5 Rings – 5 Questions: Interview with Stefan Wagner, 1st Chairman of the Sports for Future Association, on the topic of sustainable games.

Hello, Mr. Wagner. You are the 1st Chairman of the Sports for Future Association. How long has the association been in existence and what are its main objectives?

The Sports for Future Association was established in 2019 It was founded in the wake of the “For Future” movement that emerged at that time. We firmly believe that sports have an important role to play in the society-wide climate crisis debate. Therefore, we are committed to bringing sports to the playing field on the one hand, and to providing sustainability-related impulses in sports on the other. Our goal is to use sporting events as platforms to generate greater awareness of and sensitivity to the climate crisis.

In terms of climate and environmental protection, what is your assessment of the Olympic and Paralympic Games that have taken place in recent years?

I’m afraid the answer to that question goes without saying To date, neither the Olympic nor the Paralympic Games have been held with any serious consideration of sustainability issues. Of course, there are laudable efforts that can be found here and there. On the whole, however, the only thing that has been considered is how to make something that is environmentally bad slightly less bad. Even that did not appear to be the case during the last few events. Recently published studies have once again confirmed that to be true. I think we are still a long way off from sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Is holding the Olympic and Paralympic Games in an environmentally sustainable way even possible?

It has to be. Basically speaking, sports and the Olympic Games are nothing more than a reflection of our social fabric. What major environmental footprints are associated with the Olympic Games? Travel, construction, consumerism, and a few other things are involved. We, as a society, have to manage all of these areas differently if we have any hope of reaching the sustainability goals. That is why I believe that major international sporting events, such as the Olympic Games, must not only play a role in that effort, but rather lead the way.

How can the Olympic and Paralympic Games be held in Germany in a climate-friendly way?

Instead of focusing our attention on “climate-friendly games,” I think it would be better to focus on climate-positive and society-positive sporting events. The bottom line is that there needs to be something that leaves a positive impact on society without simultaneously causing significant damage. Otherwise, sports will eventually jeopardize their own reason for existence. That is precisely why we need to talk about a wide range of different sustainability issues.

I’ll give you an exaggerated example: If you are on a flight that offers bamboo cutlery, that has relatively little to do with sustainable flying. We need to approach the issue from another angle. In other words, we need to ask ourselves: What does a sustainable sporting event that fulfills all 17 Sustainable Development Goals actually look like? What will it take to reach those goals? How can we shine a light on future impulses via sporting events and entrench them in a way that ensures their impact is long-lasting?

If you think about such a question from the endpoint, it is clear that the Olympic Games can be a significant and important driver for sustainable developments, both locally and beyond, due to their economic potential as well as their appeal. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not about a single idea, but about the approach and the aspirations I have as an organizer of the Olympic Games.

On 10 August, you will be a participant in the DOSB’s expert discussion on the issue of environmental sustainability. What expectations do you have?

I hope there will be a common understanding of the role that sports can play in future-oriented transformations. don’t think it makes much sense to discuss individual measures and transport concepts for Olympic Games scheduled to take place in 13 years at the earliest. We should talk about our fundamental aspirations and define the roles that sports can play for us in a way that makes clear their ability to be drivers of sustainable, society-positive development. We should do more than try to make bad things a little less bad.