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Earth Day 2024: Special Olympics Drive Sustainability in Italy and Belgium

Athlete lighting the Olympic flame with the eternal flame.

The following is an excerpt from Inside the Games’ article on Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023’s sustainability project:

To develop a way forward, we need a sense of where we are. That's why, following the project kick-off meeting in November 2023, the project teams in Belgium and Italy—led by the SO Europe Foundation—embarked on a period of intensive research. A key aspect of this was to analyse the sustainability challenges and achievements of the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023.

These Games, which pursued an ambitious and award-winning green agenda, provided the project team with important lessons that have informed the development of a draft Sport Sustainability Framework (SSF). The framework is now being tested as a proof of concept at various Special Olympics events in Italy and Belgium.

Athletes playing a game of field hockey.
Action from Special Olympics Belgium in Mechelen on 18 May 2023. SPECIAL OLYMPICS BELGIUM

Colin Kenny, Senior Manager—Projects and Grants of the SO Europe Foundation, emphasises the importance of sustainability for Special Olympics: "It is essential that we are sustainable in everything we do. International sports organisations like Special Olympics need to do more in this area due to their large carbon footprint at international events. We hope that this project will show other international organisations what is possible in sustainability."

Lisa Ferzetti of Special Olympics Italy echoes this point: "Our world is complex and every problem we face is deeply rooted in other aspects of our society. Climate change affects every aspect of our lives and Special Olympics can't ignore it. Special Olympics has a strong sense of responsibility that sets it apart from other sports organisations and it is important that we use our voice to advocate for the environment."

After a draft framework document has been tested at Special Olympics events in Belgium and Italy, a final SSF document will be developed with best practices and recommendations. It is hoped that these will eventually be shared across the Special Olympics movement and into the world of sport.

Read the full article.

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