The World Cup 2014's one month of soccer (football) games has started in Brazil, so it's time to take a look at the environmental ramifications of one of the world's biggest sporting events. More than 3.6 million domestic and international tourists are expected to travel in Brazil during the games, and more than 50% of the 2.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent that will result from the games are from these travelers. The rest is generated by all the different activities of the World Cup governing body FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association).
Here are the measures that FIFA and the Brazilian government is taking or going to take to help offset some of the negative eco-consequences of the games.1) The new Brasilia-based* World Cup stadium venue Estadio Nacionál Mané Garrincha has 2.5 MW of solar capacity from 1,500 solar panels ringing the roof. The other stadiums where the different games are being held are spread around Brazil, and with the solar panels installed at other stadiums there is a total of 5.4 MW of solar capacity.
2) All 12 World Cup hosting stadiums will have LEED certification - a first in World Cup history (FIFA World Cup games started in 1930).
3) The Estadio Nacionál will have eco-lighting, special irrigation for its landscaping via rainwater, and "intelligent" urinals that can calculate when water needs to be pumped to them during breaks in the games.
4) FIFA is encouraging eco-friendly travel between stadiums and sustainable tourism practices via a phone app called the Green Passport Initiative (GPI).
5) The government in Brazil has begun offsets and has already offset 115,000 tonnes of carbon through 'donations' of offsets from companies that then get to sport a special World Cup 'green seal'.
In addition, more than 90% of Brazilians have indicated that they want a green World Cup, and that's part of the reason why a Brazillian armadillo (an endangered species) named Fuleco is the 2014 mascot.
One big downside of the World Cup games is the amount of merchandise created to celebrate the event - in the case of the 2014 games, Greenpeace has found plenty of toxic chemicals in the trinkets and clothing in FIFA merchandise for the event.
Beyond the positive greening measures, some persistent ecological problems in Brazil will only get worse from the onslaught of tourists, both domestic and international, to the games. Sewage treatment, for example, which contributes to poor public health, is still not a given in Brazil - about half of inhabitants have access. This sewage is a pollutant in Brazilian waterways and seas. Trash disposal is also still a problem - one estimate has 100 tonnes of trash simply going out to sea near Rio de Janeiro...every day.
Deforestation and animal habitat destruction continues, and though FIFA was expected to highlight the plight of the Brazilian armadillo and the loss of its habitat, some critics say the organization has yet to do much.
Lastly, the many protests staged around the World Cup are an indicator that the changes the government and FIFA implemented for the games and the infrastructure investments for the games might not benefit the Brazilian population as a whole. The country is now the world's sixth largest economy with a growing middle class, but infrastructure development and sustainable development initiatives are still needed.
*A previous version of this article incorrectly put the Estadio Nacionál in Rio instead of Brasilia.