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Hockey plays its part in Tokyo 2020 sustainability drive

March 12, 2021

As you would expect from one of the biggest sporting spectacles on earth, the Olympic Games has an impact not just on sport but also on society and the environment. For Tokyo 2020, the theme of sustainability has been central to the planning of the Games since its inception, with the mega-event in Japan aiming to become the first carbon-neutral Olympics in history.

With an inspirational sustainability tagline of Be better, together – for the planet and the people, the Tokyo 2020 organisers have taken their responsibility to deliver a sustainable Games extremely seriously, stating their desire to “showcase solution models of global sustainability challenges to people in Japan and around the world”.

Even after the delay of the Games by one year due to the Covid-19 global health crisis, the commitment to make Tokyo 2020 the greenest ever staged – where sustainability concepts and legacies will be passed on to future projects both sporting and in the wider world – has remained steadfast.

Some of the efforts in Japan have already made the headlines, including the use of recycled materials for iconic Olympic symbols such as the medals and the torches that will carry the Olympic flame all over Japan on the torch relay. Even the medal presentation podiums will be made completely from recycled materials, with Tokyo 2020 targeting zero wasting and the 100% use of energy from renewable sources.

With sustainability being a fixed pillar of Tokyo 2020’s values, one that is in line with the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the United Nations (UN), it is clear that all sporting facilities at the Games also have a significant role to play in making this a reality.

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Hockey has very much risen to this challenge. At the stunning Oi Hockey Stadium complex, the four hockey turfs (two competition fields, two training fields) have been designed with sustainability in mind.The Poligras Tokyo GT pitches, developed by FIH Global Partner Polytan, use two-thirds less water than previous turfs, and are 60% made from material produced from bi-products of sustainably grown sugar cane.The ‘green’, water efficient turfs sit on a shockpad made from recycled truck and car tyres. This rubber is bound together using Polytan’s PolyBase, a climate friendly product which actually uses CO2 as a raw material thus preventing it from entering the atmosphere.

“The sustainability aspect of the turf is really positive”, says Kevin Dempster, Hockey’s Technical Operations Manager for Tokyo 2020. “We’re looking to cut back our impact on the environment wherever possible and the green technology in these turfs is helping us to achieve this. The reduced water system not only treads more lightly on the environment, it also requires less maintenance, making it a more user-friendly product which is also a win for us.”

With the post-Olympics legacy of the Oi Hockey Stadium complex already being known – the venue will become the central hub for Japanese hockey and also a multi-purpose sports facility – one question that might be asked is what will happen to the pitches when they reach the end of their natural playing life? This is something that has already been considered, with a comprehensive recycling programme available to ensure that the individual components can be reused in other projects. 

While the sustainability aspects of the Oi Hockey Stadium are hugely significant, Dempster was also keen to stress the impact that this superb facility will have on the sport in Tokyo and the wider metropolitan area.

“Without question, the Olympic turfs have already made a big difference to hockey here. There hasn’t really been a proper hockey facility available to the public in Tokyo until now. Historically, most of them are privately owned and the only public facility available was the sand-based turf in the old Olympic venue. To have state-of-the-art turfs available to anybody is just wonderful and will be great for the future of hockey.”

For more information on sustainability at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, please click here.

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