The value of sustainability – Part Three | Paris 2024

  • Paris 2024 is targeting ISO 20121 certification
  • 95 per cent of competition venues would be existing or temporary
  • New infrastructure will obtain a double-certification – BREEAM and HQE

There’s no doubt the 2024 contenders are taking sustainability more seriously than any previous Olympic bidding process. Never before has the IOC been so focused on instructing bidders to slash costs, think green and to meticulously address thorny legacy questions. Never before have candidate cities vying for the biggest sporting prize on earth laboured so hard on this aspect of the bid dossier. This time may be different, but can Los Angeles and Paris pay more than lip service to deliver sustainable Games?

The 2024 contest is the first test of IOC president Thomas Bach’s much-trumpeted Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms, which calls for sustainability to be included in “all aspects of planning and staging of the Olympic Games”. So, has the IOC got it right? Are the reforms working and the bids delivering?

Jacqueline Barrett, the IOC’s associate director for Olympic candidatures, seems to think so. As the IOC sets to work on examining the third and final bid dossiers submitted in February ahead of evaluation commission visits to the cities, she believes sustainability “has been fully embraced”.

Following the troubled run-in to the 2016 Olympics and now alarming reports that some venues are falling into disrepair and disuse, the IOC might be glad to see the back of Rio. Despite the problems, Barrett is quick to defend Rio’s blighted post-Games landscape. She says the IOC disagrees “quite rigorously” with any analysis that the Brazilian city is a failure: “Rio, we have to take a little bit of a distance from in terms of judging legacy and sustainability. It’s very early days there.”

For the 2024 Games expect something better, she suggests. “We have reinforced legacy and sustainability commitments [to the bids] and addressed governance structures for legacy delivery,” she explains.

But why should IOC members voting on the 2024 host city in Lima, Peru, in September care about sustainability and legacy? Many are unlikely to give the detailed evaluation reports on LA and Paris much of their time.

“The bottom line is sustainability matters today – for everyone in society. Olympic Agenda 2020 was a very thorough and long discussion… the IOC voted in unanimity,” Barrett adds. “They want this on the table. They feel it themselves. It’s their Olympic agenda… it’s not just the president’s, it’s the whole Olympic Movement’s.”

Does she think the winning 2024 bid can match up to their promises and set new benchmarks? “It’s a huge opportunity, win or not, working with diverse groups, to introduce new standards and to come to the table with something creative, so yes we have high hopes of that,” she says.


VIDEO: The sustainability experience by the Paris 2024 bid partners:

The French bid is trying to drum up support for its “bold strategy” to stage the first Olympics in compliance with the Paris Climate Agreement – as well as Agenda 2020. Environmental safeguards and climate action strategies are at the core of its sustainability vision that was finessed in the wake of the global climate deal agreed by nearly 200 countries at the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in November 2016.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo sums up the goal: “We are working hand in hand with Paris 2024 and its partners to ensure the Games we create will contribute to a leap forward on the hosting of sustainable global events, fully in line with the Paris Agreement.”

Inspired by the conference and France’s leading role in the global fight against climate change, the bid’s environmental excellence committee used the momentum to develop the sustainability cornerstones of the bid. On January 12 the 20 largest sporting events hosted in France committed to 15 environmentally-responsible initiatives.

PICTURE: The proposed media village


The bid highlights a compact Games concept and innovative eco-friendly transport and infrastructure solutions aimed at “creating a blueprint for responsible event-hosting and sustainable urban development”. It hopes to achieve this through strategic partnerships with, among others, WWF France and the Caisse des Depots et Consignations, which is helping with carbon offsetting. Paris 2024 is also targeting ISO 20121 certification. It will be the first time a bid committee has sought the international best practice certificate in sustainable event management.

Jérôme Lachaze, the bid’s head of sustainability, says the challenge from the outset has been “how do we manage to make the most sustainable Games… that it is not just words”.

