Launch of the Budapest 23 urban forest regeneration project (© Budapest 2023 organisers)
World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 organisers unveiled their key sustainability initiatives at a tree-planting event in the Hungarian capital today (8).
The event focused on an urban forest regeneration project launched by the local organising committee as part of its overarching goal to create a strong health and wellbeing legacy for the championships, which will take place from 19-27 August.
The project, which will replace old and unhealthy trees with hardier local varieties, is meant to enhance the recreational opportunities of the local community and at the same time improve the resiliency of the natural environment against the impacts of climate change.
Organisers have selected two areas for the project, the first in Budapest's 20th district where the morning's ceremony took place, just nine kilometres from the National Athletics Centre which will host the championships, and the second in the 4th district, a much larger area that serves as a recreational area for thousands of people in the city's outskirts.
The two areas will continue to be used by the local community as a recreational area for runners and walkers and to host youth running events. The regeneration efforts also aim to contribute to the cooling of the micro-environment and improve local air quality, which is a core pillar of the World Athletics sustainability strategy.
World Athletics CEO Jon Ridgeon was a special guest at the event, where 40 native oak trees were planted to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the World Athletics Championships and to kick off the project.
"The idea is to breathe new life into this urban forest, so that more people are encouraged to use this recreational area to keep active and healthy through walking and running outdoors," Ridgeon said.
"So I am delighted that World Athletics and the Budapest 23 LOC have made this happen today. I am now hoping this is a stage start of a new tradition where a legacy forest is created in every World Athletics Championship host city."
"The World Championships are not just about the nine-day competition, but also about the positive legacy the event leaves behind," said Balázs Németh, CEO of the LOC. "To this end, we are implementing our comprehensive sustainability program, which focuses on mobilizing the country's population, developing urban green spaces, public transport, waste management, and raising awareness of environmental issues."
Dozens of students from the nearby Istvan Gyulai Primary school, named in honour of the former World Athletics General Secretary, were also present during the ceremony, participating in race after the tree-planting concluded.
Embedding sustainability across all operational areas
Organisers of the championships are the first to fully embrace the Athletics for a Better World standard, the system developed by World Athletics which advises and evaluates an event on its sustainable delivery. The standard, which is in its second pilot year in 2023, will become part of the evaluation process of all World Athletics licensed events from 2024.
Organisers are also implementing a comprehensive waste management programme using the “reduce, reuse, recycle” principles by focusing on reducing single use plastics and to work with suppliers and partners to increase the recycling rate through selective waste management.
Other sustainability initiatives include:
- A strong emphasis on green transportation, encouraging spectators and volunteers to use public transportation options, including the city’s extensive tram and light rail network and its city-bike system to travel to the event. Through partnership with the Budapest Public Transportation Company (BKK), free public transportation will be provided to teams and volunteers. Group ticket discounts will also be available to spectators travelling to the event by rail or long-distance bus.
- Increasing accessibility, diversity and inclusion through a special charity programme that provides thousands of free tickets to people with disabilities and special needs, children’s homes, single-parent families and members of disadvantaged groups. The extensive volunteer programme includes 2500 people of all ages and backgrounds and is an important contributor to increasing diversity, capacity building and inter-generational cooperation as part of the organising committee’s social sustainability goals.
- Raising public awareness of sustainability issues and increasing sustainable practices through educational activities, games, communication campaigns and the involvement of world class athletes as green ambassadors. The Green Zone area in the Stadium Park will be a joint project of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 and World Athletics to create a fun gathering place for spectators, families and event partners interested in the sustainability aspects of athletics.
Other initiatives will be announced as the championships draw nearer.