The Rugby World Cup kicks off tonight amidst promises that it will be not just one of the biggest but also one of the greenest sporting events in history.
France's minister for the environment, Jean-Louis Borloo, has insisted the tournament will be as "ecolo" or as environmentally-sound as possible and has promised that "after the Sydney [Olympic] games, it will be the biggest ecologically responsible event of the planet".
To achieve this goal the organisers commissioned a carbon audit of the event from environmental energy agency ADEME, have launched a publicity campaign related to the event designed to encourage environmental awareness and have invested in a number of innovative green technologies and strategies that they hope will become the standard for large sporting events the world over.
Drainage systems designed to capture and recycle water used on the pitches have been installed, a major recycling programme has been put in place to cope with all the trash, and fair trade half-time snacks will be available for the more environmentally-conscious rugby fan.
Meanwhile, those tuning in to Scotland's showdown with Italy in Saint Etienne will surely be informed by one of those commentators with an penchant for bizarre statistics that there are 2,600 square metres of solar panels on the roof of the stadium.
The French government will also be keen to showcase its world-class high-speed railway network as the primary means of ferrying spectators around the country. Although it has to be said that EuroStar rather missed a trick when in the same week that it opened the new St Pancras terminal that will knock twenty minutes off of journey times to Paris the England rugby team flew out to defend their trophy from Heathrow.
The growing importance of green strategies for sporting events become obvious when you consider that despite the French organisers' best efforts the World Cup is expected to have a carbon footprint of around 570,000 tons, the same as the annual footprint of the whole of Western Samoa.
According to Reuters the matches should to "generate around 778 tons of stadium trash and soak up some 4.7 million kWh of electricity, the equivalent of leaving 73,000 60-watt light bulbs burning throughout the whole six-week tournament".
France's attempts to green the tournament may be lost on a committed fan more concerned about Jonny Wilkinson's ankle or the question of whether anyone can beat the All Blacks, but with sporting events arguably the biggest form of mass participation in a modern society it is encouraging to see organisers doing their bit to promote environmental best practices.
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