By Peter Ward, Director at WeTrack

Hello from WeTrack! Our previous guest blog considered the mega-event industry from the perspective of risk. This time, we begin a two-part focus on the environment, and in this article, more specifically, carbon footprints.

We will consider the largest contributors to a carbon footprint, local and global initiatives to reduce the footprint, and the possible effect of event management software on how an event might manage its carbon footprint. This is a 5 minute read, so strap in!

Host cities dream of urban revitalisation and the subsequent economic boost, but at what environmental cost does this come? A recent study at Cardiff University found that the average attendee of a mega-event generates a carbon footprint seven times greater than someone going about normal, everyday activities. Carbon emissions need to be reduced, not merely offset.


The biggest contributor seems to be travel.

The search for precise understanding of environmental issues is a difficult one. It is near impossible to assess quantitatively the many and varied environmental consequences of an event.

The work at Cardiff University proposed two possible measures: Ecological Footprint analysis, and Environmental Input-Output modelling. The first sought to provide a snapshot estimate of each individual’s consumption patterns to measure the global ecological impact of the event. The second essentially looked to produce a cost-benefit analysis of a mega-event, with such measures as tonnes per value (£) added.

The study also considered the longer-term relationship between the mega-event industry and the environment. It suggested that environmental awareness really began to increase from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics onwards, and that the environment is now seen by the International Olympic Committee as the third pillar of the Olympic movement, joining sport and culture.

Biggest contributors to carbon footprint

Each study confirmed that travel is the biggest contributor to the carbon footprint of the mega-event industry. Of course, this is especially the case for international events where thousands fly in, take taxis, etc…

Per an Ecological Footprint analysis of the 2004 FA Cup Final, travel contributed to 54% of the total carbon footprint. The final was hosted at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff; the teams and majority of fans therefore had to travel from Manchester and London respectively.

This is the (not-so?) hidden cost of long-distance tourism.

Is there any way to limit this impact?

How could carbon footprint be reduced?

Let us first think about travel, then, as that was the focus above. Could certain forms of travel be subsidised? Mega events are naturally going to lead to a lot of international travel. Across huge countries like the USA, however, could there be incentives to travel by rail rather than air?

Could travel be reduced, full stop? In terms of spectatorship, this seems unlikely. However, in the organisation and planning stages, there must be opportunities to reduce unnecessary site visits, or the like. Event management software such as WeTrack can display site map views. Virtual reality may even allow stakeholders to have a tour of a venue or site from their own home office. There are surely opportunities here.

Venues such as Wembley are self-designated as public transport venues. This is an easy and enforceable initiative that straightforwardly reduces the number of cars on the road.

Let us now think about larger global initiatives

Tokyo 2020 really intends to blaze a trail in how environmentally considerate a mega-event can be. It has a stated goal of zero carbon, calling for maximum use of renewable energy sources. All energy used at competition venues and in the athletes’ village is to be generated by renewables.

Existing facilities are to be used wherever possible to reduce the need for huge construction projects; 25 of the 43 venues to be used are pre-existing.

It is aiming for 99% reuse or recycling, to minimise waste. Even a large number of the medals awarded will be produced from recycled precious metals!

In some areas, such as local competitor transport, they are even testing the grounds for a ‘hydrogen society’.

There have previously been somewhat more tentative ventures. Agenda 21, from the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, was a general commitment to environmental sustainability in economic development. Its potential framework was adopted by the IOC.

The FIFA Green Goal programme aimed to make the 2006 World Cup the most environmentally friendly ever, attempting to offset the 100,000 tonnes of carbon emissions predicted to be generated by the event. There is a general theme of ‘greening’ sports events; mega organisations like FIFA and the IOC want to be seen as part of the solution rather than the problem.

Ultimately, the environment needs to be considered from the very start of the planning of a mega-event. There needs to be technical knowledge in environmental science involved in the decision-making processes behind hosting, and construction. The interests of local government and wider community involvement need to be prioritised. Right from the outset, environmental sensitivity must be there.

It is impossible to consider practically all the environmental ramifications of a mega-event. An approach based on innovative initiatives seems wise, to continue increasing awareness and to target particular known issues, such as the overwhelming contribution of travel to an event’s carbon footprint.

Are certain types of company carbon reducers?

Here, we wish to think specifically about event management software. How might companies like ours help reduce a mega-event’s carbon footprint?

As mentioned, having an all-encompassing tasks, projects and issues system with the capability for site map views and PDF uploads means that more and more can be done from a stakeholder’s own office. Travel could easily be reduced.

Simple task management encourages efficiency, as tasks can be easily assigned to the relevant party, and never duplicated.

Even more pertinently, the environment can be embedded into the very heart of projects. The very existence of such easy-to-use software should encourage event managers to create projects with the environment in mind. The system can be used as a forum to collect and collate data and make universal plans pertaining to environmental initiatives.

As in our previous article on risk, there are clear opportunities and dangers here. It is a heavy responsibility upon the mega-event industry to do everything it can to be as environmentally friendly as possible. In this regard the planned initiatives of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are a promising step, but the time has come for more than promise.

Peter Ward, Director at WeTrack

After working in operations and software development roles at an international hedge fund, Peter took a job as a readiness manager at London 2012 (LOCOG). It was an interesting first job in the events world! Infuriated by an overreliance on Excel, MS Project and email, Peter decided to create WeTrack. WeTrack is a project management and readiness system designed for large events and has clients including Expo 2020, Farnborough Air Show and Cheltenham Festival.

Adam is the co-founder and editor of Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.