What would a more sustainable World Cup look like?

Dec 15, 2022, 2:13 PM | Updated: Dec 16, 2022, 4:24 am
FILE - A Qatari man films new central concourse terminal expansion new airport opened to accommodat...

FILE - A Qatari man films new central concourse terminal expansion new airport opened to accommodate people arriving for the World Cup in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

              FILE - Passengers gather in a terminal of Charles de Gaulle airport, Friday, July 1, 2022 at Roissy airport, north of Paris. (AP Photo/ Thomas Padilla, File)
            
              FILE - Passengers walk at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
            
              FILE - Workers walk to the Lusail Stadium, one of the 2022 World Cup stadiums, in Lusail, Qatar, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
            
              FILE - A Qatari man films new central concourse terminal expansion new airport opened to accommodate people arriving for the World Cup in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Paris 2024 Olympics will be “climate positive,” organizers claim. The men’s World Cup in 2026 — to be held in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada — will be the “lowest-carbon FIFA World Cup of the modern era,” if promises pan out.

Qatar’s World Cup is ending on Sunday, but climate pledges like its promise of a “carbon-neutral” event — central to the gas-rich Gulf nation’s hosting bid — are staying with the world of mega sporting events.

Real differences among host countries affect how polluting one event is versus another. A country’s size, how many stadiums it builds, whether public transit reaches the venues, and how clean — or dirty — the electric grid is, all factor into the climate impact.

But scientists, environmental advocates and other experts say that sporting events such as the World Cup and the Olympics have grown to such a scale that efforts to make them more sustainable need to go far beyond what was done in Qatar.

“We have to change the structure of these events,” said Walker Ross, a researcher of sports and sustainability at the University of Edinburgh. “And that means having to make some tough decisions about where they can be hosted, and who can host them.”

EXISTING INFRASTRUCTURE

Qatar built seven stadiums and refurbished another for the World Cup. Construction like this is extremely carbon-intensive. The emissions remain in the air for more than a century, changing the climate. And the buildings were just a fraction of what the emirate built to host soccer’s marquee event. Qatar says after the tournament, one stadium will be entirely dismantled.

In contrast, all the stadiums that will host the World Cup games in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada in 2026 already exist. Organizers of the Paris 2024 Olympics say 95% of the venues will come from temporary or existing infrastructure.

Finding potential World Cup hosts who have the infrastructure is easier than for the Olympics, said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College in Massachusetts who has written multiple books about the economics of mega sporting events.

Summer Olympics can require more than 40 venues, Zimbalist said, “and they’re not venues that are normally used” again.

“It’s a lot simpler to host the World Cup,” he said.

PERMANENT HOSTS

Another idea: establish fixed sites for the Olympics and other events to avoid building expensive infrastructure that often isn’t used after the games, such as the stadiums left behind in former World Cup hosts South Africa, Brazil and Russia.

Some experts say countries could host games simultaneously that way, which could potentially reduce the distances fans travel to a tournament — a major source of emissions for any event.

The International Olympic Committee is considering the idea of a fixed pool of host countries for the Winter Olympics. Earlier this month, the sporting body said it would take more time to name a host for the 2030 games.

Rotating the games “within a pool of hosts” could also be a way to respond to the challenge of finding suitable sites for the winter games on a planet where reliable snow is getting harder to find.

TRAVEL

Reducing how far fans travel to host countries and games is essential, said Arnaud Brohe, chief executive officer of climate consulting firm Agendi and an expert on carbon markets.

Qatar insisted that its World Cup would be sustainable in part because its small size meant fans wouldn’t have to travel far between games. But thousands of fans have stayed in neighboring Dubai in the United Arab Emirates — about 45 minutes away by flight, due to a lack of lodging in the emirate, which is about the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut.

But those distances could be trumped by how far fans and teams will travel during the next World Cup where games will be held in North American cities as distant as Houston, Los Angeles, Toronto and Mexico City. In the bid for the 2026 tournament, organizers said they would try to “cluster” knockout rounds to minimize travel.

