Sport and Social Media A perfect marriage in an imperfect world

From the melting snow of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics to the stifling heat of the Australian Open Tennis Championships in Melbourne, where plastic water bottles melted and players suffered heat exhaustion, climate change has once again proved itself relentless and unforgiving. Let’s unite the power of sport with the might of social media to create an alliance that will face up to the world’s environmental enemy number one.
Fact – the world is getting warmer
It’s no good denying it – temperatures are going up. According to the World Bank’s ‘Turn Down the Heat’ reports, the planet could warm from its current global mean temperature of 0.8°C above pre industrial levels to as high as 4°C by 2100, even if countries fulfill current emission-reduction pledges.
What does that mean? More extreme heat waves, sending health, socio-political and economic ramifications across the globe. The President of The World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, is already calling for action to hold warming below 2° C. The question is, what can we do?
Turn to sport, it’s a big deal
OK, so sport is not the most obvious choice for addressing climate change. But, whichever way you look at it, sport is huge. It captivates billions and employs millions. Some estimates say it’s worth 600-700 billion euros, making it one of the world’s biggest industries. And best of all, it brings people together from all walks of life and all corners of the globe to play and compete, or just spectate.
Sport organizations, players and spectators all need to embrace the sustainability challenge faced by sport as a result of climate change. As early as the 1890's, the founder of the Modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, put the environment at the heart of the Olympic movement, using sport as a way of developing a harmonious relationship between mankind and nature to promote a peaceful society.
Sport can shape the way people think about the environment. Because it’s so popular in every continent on Earth, sport has a vital role to play in delivering a powerful eco message. It keeps humans healthy but it can also keep the planet healthy too. To paraphrase the motto of the YMCA, sport can regenerate the body, mind, spirit and nature – enhancing the individual and the land in which he or she lives.
Many believe sport holds the potential to be the most influential element in the environmental movement. More influential than politics. More influential than business. Sport has the capacity to transform the way people view the planet and be a driver for environmental change.
Article by: Leszek J. Sibilski
About Author
Leszek Jan Sibilski is a consultant to the World Bank Group’s External and Corporate Relations, Global Engagement Department (ECRGE), as a part of the Connect4Climate program. He is a former member of the Polish National Olympic Team in Cycling. He has extensive experience in research, international development, and academic teaching. His career has included working as a photographer, writer, and reporter for a leading sports magazine in Poland. Leszek earned his master’s degree in Education and Sport Science from the Academy of Sport and Physical Education in Poznan, Poland and Ph.D., in Sociology in Social Inclusion and Social Movements from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland. At the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games in Vancouver, BC he was part of the Paralympic Torch Relay. He believes that sport is a major form of social inclusion and civic mobilization. 

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