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Sports & Environment – How does sporting event cause Pollution | Causes & Effects | A detailed Case Study

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Sports and Environment | Sports reside in the minds of the people and are watched by millions of people all over the world. Sports have been one of the best solutions to bring people together. It tests the athletes mentally and physically. Nowadays, the stadiums have a capacity of over 80 thousand to 1 lakh. The passionate audience comes to see their favorite team in action and cheer for them. In a way, sports unite people in ways other things cannot.

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But every coin has two sides. The huge audience and the picturesque stadiums have adverse effects on the environment. The bright floodlights, the accommodation of thousands of people, and the maintenance of the stadium all come at a cost.

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Source: Aspetar

Sports and the Environment | The Research

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Crowded Football Stadium

The research was done before a football match at one of the stadiums in the United States. The researchers set up and employed fixed and mobile air quality sensors throughout the tailgate, six hours before each game.

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The monitors recorded relative humidity, ozone, temperature, and CO2 levels. When supporters began to arrive three hours before the game, surges in air pollution were recorded, with the biggest offenders being charcoal barbecues, outdated generators, and notably idle automobiles.

These pre-game pollutants are the causes of environmental pollution and generated surges in air quality that are more than 20 times higher than the recognized threshold for moderate air quality. Pollutant levels surged dramatically when a flood of people drove out from the game. The crowd activity outside appears to have little effect on the pollution within the stadium. The stadium alone created exceptional air quality.

Causes of Sports Pollution – Sports and the environment

Sports and water pollution

An average football or cricket stadium requires a thousand liters of water during a season per day. According to reports, a cricket field required 60,000 liters of water per day during the IPL season. When the common man is deprived of fresh water in the hot summers, the fields use so much water creating water scarcity.

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Sports and light pollution

An average night match at the cricket stadium ranges from 100,000 to 200,000 watts for LED lights, 300,000 to 600,000 watts for metal halide, and also 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 watts for halogen stadium lights. This causes a lot of electricity consumption and light pollution.

Sports and Trash

Another harmful consequence of sporting events is improper trash disposal. This might create an epidemic affecting the health of the locality. Each match in the stadium draws over 40,000 people, resulting in 3-4 tones of mixed trash and because the garbage is not segregated, it must be disposed of in a landfill. And this causes environmental pollution.

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Effects of Pollution on the Athletes

Image Source- Daily Mail

The average temperature in the stadium rises by a certain degree due to flood lights and air pollution. This causes difficulty in breathing for athletes. The athletes cramp up due to fewer O2 levels around the stadium and need fluids and minerals periodically. The post-recovery also takes longer time than usual. Specifically, there are 3 reasons why athletes are at higher risk from air pollution (McCafferty, 1981):

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(1) Increased ventilation during exercise/physical activity.

(2) A greater fraction of air is inhaled through the mouth during physical activity, effectively bypassing the normal nasal filtration mechanisms.

(3) The increased airflow velocity carries pollutants deeper into the respiratory tract.

What did the Tennis Players say on sports and environment?

During the 2020 Australian Open, Tennis legend Novak Djokovic remarked that if the air quality in Melbourne continues to deteriorate owing to nearby bushfires, competition organizers would have to consider drafting regulations to accommodate it. He also said that China has the “worst air quality in the world.”

During the 2018 US Open, Roger Federer lost to John Milman. After the defeat, Roger admitted, “At some point also I was just happy that the match was over, I guess. Some days it’s just not the day where the body can cope with it.” I felt like a deer in the headlights, to begin with, to be honest,”

Football and Cricket

A recent study in Football shows that Pollution has a greater impact on the player if the pollution level differs between a specific location and the player’s home city. The drop in performance is 2% less in-game involvement (passes) and 3.1% less in accuracy (success of a pass).

A cricket Test match between India and Sri Lanka was frequently disrupted by complaints that players were “constantly vomiting” as a result of dangerous pollution levels in the Indian capital.

Sports and Environment | How does it affect you?

Athletes who are exposed to air pollution may experience irritated airways and reduced pulmonary capacity, resulting in respiratory problems such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Pollution can also reduce an athlete’s endurance and ability to focus by causing irritating and distracting respiratory symptoms.

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Measures to Reduce Sports Pollution


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has undertaken to reduce waste at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, as well as at the Olympic Museum. IOC is also working with its suppliers to promote responsible material use at all of its events.

On 4 June 2018, the International Olympic Committee announced an ambitious plan to eradicate single-use plastics from the organization and its events around the world with seven major sporting bodies and representatives from over 20 National Olympic Committees taking action in support of the UN’s CleanSeas campaign.


A new “green policy” is being implemented in the Indian cities of Bengaluru and Indore. Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru has implemented a zero-waste policy, employing an army of green-clad volunteers to sort rubbish and educate spectators during Indian Premier League matches.

The Kia Oval in London has outlawed the use of plastic straws, introduced biodegradable coffee cups, and is phasing out the usage of plastic bags in the club store. Kia Oval introduced eco-friendly cups to replace its plastic pint glasses. It also donated 20,000 limited edition reusable bottles and placed 20 free water fountains and taps.


In the United States, Adidas and Major League Soccer created special jerseys made of Parley Ocean Plastic for matches held over Earth Day weekend. 23 clubs wore the jersey. They are produced from technical yarns derived from plastic garbage discovered on beaches and in coastal towns.


Twickenham, the home of the English rugby team, has launched a reusable Fan Cup to replace the previously used fragile, disposable cups.
Customers are charged an extra £1 refundable deposit when they purchase their first drink. When they return to the bar with the cup, the price is restored to its original level. After the day, spectators can either retain the cup as a keepsake or return it for a refund of their money.

Various ways are implemented to make sure that an event is played in an eco-friendly manner. Due to certain measures taken by some authorities across the globe, awareness is rising amongst everyone.
Hope one day, we will have a sporting event in a 100 % eco-friendly manner.

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