Environmental impacts of sports

Sports, no matter which one it may be, are something that operate on such a large scale worldwide. They are loved by many, but the magnitude of sports fandom, stadiums, and more has a consequential side to it many do not consider: the environmental impacts. It is becoming something more and more important to observe as Earth’s various ecosystems are being slowly degraded, and making that knowledge more accessible will effectively spread awareness for this not often talked about downside.

One of the most characteristic aspects of sports is the stadiums, fields, and facilities that come with them. These locations provide a home for some of the world’s most known and viewed competitions and are undoubtedly integral to the vivacity of sports. But these large projects require a tremendous amount of resources to create and engineer, many times being more than expected. This rings true especially when those projects are only used once and never again after the event is finished; these once revered venues are typically left to waste for the most part.

One prominent example of this is the usage of World Cup stadiums. Once the mass of fans and players trickle home, the stadiums that once held great fame for a bit are rendered mostly useless, a substantial waste of precious resources. These stadiums, the most recent example being in Qatar, also hold large amounts of grass turf. Per a Reuter report, it was estimated that at least 10,000 liters of water were required to water the playing surfaces on a daily basis. This “needed” routine undoubtedly placed strain on the already dry environment of Qatar.

Another similar occurrence took place during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Since the area of Beijing is particularly arid, not much precipitation falls there, making for man-made snow being the only option to create ample surface for outdoor venues. This consumes large amounts of electricity and water, which produces carbon emissions. From a Council on Foreign Relations article regarding environmental impacts of the Olympics, it’s shown that the making of snow will use five hundred million gallons of water, mostly diverted away from residents and farmers. This strains native people and the surrounding ecosystem of water to dire extents. As if this is not bad enough, the crafted ski hills contribute to soil erosion and degradation of vegetation.

Similar events have taken and will continue to take place around the world, adding to the degradation of resources and high amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere. While the most negative environmental impact of sports comes from large-scale events like that, smaller scale impacts continue to build up.

Golf courses, with their size and consumption, are extremely detrimental environmentally, although it may not seem like it come first glance. They require extreme amounts of pesticide, which harms the native animals of the location and contaminates groundwater. These sprawling areas also use great levels of water, and in certain areas, water is already a scarce resource.

Additionally, it’s estimated that the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB produce over 35,000 tons of CO2 annually from fans, by Waste Management. Transportation and accommodation for fans account for about 85% of greenhouse gas emissions generated by sporting events.

Sports around the world are certainly not one of the biggest factors contributing to environmental decay, but its large scale popularity makes it a perfect opportunity for efforts towards more sustainable sports practices. Implementing more ‘green’ into sporting events and related topics will help to raise awareness for the importance of our Earth.