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Sport events urged to prove green credentials

Sporting events attract thousands of car-driving spectators (Jungfrau Marathon)

More than 3,000 major sporting events take place in Switzerland every year. Now, organisers are being asked to do more for the environment.

The Swiss Olympic Association and the Swiss Environment Agency have offered prize money of SFr50,000 for events which boost environmental protection and awareness.

The Ecosport prize, launched in Bern on Thursday, will reward organisers who try to reduce the impact of traffic, economise on water and energy, and limit the amount of rubbish produced at sporting events.

"Along with sport and culture, the environment is the third dimension of the Olympic movement," said Walter Kägi, president of the Swiss Olympic Association.

Keep it clean

"In terms of traffic alone, the opportunities to protect the environment are huge," Gérard Poffet, vice-director of the Swiss Environment Agency, told swissinfo.

According to a study by Bern University, people attending sporting events in Switzerland, whether as participants or spectators, drive three billion kilometres a year.

"Often there's also a rubbish problem," added Poffet. "If you're not careful, a sporting event can leave the area in a terrible mess.

"And if it's an event involving vehicles, you can really interfere with nature, the ground, the fields, which can be hard to restore."

Olympic ideal

Swiss Olympic is offering a consultancy service for organisers who want to know how to "green" their event.

Among the measures suggested are combined train and entry tickets, efficient collection and separation of rubbish, cutlery and crockery which can be effectively disposed of, energy-saving machinery, protection of sensitive nature sites and use of existing infrastructure.

Swiss Olympic Director, Marco Blatter said environmental preoccupations must be integrated into the planning and running of sporting events.

"We have two aspects to consider," he told swissinfo when asked how the prize would be judged.

"Did an organiser make use of the instruments that were available and did he or she bring innovation to the project?"

"In an ideal world, participants in a sporting event will reflect beforehand what they can do in an intelligent way to consider the needs of environment and nature."

Main target

Switzerland currently hosts some 350,000 sporting events a year. The prize is being targeted at the 3,000 events, which bring together more than 500 people whether as active participants or spectators.

About 90 of these events have budgets of over SFr1 million and more than 10,000 spectators.

"The very big sports events in Switzerland are not our main target," said Blatter.

"Events like the Grand Prix of Bern, the Jungfrau marathon, the national gymnastic event which takes place every seventh year or the Swiss wrestling championships which also assembles about 100,000 people, are very aware of the environment.

"They have learnt during the past 20 years not only that they can help the environment but reduce costs by doing so."

The prize will be awarded for the first time in Autumn 2003.

swissinfo, Vincent Landon

ecosport brief

The prize will reward sports organisers who try to limit the impact of traffic, conserve energy, and reduce rubbish at sporting events.

People attending sporting events in Switzerland, whether as participants or spectators, drive three billion kilometres a year.

Swiss Olympic is offering a consultancy service for organisers who want to know how to "green" their event.

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