A New Horizon

As PyeongChang prepares to welcome some of the world’s best athletes to South Korean shores, one eye is already looking ahead to the city’s post-Games legacy

On 6 July, 2011, the International Olympic Committee formally announced PyeongChang as the 2018 host of the Winter Olympic Games; push-starting a speedy journey towards an event that is now on the cusp of sliding into spectators’ living rooms, worldwide.

For the athletes, it’s an ongoing journey of course, with the thought of a trip to South Korea back then eclipsed by the more imminent prospect of the Sochi games in 2014. For the city itself though, planning and preparation began almost immediately, but said forecasting and arranging spreads far beyond ski slopes, ice rinks and cross country routes.

Much of a bidder’s success actually now revolves around the notion of legacy, rather than athletic readiness in the modern day Olympic handbook. As epitomised by the likes of London, Rio de Janeiro and Sochi, a city needs to be able to sell the Olympics as a social enabler and a responsible, economic facilitator long after the final gold medal is handed out, and PyeongChang is striving to take this notion to even higher climbs this year via a sustainability strategy that will bring “new horizons to people and nature”.

“Sustainable development means development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the potential needs of future generations. It is to meet the needs of our generation with inheriting a healthy and prosperous life to our descendants,” the Games announces on its official website. “The key message of sustainable development is to ensure continuous prosperity of human society by pursuing a harmonious and balanced development in environment, economy and society, and to avoid inconsiderate development.”

The statement continues: “There is a growing global consensus that sustainable development and prosperity must be applied to large-scale international sporting events such as the Olympics that can have a significant impact on the environment, economy and society for a long period from preparation to post-utilisation. Previous host cities of the Olympic Games have also been working to achieve a sustainable legacy throughout a series of Games activities.”

For PyeongChang, such activities will focus on areas of green optimisation, nature, legacy, diversity and engagement via the application of various monitoring and strategies before, during and after the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Under the banner, “A new horizon for sustainability - furthering benefits to people and nature”, the city is partnering with and supported by a host of market-leading names including Coca-Cola, Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance, Bridgestone, McDonalds, Korean Air, Panasonic and Airbnb, to bring a sustainable legacy to the Gangwon Province and the Republic of Korea long after the sporting spectacle is over.

Clarity, preciseness and transparency

Far more than an addendum to the overall ‘Olympic spirit’ or Games philosophy, sustainability is a prime facet of the overall agenda, epitomised by the PyeongChang Organising Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG).

The vision is to take a concerted step forward in terms of sustainability standards and performance levels that will be used as barometers of the overall Games’ success in the years to come. For the global sports fan, medals will be counted and achievements will be logged, but for local residents and the wider country, success will be intrinsically linked to sustainability and legacy.

“In order to ensure systemic implementation of sustainability and to raise awareness of participants on sustainability in all phases of activities such as the preparation of the Olympic Games, hosting of the events, and post management; the International Standard for Event Sustainability Management (ISO20121:2012) is applied to the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games,” the organisation explains to this end.

Consequently, PyeongChang’s sustainability will be managed from a perspective of stewardship, inclusivity, integrity and transparency.

The latter is detailed: “Following its strict moral compass, POCOG shall operate in an honest and trustworthy manner to meet international standards when working to achieve sustainability. In its decision-making process and relevant activities for achieving sustainability, POCOG is committed to clarity, preciseness, and transparency.”

POCOG adds: “Sustainable development in all pillars of environment, society and economy is pursued, and POCOG exerts its upmost efforts to create [a] tangible and intangible Olympic Legacy. To achieve this mission, the following sustainability management policy came to be established.”

Sustainable management policy:

·         POCOG establishes goals and action plans to achieve Olympic Games principles, objectives, values and policy

·         POCOG abides by both Korean and international laws and regulations on the operation of the Games

·         POCOG applies sustainable management policy to the organisations, tasks and facilities involved in the Games’ management and operation

·         POCOG fulfils its environmental, economic and social responsibilities through continual improvement the Games operation

·         POCOG unfolds proactive efforts to accomplish a low carbon green Olympic Games with the sense of responsibility for the environment

·         POCOG strives for lasting development of the local community through activation of local economy and regional integration

·         POCOG enables PyeongChang 2018 to contribute to the promotion of Olympism through winter sports

New horizons

Driving each and every strand, POCOG’s established sustainability management system strives to strike a balance across environmental, economic and social implications in order to tick all boxes. These are then being enacted by a ‘plan-do-check-act’ framework which has already been put into place, and will become apparent in the immediate aftermath of the Games themselves.

Each stage of the framework incorporates a ‘goal’ and ‘action’ element to it, with the former ‘Plan’ strand comprising feedback from stakeholders and the formulation of responsibilities as its goal and an operational sustainability management taskforce and set of performance indicators as its action; by way of example.

‘Do’ raises sustainability awareness alongside crucial supply chain partners before applying specific training and deliverables; while ‘Act’ looks to improve overall management of sustainable principles before putting into action a series of performance improvement measures and gap-bridges. Finally, ‘Check’ monitors and evaluates management performance by way of an audit before said audit is reported to an executive.

Conducted both prior to and during the Games, the foundations are of course being laid, but the true test of PyeongChang’s sustainability success will come in the years following. A series of sustainability and legacy reports will be published as evidence of the city’s achievements but the proof will largely come from the eyes of the beholders. As is evident in London and Rio on a positive note, or indeed Athens from a not-so positive perspective, the transformation of the city and its Olympic village is a physical one, not a conceptual one.

Encompassing extensive social impacts, and more poignant ecological consideration, the fruits of PyeongChang’s labours will be witnessed and judged from an infrastructural perspective over the coming years, and only once its spoken-about objectives are visibly present and correct will it be awarded the gold medal it so craves.

POCOG concludes: “The world’s best athletes will compete on Asia’s centre stage to launch new horizons in winter sports and to create a sustainable legacy for Gangwon Province and the Republic of Korea. PyeongChang’s sustainability management strategy consists of five key themes and 17 main topics covering environment, economy and society, and various activities and programmes are implemented under the vision: a “New horizon for sustainability – Furthering benefits to people and nature”.”