Voice of America (Washington, DC)

7 February 2014

Africa: World Cup Cities Say Climate Change Is Big Part of Planning

The World Cup soccer tournament is getting more and more carbon-heavy, with FIFA estimating that the 2014 event in Brazil will dump 2.72 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -- one million more tons than South Africa's 2010 World Cup. Officials from both sides of the globe weigh in how they have incorporated climate change concerns into the World Cup.

Brazil's tourism board says it is expecting tourists to spend $10.4 billion during this year's World Cup. That cash injection, however, will take its toll on the environment.

The majority of the heat-trapping gas will come from air travel as spectators and teams fly around the world's fifth-biggest country in order to get to the 12 different stadiums where the 64 World Cup matches will be played.

At a meeting in Johannesburg this month, mayors from some of the world's megacities met to discuss the unique challenges -- especially climate change -- that urban areas face. The mayor of the World Cup host city of Curitiba told VOA that green planning was part of its preparations for the event.

Gustavo Fruet also said he's looked to the last host city, Johannesburg, for lessons. "There were problems with funding, and a lack of clarity in city planning. There should be a legacy for the city and not just for an event. What we see as a positive [from Johannesburg] is that it gives visibility to the country, visibility to the city and it allowed an increase, above all, in tourism and prepared people to provide better service. So for me this is the best achievement, the great legacy -- to show quality, efficiency, and above all joy in receiving foreigners," he said.

Johannesburg mayor Mpho Parks Tau said he believes mayors are paying attention to the issue of climate change and the World Cup. "That would help us elevate the work that we do as cities in relation to climate change. And we've been able to share with them our best practices in relation to energy, in relation to transportation, and other practices that we introduced in Johannesburg."

Fruet also offered his guess as to who might take the FIFA World Cup Trophy this year. "I'm hoping Brazil, of course!" he said with a laugh.

Organizers are learning that winning the gold trophy is only part of the victory. Keeping the event green has become part of the triumph.

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