Tokyo 2020 Goes Beyond Carbon Neutrality and Helps Create a More “Sustainable Society”

Jan 26, 2022 10:30 AM ET
two team Japan members at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics
© IOC/Matthew Jordan Smith

Tokyo 2020 published its Post-Games Sustainability report, which highlights the Games’ achievements in the areas of climate, circular economy and promotion of a sustainable society. The report was released during the Tokyo 2020 Executive Board meeting that took place in Tokyo, Japan.

Key highlights from the report include going beyond carbon neutrality by reducing carbon emissions and compensating more than the remaining emissions; re-using or recycling 99 per cent of non-consumable items procured for the Games; recycling 62 per cent of the waste generated during the Games and achieving an all-time high of 48 per cent female athlete participation in the Games.

“The Tokyo 2020 Games set out to raise awareness of the role of sport in society, and our aim was to use the Games as an opportunity to show how sport can help fulfil our responsibility to resolving the issues involved in achieving a sustainable society, said Tokyo 2020 President HASHIMOTO Seiko. “If the people who experienced or witnessed the Games continue to believe in the power of sport and take action together for a better future, the legacy of the Games will be preserved, and this will demonstrate the power we have to realise the transformation into a sustainable society. As one of those people, I will also continue to work on building this legacy.”

The Tokyo 2020 Games were planned and delivered in alignment with the five main sustainability themes: “Climate Change”, “Resource Management”, “Natural Environment and Biodiversity”, “Human Rights, Labour and Fair Business Practices”, and “Involvement, Cooperation and Communications (Engagement)”.

Highlights of the achievements include:

  • Beyond carbon neutrality

    • A number of CO2 reduction measures were implemented, including energy saving, using existing venues and deploying fuel-efficient vehicles to reduce pollution. In addition, CO2 emissions from the Games fell by 800,000 tonnes due to the fact that the Games were held with almost no spectators.

    • Through the Tokyo cap-and-trade programme and Saitama Target Emissions Trading System, as many as 217 businesses provided certified Excess Reduction Credits, amounting to 4.38 million t-CO2 available to offset the Games. This amount exceeds the calculated total carbon footprint of 1.96million t-CO2 by 2.42 million t-CO2. This meant that the Tokyo 2020 Games had gone beyond carbon neutrality.

  • Using hydrogen energy to help create a “hydrogen society”

    • Hydrogen was used for the first time as fuel for the flame of the Olympic torch and the cauldron; in addition, 475 fuel cell electric vehicles provided by Worldwide Olympic/Paralympic Partner Toyota were utilised for transportation.

    • Electricity generated using pure hydrogen fuel cells was used to supply power to some of the residential buildings and the athlete leisure area, “Relaxation House”, at the Olympic and Paralympic Village, under a Tokyo Metropolitan Government initiative.

  • Promoting the “3Rs” (“Reduce/Reuse/Recycle”)

    • 99 per cent of non-consumable items procured for the Games were reused or recycled as a result of rentals and leases, and through cooperation with relevant organisations.

    • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most venues had no spectators, which changed the waste composition. However, Tokyo 2020 conducted a thorough separation of all waste and promoted the recycling of materials such as plastic bottles, plastics and paper, recycling 62 per cent of the waste generated during the operation of the Games.

  • Public engagement

    • The athletes’ 5,000 medals were made from precious metals extracted from discarded electronic devices. Medallists’ podiums were made from 24.5 tonnes of used plastic similarly collected from members of the public in collaboration with P&G, a Worldwide Olympic Partner.

    • The Village Plaza at the Olympic and Paralympic Village was constructed using timber borrowed from local municipalities and was returned to them for re-use after the Games.

  • Sustainable Games management based on ISO20121

    • Tokyo 2020 prepared and managed the Games based on event sustainability management system ISO20121, which was third-party certified.

In March 2019, Tokyo 2020 unveiled its Sustainability Progress Report, subsequently publishing its Pre-Games Report in April 2020 and its Update Report in July 2021, highlighting progress of the Games’ sustainability initiatives across each of the five themes.

This final report details the final achievements of the sustainability initiatives taken before and during the Tokyo 2020 Games as well as relevant developments since the Games.

Further details are provided in the Tokyo 2020 Sustainability post-Games Report.