MORE ACCURACY

Far-fetched pledges like Qatar’s are becoming the norm.

“When the last one promised to be ‘carbon-neutral,’ you don’t want to be the bid that says the environment is really not that important to us,” said Ross of the University of Edinburgh.

Experts say these plans rely too heavily on promises known as “carbon offsets” to cancel out emissions. Paris Olympic organizers say they will offset whatever emissions can’t be prevented — such as those produced by fans traveling internationally to France.

The credits promise to counteract pollution by paying to bury carbon underground, plant trees or prevent greenhouse gases from escaping in the first place.

But it’s not clear that any sporting body or regulator follows up on the plans after an event. And many carbon experts remain unconvinced by carbon offsets.

“The more of that band-aid oriented thinking we have, the less progress,” said Danny Cullenward, a California-based energy economist and lawyer who studies carbon emissions. “That’s a common problem whether you locate the event in a very high-polluting country or a very low-(polluting) country.”

Zimbalist said sporting bodies should be more honest with their efforts to be sustainable, instead of using labels like “climate positive” or “carbon-neutral” that suggest a mega sporting event will have a negligible or zero impact on the climate, which is impossible.

“A more accurate way of saying it is that they’re less negative, not that they’re positive.”

___

Follow Suman Naishadham on Twitter: @SumanNaishadham

___

Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

___

AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Bryan Kohberger, who is accused of killing four University of Idaho students in Nov. 2022, a...
Associated Press

News groups ask Idaho Supreme Court to reject University slayer gag order

Thirty news organizations have asked the Idaho Supreme Court to overturn a gag order in a case against a man accused of stabbing four students to death.
22 hours ago
FILE - Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman takes the stage at an election night party in Pittsburg...
Associated Press

Sen. John Fetterman hospitalized after feeling lightheaded

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, the Pennsylvania Democrat who suffered a stroke during his campaign last year, was hospitalized Wednesday night after feeling lightheaded while attending a Senate Democratic retreat, his office said. Initial tests at George Washington University Hospital did not show evidence of a new stroke, Fetterman’s communications director, Joe Calvello, […]
22 hours ago
FILE - President Joe Biden waves before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, F...
Associated Press

Focused on 2024, Biden sees opportunity in GOP-held Florida

WASHINGTON (AP) — With an eye toward the 2024 campaign, President Joe Biden on Thursday ventures to Florida, a state defined by its growing retiree population and status as the unofficial headquarters of the modern-day Republican Party. The president sees a chance to use Social Security and Medicare to drive a wedge between GOP lawmakers […]
22 hours ago
FILE - President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress a...
Associated Press

Biden’s oil comments spark debate over energy production

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden sparked a firestorm in energy circles when he said in Tuesday’s State of the Union address that the United States will need oil “for at least another decade.´´ Republicans in the House chamber laughed in derision at Biden’s off-the-cuff remark, which was not in his scripted speech. GOP lawmakers […]
22 hours ago
Kailani Taylor-Cribb walks through her neighborhood in Asheville, N.C., on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. ...
Associated Press

The pandemic missing: The kids who didn’t go back to school

She’d be a senior right now, preparing for graduation in a few months, probably leading her school’s modern dance troupe and taking art classes. Instead, Kailani Taylor-Cribb hasn’t taken a single class in what used to be her high school since the height of the coronavirus pandemic. She vanished from Cambridge, Massachusetts’ public school roll […]
22 hours ago
Parents wait for news after a bus crashed into a daycare centre in Laval, Quebec, on Wednesday, Feb...
Associated Press

Driver plows bus into Canadian day care, killing 2 children

Police have charged a bus driver with first-degree murder after he drove his vehicle at a high speed into a day care center north of Montreal, killing two children, injuring six and leaving authorities searching for a motive. Witnesses say that after Wednesday’s crash, the 51-year-old driver, identified as Pierre Ny St-Amand, stepped out of […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
What would a more sustainable World Cup look like?