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Monday 8th August 2016

On Friday, the 44th Olympic Games opened in Rio, making history as the first Games to be held in a South American country. This will also be the first time Kosovo and the South Sudan compete and Rugby 7’s and Golf are both new events, having been added by the International Olympic Committee in 2009.
With the whole world watching, the Olympic Games offer a fantastic opportunity to promote sustainability and this year, sustainability is higher on the agenda than ever before. We’ve taken a look at what’s happened so far, and what they’ve got planned for the Games.

Torch Relay

The Olympic Torch was lit on 21st April in Olympia and after spending 7 days on Greek soil was transported to Brazil. The relay then crossed the entire country and has aimed to embrace the warmth of the Brazilian people through their traditions and cultures. Amongst those who have been selected to carry the torch, the organising committee chose 28 Brazilians who are involved in sustainability. These torch bearers will then be given the task of telling the population about their actions to create a more sustainable Brazil. You can see more on the Rio website.  

Embrace Proposal

The Embrace proposal aims to deliver sustainability before, during and after the Games. Based on three pillars: planet, people and prosperity, their aims are to:

  • Establish a standard of sustainability for holding events
  • Insert sustainability into the DNA of event organisation
  • Serve as an example of good sustainable practices
  • Be transparent through dialogue with society


Those being Rio are attempting to host a low impact games in order to minimise pressure on both materials and energy. Before beginning any activity, they have considered how it can be delivered efficiently from an environmental point of view. This includes choosing 100% FSC certified wood, having a sustainable headquarters and carrying out a material life-cycle analysis on the materials used for the games. By using biodiesel from recycled cooking oil to power fleets of buses and trucks, the organisers also hope to reduce their carbon footprint.


Brazil is hoping to engage visitors and raise awareness on important topics surrounding sustainability by embracing and welcoming everyone. This includes an extensive diversity programme, ensuring venues are accessible and delivering training programmes, including an online English course for the Games workforce.


The Games have established a chain of qualified suppliers and developed a management model that prioritises transparency with stakeholders. Three sustainability reports have been published that cover the organisation, delivery and dismantling of the games. A programme for SME’s to become suppliers to the Games has also been established to encourage smaller businesses to become involved.


Historically, sustainability hasn’t been that high on the agenda for the Games. It first became a high profile issue at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer where the environment was included as a fundamental principle. This set a precedent for each host city to work towards delivering a sustainable Olympic Games.

2000 Sydney

At the 2000 Games in Sydney, environmental considerations were incorporated into all aspects of the Games and the Olympic village was built using green technology.

2006 Turin

In 2006 in Turin, sustainability began to be considered in the legacy of the Games.

2010 Vancouver

In 2010 a sustainable governance model was created for all future Games to improve upon.

2012 London

By 2012, sustainability was a big focus of the Games with London organisers proclaiming 2012 to be the most sustainable games yet. Sustainable design was incorporated into all projects.

2016 Rio

Since 1994, things have come a long way and Rio hopes to build on the work of previous Games and become a catalyst for positive sustainable change.

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