The message from Rio on Mother Earth

Dhaka,  Tue,  19 September 2017
Published : 16 Jun 2017, 20:57:42
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The message from Rio on Mother Earth

Md. Mahafuzur Rahman Siddique
On June 5 last the member states of the United Nations with the assistance of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), a specialised UN agency on environment, observed the 43rd World Environment Day. The UN General Assembly declared June 5 as the World Environment Day at the inauguration of the United Nations Conference on Human Development (UNCHD) in Stockholm in 1972.

This was the beginning of the concerted global efforts to combat growing environmental pollution and the resultant climate change which might be a threat to the very existence of the planet Earth, the only human habitat. Obviously, the theme of the day was then 'Only One Earth'. This year it was 'Connecting people to nature in the city and on the land, from the poles to the equator'.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the largest not-for-profit and non-government international organisation expressed solidarity with the UNO and the World Community on this global climate issue. The Olympic Movement or the Olympic World under the IOC initiated action on environmental protection right from 1972, the year of hosting the UNCHD. That year, on the occasion of the Munich Games of Olympiad the participating National Olympic Committees (NOCs) at the request of the IOC bought a shrub from their own countries and planted them in the Olympic Park established for this specific purpose. Subsequently, the IOC while celebrating the 100th founding anniversary in 1994 at its birth place Paris by organising Centennial Congress or Congress of Unity, 'Environment' was declared the third pillar of Olympism besides sport and culture.

Then the IOC gradually developed the concept of Green Games or environment-friendly Games, adopted its own Agenda 21 with the technical help of the UNEP to ensure sustainable development through sport, particularly through organising the Games of Olympiad and the Olympic Winter Games. The specific commitment on measures to be taken before, during and after an edition either of the Games of Olympiad or the Olympic Winter Games by the respective Organizing Committee is now categorically emphasised in the bid documents of a prospective host city. Concerns for environment and promotion of sustainable development in sport have since been incorporated in Rule 2.13 (Mission and role of the IOC) of the Olympic Charter.

To advise the IOC President, the Executive Board and the Session on issues concerning green games and sustainable development through sport or more precisely through the Olympics keeping the sports facilities free from any form of environmental pollution and so on, the IOC established 'Sport & Environment Commission' in 1995 which the`105th' IOC Session of Atlanta-1996 approved. Now it has been renamed 'Sustainability and Legacy Commission'. The XVII Lillehammer (Norway) Olympic Winter Games, 1994 was organised as the first environment-friendly or Green Games. Since then environmental awareness, commitment and concrete actions on this vital issue have been increasingly reflected in the Olympics and also in the Olympic ceremony (ies), particularly in the cultural presentation of the opening session.

Just 18 days after the 43rd World Environment Day, 2017, the IOC and the NOCs all over the Olympic world are celebrating the 123rd anniversary of the Olympic Movement and the IOC. So, it would be more pertinent to look into the reflection of environment and climate change in the celebration of the most recent XXXI Games of Olympiad that is Rio '16.

In spite of extremely low budget in comparison to its peers in the past, the Rio de Janeiro Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (ROCOG) presided over by Carlos Arthur Nuzman demonstrated superb environmental awareness during the opening ceremony. Directed by Fernando Meirelles, Daniela Thomas and Andrencha Waddington, the opening ceremony of the Rio '16 successfully depicted the urgency of environmental protection, the impact of climate change and 'pointed towards a greener future'. During the march past, contingents of 206 participating NOCs, the 1st ever Team constituted and patronised by the IOC for Refugees from different countries under its flag named Refugee Olympic Team were greeted by the lovely and smiling kids. They presented the 207 teams with saplings of 207 species. A total of 11,000 saplings of 207 species were planted in the local 'radical park' which would be named 'Olympic Forest'. The tricycles carrying the names of the countries of the participating NOCs were decorated with flowers, saplings and plants in tubs. Creation of an all-green Olympic symbol in the main stadium during the opening vividly expressed the awareness of the ROCOG '16 on environment. The presentation highlighted peace and sustainability through transforming the symbol of peace into a tree. It featured the largest rainforest of the planet earth located in the Amazon Valley which covers the largest portion of Brazil and is home to the largest variety of living species. A video on the anthropogenic climate change (change of climate as an after-effect of human activities) was screened with captivating narration by Brazilian Academy Award Nominee actress Fernanda Montenegro and British Academy Award winning actress Judi Dench. Recitation from the poem of poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade captioned "The Flower and the Nausea" was quite symbolic to the occasion. ED Hawkin's visual presentation on global warming and rise in the sea level in some places like Amstardam (Host of 1928 Olympiad), Dubai, Lagos, Shanghai, Florida and Rio de Janeiro was also presented to add to the awareness of the ROCOG 16 about environment and sustainability. Judi Dench justified in charming narration the significance of the Olympic ceremony projecting environmental and climatic issues: "Promoting world peace is the basis of the Olympic Spirit. Today there is an urgent need to also promote peace with the planet. Climate change and the depletion of natural resources need our attention and the Olympic Opening Ceremony is a wonderful opportunity to shed light on this subject. Brazil, with the largest forest and the largest reserve of biodiversity on the planet, is the right place for this message to be spread. It is not enough to stop harming the planet, it is time to begin healing it. This will be our Olympic message: Earthlings, let's replant, let's save the planet."

Rio de Janeiro has been successful in spreading this urgent message to the world through the opening ceremony of the XXXI Games of Olympiad thanks to her legacy of hosting the largest United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, which is known as Earth Summit, 1992. The Agenda 21 is the outcome of the recommendations of this Summit. Rio as the host city has seen the formulation of two legally-binding conventions on bio-diversity and climate change-one on forestry and other is Rio Declaration. Moreover, Rio de Jeneiro's experience to play host to the 3rd World Conference on Sports and Environment, which produced the Rio Statement on Sport and Sustainable Development, also contributed with a good measure of success to raising awareness about the most crucial problems of global warming, climate change and environmental pollution in the opening ceremony of the XXXI Rio Olympics. This awareness is in full conformity with the future Road Map of the Olympic Movement piloted by incumbent President of IOC Dr. Thomas Back as Agenda 20:20, the Recommendation Nos. 4 and 5 of which are entirely focused on Environment and Sustainability.

The writer is director of NOA, BOA
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