7-8 May), an important early season stop on the World Athletics Combined Events Tour where the SEMS and Standard were also piloted this year, concurred.
“The Standard provides a good orientation and working tool for preparing and executing an event,” Mottle said. “It shows the various fields of play in which organisers of meetings have to work on sustainable solutions. At the same time, the ranking system of the Standard shows in which areas further efforts have to be tackled going forward and which areas are already in a good shape in sustainable terms.”
Mottle said that the best practice guidance provided by World Athletics helped his team work on “small projects” that have already resulted in “a better and greener event” this year. “We really emphasised the usage of public transport this year and provided extra bicycle parking lots for our spectators and for the LOC team,” he added. “This idea was highly supported throughout the whole event.”
Michael Reilly, co-meeting director of The Prefontaine Classic, the premier annual one-day meeting in the United States, is looking forward to piloting the system at his event next year.
“The vision of the Athletics for a Better World Standard is comprehensive, compelling, and on target,” said Reilly. “The Prefontaine Classic looks forward to being a strong partner with World Athletics and the other Diamond League meeting organisers in pursuit of this important mission.”