Nature Friendly Sports
Nature is the world’s best playground. Humankind started playing with nature without hurting nature. Our ancestors played in nature’s lap, whether it was cricket, football, golf or any other game. But, when we civilized and technologically advanced, we started building big playgrounds and stadiums. Yes, it was the need of time. Apart from playing, we liked to enjoy what others play. When the games became sports through formalization, unification and commercialization, we needed big green playgrounds and big concrete stadiums to host modern sports. Moreover, the maintenance of one stadium and its greenish pitch requires 20,000 litres of water per day. As the Ethical Consumer Magazine estimates, 10,000,000 litres of water a year is required to maintain a football pitch in the English Premier League.
Modern sports is a big employer and revenue option for developed countries in North American, European and Australian continents. They are making good money from their sports infrastructure like stadiums, golf courses, motorsports circuits, hippodromes and ballparks. Their investment in sports and the damage sports made to the environment can be justified by the employment, revenue and social health benefits it generated. But, what about the sports infrastructure created in developing countries and underdeveloped countries like India and Brazil by damaging hectares of beautiful nature?
In India, we have many big stadiums of a global standard like the Sportshub in Thiruvananthapuram and Transtadia in Gujarat. These stadiums are using litres of water every day for maintaining their beautiful green pitches same as the Old Trafford, the home ground of Manchester United. Old Trafford hosts more than 20 matches every year and attracts hundreds of paid visitors every day. What about our stadiums? The Sportshub hosts just one ODI or T20 every year. The Transtadia hosted various sporting and non-sporting events like the Mission XI Million Football Festival in association with AIFF & FIFA U17 World Cup, Pro Kabaddi League 2017, 30th Asian Table Tennis Championship, a concert by AR Rahman and the 72nd Santosh Trophy – a national level football tournament in India. Most of these events did not have any public interest or impact.
The Sportshub and Transtadia are private stadiums!! So, you can imagine the state of government-owned stadiums. For hosting FIFA U17 World Cup, 4 world-class practice grounds were constructed in Ernakulam. In these practice grounds, one was occupied by the Kerala Blasters Football Club as their practice grounds. Others are idle most of the year. The Olympics and World Cup football are the two notorious events which damage the nature and local economy. The demand of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and FIFA for infrastructure as per their standards force the hosts to construct or renovate stadiums, practice grounds and other facilities. This damages the environment and economy. The City of Rio damaged hectares of green space for constructing a new golf course as instructed by the IOC. After the Olympics or World Cup Football, most of the stadiums are being underused, unused or abused.
When we observe world environment day on every June 5th, the sports fraternity must seriously think about the damage sports make to our environment and must discuss ways to make sports nature friendly.
The Sports Policy Research Team of Sports & Management Research Institute (SMRI) recommends the following for a nature-friendly sports ecosystem for developing countries like India and Brazil
- No more sports infrastructure. Use the existing infrastructure judiciously and generate revenue, employment and social health benefits.
- Promote zero infrastructure, zero carbon, low-cost water Games such as swimming, canoeing, water polo, water volleyball, water throwball, water basketball, bamboo raft race, coracle race etc in natural water bodies
- Promote zero infrastructure, zero carbon, low-cost beach games such as beach football, beach cricket, beach volleyball, beach kabaddi, beach runs etc
- Promote mud games like mud kabaddi, mud football, mud handball etc in agricultural fields after harvest and in used lands
- Promote zero infrastructure, zero carbon, low-cost road games such as cycling, short distance runs (Not marathons)
- Promote farm games such as farm cricket, volleyball, throwball, badminton
- Tournaments of the above-mentioned games can be organized with mobile bleachers