Sport and the planet

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The planet is in deep do–do, writes Mickey Charles, president and CEO of real–time sports wire service The Sports Network (TSN), based in Philadelphia, US. And it has to do with a host of problems, starting with global warming and heading towards, but not stopping at, the world of sports. Yes, sports.

It seems that every one of us has a role in helping to make Mother Earth a bit less, maybe a lot less, than what we have inherited over the years. In essence, it is programmable mayhem and no one gives a twit about generations to come. Well, almost no one. We all do our part in one fashion or the other. While the glaciers are melting away and weather patterns are changing drastically from Los Angeles to London, Boston to Beijing and Chicago to Calcutta, the human race, of which we are all a part, seems hell–bent on bringing our world to its knees, coughing, gasping for air, beset by emissions destroying the atmosphere and transforming the beauty that was into an industrialised panorama of tubes reaching skyward spewing forth blackened, begrimed and bleary smoke. If, by the way, it is white, that is not a signal that a new Pope has been selected. Rather, it means that someone out there is really trying to conduct business without poisoning the air we breathe any further. The natural environment is our concern and sport can play an integral part in the preservation of it, even when reformatting the landscape to accomplish pre–determined ends whether for recreation or the establishment of loftier venues for those competing at any level. That, of course, brings us to the billion dollar ballparks and their requirements from the surrounding area(s) as well as to such massive undertakings as the Olympics, FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Boston Marathon, et al. Each one takes over like an invading army focused on occupation. Land mass is relocated, new structures dot the landscape, the very culture of the surrounding area is asked to accept and acclimate. Global society is manipulated and the present takes incredible precedence over the future without the realisation that we are, in fact, the future of the past. That means taking a look at where we are and whether we like all of it. Are we prepared for the extinction of many species, the disappearance of fantastic forests, and the industrialisation that has dwarfed health issues? As I have written before for MEI, China provided us with an Olympics not easily forgotten and, when it was all done, with the rest of the world going home, what was the result in Beijing? Were all the buildings erected planned with a view towards social use post–Olympics? No. Was the surrounding area to benefit from what was asked of them? No. Was the social burden imposed addressed at all? No. The alleged improvements that an Olympics must undertake have to be accomplished with a long term view. That has not usually been the case in much of the past. The trickle down extends to Manchester United, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, Real Madrid and a host of others. So, let's forget Beijing, Vancouver, and Rio de Janeiro for the moment, and even the professional teams that invade our very existence and attention on a daily basis. Take this problem to the universities, local clubs, little leagues and backyards of our homes, where the learning process begins. That transports us to the obvious and how it has to be handled, taken in context...the field or stadium and the ground it takes; parking facilities, large or small–emissions congregated in one immense area; trash scattered about thanks to tail–gaiting or McDonald's for the little leaguers; rubbish and litter at the game because the perpetrators do not have to clean it up; a park atmosphere presumably invaded and displaced for the sake of the sport; public transportation used to excess and either not improved upon or, as in the case of the Olympics, altered completely with, yes, a hoped for eye to the future. On the wide angle front, roads, railways, overhauling transportation systems, improving and expanding airports, more parking that will become open lots when, for example, the Olympics are over. The new generation of stadium designers and architects has gone green in one manner or the other. China's Dalian Shide Stadium will now be known as the Garden Stadium, designed to emulate, yes, a garden with green walls to filter the air, reduce greenhouse gases and provide an adequate level of insulation. The roof is a flexible system of cables and fabric to reduce overall environmental impact and the walls are clad with living plants that change their appearance depending on the seasons. Giant LED panels are powered by wind turbines and solar cells installed on the walls, roof and the site. The Incheon Stadium in South Korea will host the 17th Asian Games in 2014 and is adaptable with a seating capacity for 70, 000 for the Games and then a transformation to a 30, 000 seat stadium and public park when the games are over. The Franco Sensi in Rome is wholly studded with solar panels, modern facilities like restaurants, lounges, bars to complement the regular seating. Add a highly efficient solar photovoltaic panel grouping hinging on a peripheral zinc–titanium membrane shell and you have some more folks that care. Repeat that sentence five times fast!In the US, the New York Giants, New York Jets and US Environmental Protection Agency have joined to make the new Meadowlands Stadium one of the greenest