The Environmental Impact of the 2010 World Cup

2010 World Cup

The Environmental Impact of the 2010 World Cup

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In 2009, long before the FIFA World Cup in South Africa was scheduled to begin, the South African chief director of planning and coordination for the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Blessing Manale, stated that “The games will not begin if they are not green…We are going to make the 2010 the greenest World Cup yet.” (Mannak) While South Africa certainly publicized their intention to make the 2010 World Cup the greenest in history, and also spent enormous sums of money to do so, more than a year later is a good time to evaluate whether South Africa lived up to its promises or not.

According the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) “South Africa is committed to integrating environmental principles into the planning and organizing of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.” (UNEP) Running from June 11 to July 11, 2010, the World Cup was staged at ten separate venues across nine cities in South Africa. It was the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) which was responsible for promoting the use and protection of South Africa’s natural resources. And DEAT’s “Greening 2010 Program” was launched to “raise awareness, minimize waste, diversify and use energy efficiently, consume water sparingly, compensate our carbon footprint, practice responsible tourism, and construct our infrastructure with future generations in mind.” (UNEP)

The green goal of the program was to set the environmental targets for the game projects covering “stadiums, training venues, International Broadcast Centre, fan parks, public viewing areas, transport systems and accommodation.” (“Background Issues”) Eskom, South Africa’s electrical utility planned to use a variety of green energy sources including wind farms and biogas, and in conjunction with the Central Energy Fund installed energy efficient lighting for residential and street lights. And the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) funded a program to install solar-panels on street lights, traffic lights, and billboards.

Local organizing committees were to create a system of separating waste and FIFA officials were encouraged to implement waste avoidance and reduction mechanisms. This was to include minimizing packaging and reducing waste generation, as well as recycling as much waste as possible. Transportation was considered to be a major source of emission and the GEF also funded transportation initiatives like the use of bio-diesel, bio-ethanol, and fuel cells, as well as redesigning bus networks, cycling and pedestrian routes which could be used as an alternative to private automobiles. A Transportation Action Plan was developed which would invest in public transport and road infrastructure, rail upgrades, internodal facilities, rapid transit bus systems, and airport links. And to cut back on the carbon footprint from thousands of travelers flying from city to city, the Department if Transportation provided “a fleet of 2,035 luxury and standard buses, 60 train sets and 1,000 bus coaches.” (“Transport”)

The games in South Africa were expected to generate about 2.7 million tons of carbon emissions, with 65% of that from air travel. In order to offset this damage, many of the teams have contracted with environmental companies to offset their roughly “6,000 tons of carbon emissions through travel and during their stay at the tournament.” (Enviro News) Players will also be wearing shirts made from recycled plastic bottles which may inspire the millions of fans who are “expected to wear the eco-friendly shirts, which also takes 30% less energy to produce.” (South Africa Struggles)

In order to understand the environmental impact of the 2010 FIFA World Cup on the environment of South Africa it is important to understand that the estimated number of attendees to the games was 373,000. When this number is taken into account against the number of tourists who would have visited South Africa without the games, it is lower than normal. For instance, the games ran roughly the entire month of June 2010, and during the same period in 2009, there were 706,278 foreign visitors, while the year before, 2008, there were 688,688 foreign visitors. (Cottle) So, while the games may have had an impact on the environment, the games diverted the regular tourists from coming to South Africa, along with their normal carbon footprint.

Taking that into account, the city of Johannesburg’s “Bus Rapid Transit” (BRT) system was extremely popular and was “one of the largest carriers of fans to and from matches in the city.” (“New Transport Era”) At the time of the games, it was estimated that the BRT was transporting approximately 30% of the fans in the city of Johannesburg. Despite the success of the transportation system, Carl Death in his study of the environmental effects of the 2010 World Cup came to the conclusion that the games could not be considered to be successfully “green.” While South Africa did implement many successful small-scale projects, the best opportunity to promote an environmental agenda came with the games’ “visibility, branding and communication potential to catalyse greater environmental awareness and a stronger commitment to ecological modernization.” (Death, 2011) But due to a lack of leadership, coordination, and commitment, the opportunity to fully exploit the games’ potential as an environmental advertisement was not taken advantage of. South Africa wasted the opportunity to portray the games in a global setting as an example of an environmentally conscious international mega-event. Not only could the games have been an international sporting event, they could have been a way to increase global awareness to the problems of increased carbon emissions.

Overall, South Africa spend millions of dollars on a number of diverse programs intended to reduce the carbon footprint of the games. These included recycling, waste reduction, transport, and other numerous small-scale projects. While many of these were successful, the chance to promote the games as an overall environmental project was lost. The South African government’s internal politics, lack of leadership and commitment to the environmental cause, led to a failure to properly utilize the games as an example in the large-scale. But the success of the individual small-scale projects did prove that large, international events can be carried out while still being environmentally friendly; they just have to be done in the right way. If future events have the full support and commitment of a government, then they can serve a larger cause, but if the host nation’s government is divided and uncommitted to the environmental cause, an opportunity to raise environmental awareness on a global scale may be lost.

Works Cited

“Background Issues – 2010 FIFA World Cup.” South African Government Information.

Web. 12 Aug. 2011.

South Africa. 2 Sept. 2010. Web. 14 Aug. 2011.

Death, Carl. “Greening’ the 2010 FIFA World Cup: Environmental Sustainability and the Mega-Event in South Africa.” Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning.

13.2 (2011). Print.

“Global Environmental Facility and UNEP Meeting Highlight Major Environmental Initiatives.”

United Nations Environment Programme – News Centre.” Web. 14

Aug. 2011.

Mannak, Miriam. “World Cup 2010: Its Greenness in Question” – World News From World Newspapers. 2010, Jan. 13. Web. 15

Aug. 2011.

“New Transport era for Joberg.” 25 June 2010. Web. 14 Aug. 2011.

“South Africa Struggles to ‘Green’ World Cup Venues – Environmental Management & Energy News – Environmental Leader.” Environmental Management & Energy


Environmental Leader. Web. 13 Aug. 2011. /

“UNEP Climate Neutral Network – Greening 2010 FIFA World Cup.” United Nations

Environment Programme (UNEP) – Home Page. Web. 14 Aug. 2011.

2010. Web. 13 Aug. 2011.

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