Urban Transformation

Paris aims to host the most sustainable Olympics ever – here's how the city is preparing

Image of Paris.

Paris 2024 describes the scale of its sustainability ambitions as humanity’s “greatest challenge”. Image: Unsplash/Alexander Kagan

Victoria Masterson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • Paris 2024 says its Olympic Games will be the greenest in the event’s history.
  • Plans include powering the Athlete’s Village with geothermal and solar energy and doubling the amount of plant-based food served at the event.
  • Food and other green choices can make a difference when they’re adopted collectively by large numbers of people, the World Economic Forum says in its latest Global Risks Report.

The 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer will set new standards in sustainability, the organizers promise.

However, with 800 Olympic sporting events,15,000 athletes, 45,000 volunteers and 13 million meals, organizers understand the massive scale of their sustainability ambitions. In fact, they describe these ambitions as humanity’s “greatest challenge”.

Here's how the Paris games will prioritize sustainability -- and potentially create a model for other events like it to follow.

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What the Olympic Games are doing
The Paris Olympics team has pledged to halve the event’s carbon footprint. Image: International Olympic Committee

The world’s most sustainable Olympic Games?

The games are being described as the greenest in Olympic history, with Paris 2024 pledging to halve the event’s carbon footprint compared to the average of previous Summer Games.

Planning the "most sustainable" games will mean limiting emissions to around 1.75 million tonnes of CO2. Previous summer Olympics, which include Tokyo 2020, Rio 2016 and London 2012, have emitted an average of 3.5 million tonnes of CO2, the Paris 2024 Organising Committee says. Besting emissions from Tokyo's games will be particularly remarkable as that event did not have spectators thanks to COVID-19 restrictions.

In addition to avoiding and reducing emissions, the Paris 2024 sustainability strategy will incorporate offsets, investing in environmental and social projects around the world.

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Reuse and recycling at Paris 2024

Hosting the Olympics in the past has typically brought big spending on new venues. But 95% of Paris 2024 will be hosted in existing buildings or temporary infrastructure.

The Stade de France, which was originally built for the 1998 football World Cup, will host most events.

Only one new competition venue, the Aquatics Centre in Saint-Denis, is being built for the 2024 Olympic Games. It is solar-powered, uses natural bio-based building materials and is fitted out with recycled materials.

Aquatics Centre
The Olympic Aquatics Centre in Paris is solar-powered and fitted with recycled materials. Image: Paris 2024

From renewable energy to recycled fishing nets

The Athletes' Village will also generate energy from sources like geothermal and solar power.

Athletes will sleep on mattresses made from recycled fishing nets and bed bases from reinforced cardboard, reports Luxembourg news channel RTL Today.

For biodiversity, rooftops have been built with enclosures and openings to house insects and birds. And almost 9,000 trees have been planted around the athletes’ village to attract different species.

The 2,800 Olympic apartments will be converted into homes after the games.

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Sustainable travel and food choices at the 2024 Olympic Games

Other sustainable features of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games include 1,000km of cycle lanes and 200,000 new trees in the streets, reports The Guardian newspaper.

The Paris Tourist Office says 3,000 more pay-as-you-go bikes are being made available, and most Olympic venues are accessible by public transport. Around 15 million visitors are expected to visit Paris during the Olympics.

Paris 2024 has also pledged to double the amount of plant-based food it serves and halve the amount of single-use plastic used, to cut carbon emissions and reduce waste.

The Paris 2024 Ambition: Celebrating the modern taste of France
Olympic organisers are doubling plant-based meals and halving single-use plastics. Image: Paris 2024

Why sustainable choices matter for the climate

Vegetarian diets and other low-carbon life choices, like sustainable travel, can make a difference when they’re adopted collectively by large numbers of people, the World Economic Forum says in its latest Global Risks Report 2024.

Collective efforts like these can alter market dynamics and “move the dial on climate change mitigation,” the Forum adds. Businesses making sustainable and ethical choices are also critical to driving improvements worldwide, while collective action can help to prepare the world for global risks.

By 2034, environmental risks make up four of the top five risks identified in the report.

Global risks ranked by severity over the long term (10 years)
Environmental risks make up four of the top five risks identified in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2024. Image: Global Risks Report 2024

Extreme weather events and a critical change to Earth systems – such as a climate tipping point in global warming – are the top two risks. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, and shortages in natural resources are also in the top four global risks.

“The actions of individual citizens, companies and countries – while perhaps insignificant on their own – can move the needle on global risk reduction if they reach a critical mass,” the Forum says.

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Related topics:
Urban TransformationSustainable DevelopmentClimate Action
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