sports venues anywhere. It is a bandwagon that has plenty of seats and there is a line waiting to hop on. The main stadium for the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in Sochi, Russia with its shimmering crystalline skin...translucent during the day and alive at night with colour and spectacle of the game. The London 2012 Olympic Stadium will include a façade wrapped in environmentally–friendly hemp and the materials that will go into making this outstanding eco–stadium are recycled polymer based fabric and hemp. The Cowboys Stadium in the US is another eco effort with the use of native trees and plants, purchases of some renewable energy and use of recycled plastic in seats and the playing field. This year's Winter Olympics are in Vancouver and many of the facilities have been designed to use green building strategies. Whew!The problem, however, is that most of you do not believe that you have any impact at all on the environment nor are you concerned about those that have not arrived yet given that you do not care much about those already here. Major bummer and bad attitude. We are speaking of preserving the planet, the globe where you live and partake of all that it has to excess and the detriment of the rest of us as well as other inhabitants that dwell in the forests and seas and hover above us in the skies. Toss an idle piece of trash out the car window and multiply that by 1, 000 other unthinking mortals. Not a pretty result. Put the leftovers of the food and drink you just had at the game under the seat and leave it for the 'cleaning folk'. How lazy and inconsiderate can you be? Take the car, add to the congestion and parking disorder, not to mention the emissions left behind and you could have taken public transportation for convenience and less cost. Who the heck is responsible for Planet Earth if not us? There is no cleaning crew that comes in nightly from above. Like the bathroom and the mess you left behind on the sink counter, what about those that come in after you? And, those that will take your place here in later years? To the other guy you are the other guy. Can you understand and handle that? No, of course it is not all sports–related. Hell, we all know that. But, we are all sports fans to one degree or another. We are members of the same fan club, the human race. The imbroglio is that, for all intents and purposes, our world is in disarray, there is clutter everywhere, and the predicament is not petty. All those new stadiums for the events that are larger than anything you are able to comprehend are great but the effort has its beginnings where you are standing right now, will be driving later, game to which you are going this weekend, drive to and walk in the park with the kids when you get home this evening. Sports sets the pace for so many things in life but saving the planet is a lot more important than emulating that tattoo your hero just added to the 20 others adorning his arms, neck and legs. Put the earring aside and start recycling, clean up during and before you leave, stop sending so many obnoxious and hurtful fumes into the atmosphere. And, remember, the t–shirt or hoody emblazoned with 'Let's go green!' does not have to refer to your favourite team. It is time to save the environment and the planet. In conclusion, there are really a number of steps you might want to bear in mind when determining an anticipated greener sports venue of any size. Just mix and stir with common sense:Energy efficiency–the newer bulbs in many markets today, the 'twisters', are the ones to use at any sports venue, in your home, the media room, and other main sources of light. Yours is not the space centre in Houston or Cape Canaveral but you certainly can learn to save a little bit here and lot there. Eliminating excessive use of pesticides – From the local schoolyard to that professional venue with the real grass it is time to stop downing the fields in unending sprays. Recycle, recycle, recycle–you have garbage cans, you need recycling bins. Simple as that. One for one works. Small but visible signage helps, as does the word, 'please'. And, as easy as it sounds, confirm that the folks picking up the trash and cans are recycling or find a new waste management company. Leave the car at home –When my wife and I go to Yankee Stadium we take the train. Piece of cake. A little crowded after the game with that huge surge of humanity but that comes with the territory and is infinitely easier than spending an hour looking for a parking space or paying outrageous amounts at nearby lots/garages where it takes as much time to deliver your car as it did to watch the game. For Little League/kids' sports, work a bus into the budget and pick up all the kids and parents. Get the message out on the electronic signage at the game...and a few permanent, visible ones, from the neighbourhood park and field to Manchester United and the Los Angeles Lakers. The concession overflow–the birthplace of cups, plates, plastic forks and knives, napkins, unfinished French fries, empty soda bottle and beer cans. Use products made with recycled content. Offer to fill the fans' own cups if they bring them. For health, they just might do that and those will never be left behind. Some signage, again, would help–"Let's save the environment and live clean. "For further information about The Sports Network, visit: www. sportsnetwork. com. The Sports Network2200 Byberry RdHatboro, PA 19040 Tel: +1 (215) 441–8444 Fax: +1 (215) 441–5767

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