11 de julho de 2016

Rio 2016 and Sustainability

Serge Giacomo


The Olympic Games always feature unforgettable moments, as athletes meet once every four years for a new opportunity to go down in the history of sports. Whether on the fields, the courts, the mat or on the slopes, the athletes never fail to give us memorable performances, by breaking records and bringing honor and joy to their nations.

Like the athletes, the Olympic Games host countries also have a unique opportunity to show the world a little about their cultures and ability to be a good host. For Brazil, this is a chance to demonstrate to the world our organization, modernity and administrative efficiency, as well as our ability to coordinate a mega event. So what does this sporting celebration have to do with sustainability? A great deal actually!  You’ll learn more here.

The Olympic Spirit includes important concepts of Sustainability

The concept of the Olympic Games is more connected with sustainable practices than one might think. In addition to the competition itself, the Olympic Movement is constantly working with several countries, promoting values such as the pursuit of prosperity for all, the importance of investing in social practices and innovation, as well as teamwork and harmony among nations.

Such concepts are crucial to develop comprehensive and viable economic growth within an environmental and social model, which is what we call Sustainability. For example, without financial resources it is impossible to foster investments in the area. Without physical activity, there is no way to achieve full health. Following the same line of reasoning, scientific advances – innovation – are essential to reconsider ways of managing resources.

However, it is very difficult to only partially implement sustainable development; even if a country or group of countries promotes sustainable practices, efforts must also take place on a global level to produce tangible results.  And this requires dialogue, understanding, good will, respect and mutual trust: the values that the Olympic Movement has promoted worldwide for more than a century.

As you can see, I am not only talking about sustainability from an environmental point of view. Of course, care of the environment is at the core of such thinking, as the human hand transforms nature. But sustainability goes far beyond obvious environmental concerns. It also puts the perpetuation of prosperity and social development on a podium where first place is the only option.

In this sense, when it comes to implementation of sustainable practices, we can consider ourselves victorious even before the Olympic cauldron is lit. In fact, this “medal” was assured back in October 2009, when the Marvelous City won the honor of hosting the games in a Games sustainable way, combining concern with usage of the planet’s resources with local projects and benefits that the event will bring to the community. And we can already say that these are the most sustainable Games ever.

Rio 2016: efficiency and reduction of environmental impact

Hosting a mega-event requires the use of human, financial, and natural resources, as well as resources from the host country.  There is high demand for water, energy and raw materials, given new infrastructure works and implementation of the event, from the competitions themselves to the accommodation of athletes. Therefore, the planning of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, from an environmental point of view, is built on three pillars: resource efficiency, low carbon emissions and waste management.

The Rio 2016 Organizing Committee has demonstrated an excellent example of these pillars. Its headquarters was designed as a temporary structure, constructed from containers, in order to house up to 2,400 people. The building features a rainwater usage system and a lighting system with 2,900 LED lamps from GE, saving up to 90% of energy. The power system managing the air conditioning equipment will reduce consumption by 50 and allows for temperature control by zone. Additionally, solar panels are included in the project.

Obviously, planning is no guarantee of success. However, promoting this trio of pillars as a guideline for an event as large as the Olympic Games is already a major step forward. It is up to us – representatives from business, government and society – to work so that this logic is always a part of  each public or private project,  independent of whether the world’s spotlight is shining down on us during the Games or not.

Why is investing in people and sport a sustainable attitude?

As I said earlier, and as many already know, sustainability goes beyond environmental issues. It involves balanced resource management that allows for economic and social development and healthy maintenance of the planet. Therefore, support from government and enterprises that make possible initiatives directed at accessibility, social inclusion, health and innovation is an essential. Among the many possibilities mentioned in this post, there are few activities as inclusive, accessible, innovative and healthy as sports.

Promoting the Olympic Games is a great opportunity to generate investments in the host country. The amounts required for this are significant and responsibility must be proportional, starting with the bidding process for vendors and management of resources to the transparent presentation of revenue and expenditures to the public.

The CEBDS (Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development) developed the Purchasing Manual, used by Rio 2016 planning team, which can be adapted for different large-scale projects in both the government and the private sector.

A partnership between GE and the Brazilian Canoe Federation

In addition to an existing Worldwide Partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that dates back to 2005, GE signed a co-sponsorship agreement with the Brazilian Canoe Federation in 2015. We believe that supporting infrastructure and developing sports in the country can create a positive and transformative cycle:  athletes achieve better results, and young people are more motivated to practice sports.

In this particular case, we are fostering the development of high-tech tools focused on improving the performance of Brazilian Olympic athletes. The partnership led to the creation of an ultra-modern app developed by the GE Global Research Center in Rio de Janeiro, allowing for collection of vital performance and health data and real-time analysis of athletes in training. This involves innovation, digital technology and Big Data in the service of Brazilian sports – helping our Canoeing athletes take home many medals for the country.

Beyond sporting events, medals and athletes, another major and relevant issue for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is the legacy the events will leave for the city. Without a doubt, the medals are very important rewards for the athletes. However, the greatest victory will take place after the Closing Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the international visitors have returned home, as the local community looks around and realizes that the effort, work and patience during the three years of projects and public works was worth it, seeing that the post-2016 city will be a better place to live — more human and more sustainable.

Here’s to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games showing the world that our country is able to create and implement a model of sustainable management, harmonizing economic prosperity, environmental respect and social inclusion.


Serge Giacomo is is Head of Communications and Public Affairs Latin America at GE



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