“What we wanted was it to be in the DNA of the bid, driven by Paris, but also by France,” he says, adding that COP21 brought the responsibility to deliver on the Paris Agreement. The IOC’s Agenda 2020 guided “our choices of concept and places”.

“We think our project answers to it with the main factors,” Lachaze emphasises, pointing to the fact that 95 per cent of planned competition venues are existing or temporary structures, and underscoring the French capital’s smart thinking on transport. Underscoring the scale of the bid’s ambition is a carbon dioxide emissions reduction strategy, which is targeting a 55-per-cent smaller carbon footprint than the London 2012 Olympics (about 3.4 million tonnes). London was highly acclaimed as a green Games; Paris believes it can do better.

A new aquatics centre, a desperately-needed facility neighbouring the Stade de France, and Bercy Arena II are the only venues needed to be built for the 2024 sporting extravaganza. All venues have a “carefully planned legacy” for their communities. The bid says 100-per-cent renewable electricity will be used throughout the Paris 2024 Games.

PICTURE: Bercy Arena

Energy cluster

Lachaze says the aquatics centre is “going to be a real legacy for all the people in Paris”. The idea is to have a “positive energy cluster” around the Stade de France and the centre. Solar panels on the legendary stadium will produce all the swimming complex’s power requirements.

New infrastructure will obtain a double-certification, BREEAM and HQE (the French construction certification for high environmental quality).

Low carbon and eco-designed buildings in the Olympic Village aim to ensure the impact of construction represents less than 30 per cent of the total. Materials would be bio-sourced. The village would run on 100-per-cent renewable energy, with a zero-waste policy. Accommodating 17,000 athletes and officials on a 51-hectare site integrating the River Seine, the village design strives for environmental excellence: more than 10 hectares of newly-created gardens planned; 1.6km of riverbanks to be restored; 100 per cent of building materials biosourced; 80-100 per cent of construction waste recycled; zero rainwater discharge into the wastewater network; and all needs for watering and cleaning common spaces from rainwater harvesting.

PICTURE: Yves du Manoir Stadium

Urban regeneration

Conceived as a flagship urban regeneration project, the new Olympic district is being promoted as a major legacy of Paris 2024 that will set new standards for sustainable development and smart city practices. It is envisaged that driverless electric shuttles will be in operation in the village for use by athletes. Post-Games, the Olympic Village will be converted into social housing. Elsewhere, a fleet of zero-emission vehicles to ferry the Olympic and Paralympic VIPs around, combined with the use of temporary infrastructure, intends to reduce Games-staging costs to less than a quarter of the total impact.

The bid aims for 95 per cent of construction waste to be reused, while 100 per cent of materials for temporary overlay and structures will get recycled after the Games, including at least 50 per cent in France, following an analysis of local needs.

A sustainable procurement process to consider environmental, social and ethical matters, including international standards on child labour and human rights, has been implemented for each phase of the Games lifecycle for various contracts, such as goods, services, catering and sponsorship.

The clean transport concept appears solid – green mobility is the key. All spectators will travel to Paris 2024 events by public or shared transport; 85 per cent of athletes would be accommodated within 30 minutes of their competition venues.

PICTURE: Sports action on the River Seine

Delivering a financially sustainable Games concept has seen Paris 2024 “reducing costs as much as we could”. Lachaze says: “We have a secure budget with low risk.”

He talks of the bid, organising committee, delivery body and legacy authorities working hard to ensure “everything we put in place from the very beginning will leave a lasting legacy for the city, the world and the Olympic Movement”.

“It’s going to set new standards and that’s what we want,” he says of a Paris Games if the city is awarded hosting rights in Lima in September. ‘Made for Sharing’ is the new bid slogan announced in early February. “We want to have a bid that will influence the world and go beyond the borders of France,” Lachaze says.

Furthering this aspiration are plans for a Paris 2024 Sustainable Lab to engage the international community and identify best-practice solutions for the Games. “Most important is that it can be replicated… sharing ideas that can benefit people all over the world,” he adds.

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