Environmental awareness / Malaysia hypes green SEA Games later this month

By: Will Feuer - Posted on: August 8, 2017 | Malaysia

As Kuala Lumpur gears up for an onslaught of tourists attending the region’s top sporting competition later this month, the government plans to tackle environmental issues that have plagued international competitions in the past

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) participates in the KL2017 Torch Run in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 06 August 2017. The torch run, which began on 14 May, will span the country to raise awareness of the SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games. The 29th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) will run from 19 to 30 August 2017 in Malaysia. More than 7,000 athletes from the region are expected to participate in the event.
Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) participates in the KL2017 Torch Run in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 06 August 2017. The torch run, which began on 14 May, will span the country to raise awareness of the SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games. The 29th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) will run from 19 to 30 August 2017 in Malaysia. More than 7,000 athletes from the region are expected to participate in the event. EPA/Fazry Ismail

Sports competitions the world over, from the Olympics to Formula One races, are taking on new ‘green’ initiatives to promote environmental awareness and a healthier lifestyle among fans. The latest competition to jump on the ‘Green Games’ train is the SEA Games, the 29th edition of which is set to take place in just a couple of weeks in Kuala Lumpur.

“SEA Games is a mammoth event spanning many days. We don’t want to end up with a mountain of solid waste that cannot be disposed of efficiently,” Zaini Ujang, chairman of the Games’ Green Initiative Committee, told The Star Online.

The comprehensive plan to ensure sustainable development at this month’s games was established late last year with five key pillars: energy management, waste management, transport management, outreach and engagement and tree planting.

Since then, the Malaysia Organising Committee (MASOC) has listed a slew of green targets like improving energy efficiency at venues by 15%, reducing waste going to landfills by 30% and having 30% of volunteers and spectators travel by public transport.

While MASOC has set out some concrete plans to achieving these goals, such as the recruitment of roughly 1,000 volunteers from local universities trained as “green ambassadors”, such efforts around sporting events have not always gone as planned. The 2014 World Cup in Brazil pushed a “copa verde” or “green cup” initiative, but fell short of its aims, with environmental concerns ultimately taking a back seat to infrastructure, transport and other components of hosting the competition.

Despite skepticism, the push for a greener SEA Games has vast support from both the public and private sectors, according to The Star Online. Among the efforts is a “One Medal, One Tree” programme that will see a tree planted for each medal earned “to offset the Games’ carbon emissions as well as to raise awareness about the importance of forest rehabilitation for biodiversity conservation,” reads a MASOC press release.

Even if Malaysia fails to hit certain targets later this month, MASOC hopes that these initiatives will leave a lasting impact on those who attend the Games.

“The progress and development of a country is not measured by the high rise buildings or infrastructure available…if we have first class facilities but third class mentality, then we will continue to be a third world country,” Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said when the initiative was launched almost a year ago.