What if, wondered organizers of the world championships of Olympic-style boxing staged this fall in Chicago, each fighter on check-in was given his own water bottle to fill time and again, however many times he wanted, with some of that good ol’ city tap water straight from Lake Michigan?
Wouldn’t that cut down on the mountain of plastic water bottles that inevitably now clutters every major sports event? Would that idea fly?
In planning for the boxing event, one of the first Olympic-style sports championships to be staged in the United States in recent years, officials — in seeking to enhance Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics — from the outset placed a high priority on “green” initiatives.
It was, of course, the right thing to do.
But it was also the smart thing to do. The International Olympic Committee has long emphasized environmental awareness. Indeed, without “green” sensitivities, any Olympic bid — indeed, any Olympic project of any sort — is a dead-bang loser.
Environmental protection is formally considered one of the “pillars” upon which the Olympic movement rests, IOC President Jacques Rogge reminded his audience in delivering a speech this fall in Beijing, site of the 2008 Summer Games. IOC sensitivities are so keen that the electronic delivery of Rogge’s speech to reporters beforehand contained this reminder: “Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.”
Under IOC pressure, Chinese authorities are scrambling to implement a number of far-reaching environmental initiatives in advance of the Aug. 8, 2008, opening ceremony, including sharp reductions in factory and auto emissions.
London’s winning bid for the 2012 Summer Games rested on plans for the construction of the largest new public park in Europe in 150 years. Spectators will in effect have to take public transit to the London Games since parking will be extraordinary limited and available then primarily to fans with physical disabilities. Officials are even aiming to find a more carbon-neutral flame to be kept alight in the cauldron for the month of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The IOC will pick the 2016 site in 2009. Also in the mix, along with Chicago: Tokyo; Madrid; Rio de Janeiro; Prague; Baku, Azerbaijian; and Doha, capital of the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar.
All of the “official” cars in use at the Chicago boxing championships were Toyota hybrids. Baxter, the healthcare company headquartered in suburban Deerfield, Ill., donated “carbon credits” designed to offset 8,000 tons of carbon dioxide — making the championships perhaps one of the first such events to be carbon neutral. All program materials were printed on recycled paper using soy-based inks.
The water-bottle idea ultimately didn’t work — this time. Too many complexities, organizers judged. But it wasn’t for lack of trying, or brainstorming — and a recognition that, in spheres of Olympic influence. green is gold.
“We wanted to ensure that the boxing championships were as green as they could be,” said Bill Scherr, chairman of World Sport Chicago, the private committee overseeing the boxing championships, adding, “Whether it is taking public transport, using hybrid cars for delegations to working with our hotel partners to go green, a lot of little things can make a huge difference.”