The fourth biannual International Olympic Committee (IOC) World Conference on Sport and the Environment, held in Nagano, Japan, attracted delegates from around the world, including representatives from 80 national Olympic committees, 45 Olympians and four Olympic Games organising committees. In a declaration on 4 November, the delegates stated their firm commitment -to upholding the principles of sustainability in their sports activities as well as in their daily practices, and to promoting these principles on a global scale, so as to help ensure that our planet Earth is given a sporting chance”.

Following the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit at which the commitment to sustainable development was declared internationally, in 1999, at the third Conference on Sport and the Environment, the IOC adopted its own Agenda 21 for implementation by the beginning of 2000. The Olympic movement’s commitments to Agenda 21 include the integration of sustainable development into its policies and activities, and the encouragement of all individuals linked to it to behave in such a way as to ensure that their sporting activities and lifestyles contribute to sustainable development.

Considering their popularity and influence among youth, in particular, athletes have a particularly important role to play, and should be encouraged to contribute to environmental education and training, states the IOC, adding that the media has a similar role to play. The attainment of the movement’s Agenda 21 commitments will require the co-operation of all groups within the Olympic movement, particularly the athletes – including those with disabilities, as well as governments and international organisations, said the conference declaration.

Other delegates at the conference included representatives from the World Bank, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund, the International Paralympic Committee, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on Sport for Development and Peace.