Air quality a key part of the federation’s wide-ranging sustainability strategy, that includes objectives around climate change, diversity and equality
Cities bidding to host World Athletics events will need to establish low emissions zones around stadiums and arenas to safeguard athletes and spectators from poor air quality.
As part of a range of objectives laid out in its 10-year sustainability strategy, the sport’s governing body has set the expectation that 100% of host venues will provide these zones by 2030.
Local environment and air quality is one of six key pillars outlined in the strategy. Other 2030 targets in this area include the incorporation of environmental factors into venue, event and equipment standards, and for the venue and event to minimise the negative impact on the surrounding environment before and during competition.
Air quality monitoring, unsurprisingly, has been referenced as a “high priority” action by World Athletics. The federation has already set the ambitious objective of installing air quality monitors within all of its certified tracks, and has begun to measure the correlation between air quality and athletic performance.
While air pollution is responsible for the deaths of around seven million people per year, athletes (professional and recreational) are disproportionately affected as they breathe in more air during their training. For athletes training in big cities – where pollution is more apparent than in rural areas – the risks are higher, particularly for those with existing respiratory afflictions.
The strategy’s other five pillars are: leadership in sustainability; sustainable production and consumption; global equality; diversity, accessibility and wellbeing; and climate change and carbon.
For the latter pillar, World Athletics has set two objectives: to achieve carbon neutrality across the organisation and World Athletics-owned events by 2030, and to only sanction events that commit to climate neutrality targets.
To comply with its sustainable production and consumption pillar, World Athletics and its sanctioned events will have to purchase goods and services in line with its sustainable procurement code. To achieve the global equality section of the strategy, the federation will host annual female leadership seminars for all areas of its business. All geographic areas will be considered for World Athletics events, but must present professional pathways opportunities for both genders in coaching, technical officiating and administrating, as well as competing as athletes.
As part of the diversity, accessibility and wellbeing objectives, all competing athletes will have access to standardised basic health checks and all staff will be governed by a wellbeing policy aiming to tackle harassment.
By 2030, World Athletics expects every sanctioned event to commit to its Sustainability Charter and, significantly, wants 100% of corporate partners engaged in activating around sustainability.
Seb Coe, the World Athletics president, said that athletes and fans “expect more from us than good governance of our sport.”
“They also expect us to be global citizens,” he added, “to take a leadership role in issues that affect the wider world and their communities. Sustainability is one of the great global challenges. We want to do our part to make this a better world and contribute to a cleaner, greener, more equitable future for everyone.”