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Addressing Ecology and Sustainability in Mega-Sporting Events: The 2006 football World Cup in Germany

For the first time in the history of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), the football (soccer) World Cup held in Germany 2006 specifically addressed environmental concerns. By doing so, the German Organizing Committee did not have the objective of creating a short-term vision, but rather of making a long-term and lasting contribution to the improvement of environmental protection in hosting a mega-sporting event. By taking the football world cup in Germany as a case study, we will provide insights into the so-called ‘Green Goal’ program and its four main areas: water, waste, energy, and transportation. From a global point of view, climate protection was added by the Organizing Committee as the fifth area of action and was recognized as a cross sectorial task. Finally, questions are addressed on how to apply those measurements in the planning and organization of other mega (-sporting) events.

This article highlights environmental issues associated with a mega-sporting event. One of the legacies associated with the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) 2006 World Cup in football (soccer) held in Germany is that for the first time in the history of this tournament, environment concerns have been systematically addressed. By taking the FIFA World Cup in Germany as a case study in this article, researchers provide further insights into the dimensions of ecology and sustainability associated with mega-sporting events. Finally, questions addressed on how to apply those measurements for the planning and organization of other mega (sporting) events. The case study approach was chosen for investigating questions of ecology and sustainability associated with the 2006 FIFA World Cup because of its suitability for collecting data about context specific phenomena (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). It is a preferred method to use when a ‘how’ or ‘why’ question is being asked about a contemporary research problem over which the investigator has little or no control (Yin, 1994) and used to investigate little-known and complex phenomena (Gummesson, 2007).

In conclusion, sport and mega-sporting events as well as the possibility to create a legacy by hosting such a mega-event like the FIFA World Cup rely not only on their appeal to spectators all over the world, but also on the power of their main representative units to negotiate between national member organizations and to represent their common interests against the demands of their main financiers – politics, media, and industry. The ‘Green Goal’ legacy report concludes in this sense: Not long after the 2006 FIFA World Cup ended, the Global Environment Facility – an environment funding mechanism jointly implemented by the World Bank, the UN Development Program and UN Environment Program – announced a multimillion dollar public transport modernization initiative that will upgrade bus and rail services in South Africa in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. This challenge is the beginning of a series of collaborations between FIFA, the United Nations and the private sector that hopefully will demonstrate that sports and environment are a winning team that can benefit society and the global environment long after the final whistle has been blown and cheers of the fans have faded to silence. (Green Goal Legacy Report, 2006, p. 113).


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