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Sebastian Coe, World Athletics: Air quality will become a determining factor in our choice of host cities in the future

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At the beginning of November, Sebastian Coe, President of the World Athletics, participated in the sixth session on Sustainability of the IOC, where he pointed out the need to “Go back to basics to build back better” as part of the Sustainability Strategy for Athletics.

As he commented during his participation, sport can play a key role in the fight against climate change and in that sense, sustainability must be at the centre of all actions taken. And for this, the collaboration between sport and science is essential.

The pandemic we have experienced, despite having been a huge upheaval for everyone, “has shown that man-made measures can make a mitigating set of changes to the whole issue of climate change. For the first time in years, cities like New Delhi, London and Paris saw clear blue skies.”

And its citizens were also breathing cleaner air.

Coe, who was invited to deliver the workshop’s closing remarks, said that there is a genuine belief among all international sporting federations that sport can make a massive contribution in the fight against climate change and “that sustainability does really have to sit at the heart of pretty much everything that we do”.

“The only way that those changes can be addressed through our own portfolio (as sport federations) is the collaboration of sport and science.”

There is a genuine belief that […] sport can make a massive contribution in the fight against climate change

As Coe said, the World Athletics Air Quality Project is one of the 6 key pillars of its sustainability platform given the obvious connection to sport.

Since its inception, air quality has been monitored at many sports facilities around the world as well as at major sporting events such as last month’s World Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland. These studies are being shared and analysed.

“We can make a significant difference in the quality of the lives in those communities”

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe and Miguel Escribano of Kunak in Yokohama (Roger Sedres) © Copyright

“We knew that the health and performance of our athletes and also the communities that so generously host our events were in danger. We quite rightly recognised that we can make a significant difference in the quality of the lives in those communities.”

World Athletics is also working with the Label Road Race organisers, collaborating on clinical and environmental air quality research, which “will become a determining factor in our choice of host cities in the future.”

Air quality “will become a determining factor in our choice of host cities in the future”

In 2018, World Athletics began a campaign to raise awareness on the importance of air quality, a project in which Kunak provides its monitoring solutions.

World Athletics, formerly the IAAF, aware of the consequences of pollution, in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme, launched an awareness campaign to highlight the value of air quality in stadiums and sports events. So much so that Kunak is providing the technological means and data for this monitoring to be carried out reliably and rigorously in different sporting events as described in our article How does air pollution affect outdoor sports?.

The purpose was to monitor the effects of air quality on health and athletic performance of the athletes and the general population.

The ten-year roadmap presented at the beginning of 2020 states that the Sustainability Strategy for Athletics, and in particular the fight against air pollution, is part of a broader approach, and its objectives include the transition to carbon neutrality in all its actions and events by 2030.

Note: You can download the IOC’s case study of the World Athletics Sustainability Strategy here

If you want to read the full article, you can see it here