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Greenwashing the Tokyo Olympic Games

Greenwashing the Tokyo Olympic Games

“The gap between rhetoric and reality is a persistent one when looking at the sustainability of commitments of Olympic Games hosts”.

– Martin Müller, European Urban and Regional Studies, 2015

The organisers of the Olympics have always been into appearances and grand theatre.  And the International Olympic Committee has always been keen in keeping them up, from the barely credible notion of political neutrality to the now popular goal of carbon neutrality.  In 2015, the IOC decided to fully hop on the sustainability bandwagon, though it claimed to have been “an important topic for the IOC for many years”.  Indeed, in the 1990s, the body echoed the sentiments of the UN’s sustainable development plan Agenda 21 by publishing Olympic Movement’s Agenda 21, though that report displays, rather prominently, the company logo of the oil behemoth Shell.  Sustainable development was, according to the then IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch, “totally in conformity with the goal of Olympism, which is to place everywhere sport at the service of the harmonious development of man.”

In its Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC sets out recommendations for three “spheres of responsibility”.  The first: that the IOC adopt sustainability principles and include them “in its day-to-day operations.”  The second: that the organisation “take a proactive and leadership role on sustainability and ensure that it is included in all aspects of the planning and staging” of the games.  The third, as being the “leader of the Olympic Movement”, the IOC will engage and assist the movement’s “stakeholders in integrating sustainability within their own organisations and operations.”

As with other organisations of scale, problematic strategies such as carbon offsetting are embraced. Much is made of making sure that such “efforts” are communicated both internally “via workshops or by circulating infographics” and externally…

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