Sustainable Legacy


Fred Dubee | China Daily - TRANSCEND Media Service


11 Feb 2022 – Former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan once shared the observation that his favorite Olympic moment is when the athletes are in their starting positions at the precise instant when the start signal is given, as at that moment all the contestants are perfectly equal, and there is no discrimination of any kind. This offers an insight into the powerful potential of the Games.

The Beijing 2008 Olympics and Paralympics left an important legacy which included inclusivity, accessible and dynamically environmentally friendly venues and an advanced updatable and expandable urban transportation system in the Chinese capital that is still in use and still being improved upon today. They also brought a new understanding of the importance and value of recreational physical activity and sports to the people of China which induced and supported an expanding array of recreational activities involving hundreds of millions of Chinese.

Dovetailing with the legacy of the 2008 Olympics and Paralympic games, challenging aims were set and committed to for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games. In a critical and fundamental decision, China refocused the value of the games, from a unidimensional interest in medals to a more inclusive goal to ensure that the Games motivated hundreds of millions of Chinese to engage in winter sports. And through this example to gently entice the young and elderly around the world, regardless of their age, but respecting their abilities, to become more physically active.

Despite the media headlines, the biggest threat to the future of humanity is not COVID-19 or artificial intelligence as many suggest, but a lack of physical activity. Yannis Pitsiladis, a member of the International Olympic Committee Medical and Scientific Commission, says that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, less than 30 percent of the world’s population met the minimal levels of physical activity recommended by the World Health Organization. And as each of us knows too well, the restrictions imposed to try and control the novel coronavirus have made and continue to make this statistic even worse.

On landing in Beijing and rushing to start his work with the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission, Pitsiladis said:

“With its Olympic legacy program to increase sports participation, China is demonstrating the real legacy value of the games. This is the most prudent way to recoup and maximize the major investment in the Games.”

Since the dawn of humanity, our ancestors have repeated in every language the mantra “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. As we matured as a species, we increasingly understood that in some way or other our physical health was somehow related to the health of our immediate environment. As the Industrial Revolution gathered steam, it was noticed that the local water and air were not as clean as they used to be and that progressively the deterioration in quality became more pronounced and what was occasional became persistent and imperceptibly embedded in people’s daily lives. This assault against nature resulted in a reduction in the quality of life for many. And while development has affected the quality of our environment and presented humanity with existential climate, water, nutrition, biodiversity and health emergencies, this same development has reduced the desire and incentives for physical activity for a great proportion of the global population. At the same time, environmental degradation has acted as a disincentive for many to engage even in minimal levels of physical activity.

In this context and building on the legacy of the 2008 Games, China and the Chinese people have undertaken to deliver a “green, inclusive, open and clean” Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The venues are applying green technologies and are wholly powered by green energy, viewing the Games as a good opportunity to guide the Chinese public to low-carbon practices and to spotlight China’s commitment to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. The 2022 Beijing Sustainability Plan focused on three themes designed to support the development of the legacy of the Games: a positive environmental impact, new development for the region and a better life for the people.

In terms of environmental conservation, the Games are being powered totally by renewable energy; transportation is being supplied almost exclusively by electric, gas and hydrogen vehicles and supported by intelligent traffic management systems; natural carbon dioxide refrigeration systems have replaced the traditional hydrofluorocarbon approach; afforestation projects have provided 47,000 hectares of forests and 33,000 hectares of green land and a carbon sink of over 1 million metric tons.

In terms of regional development, preparation for the Games has accelerated the completion of a time and energy-effective transportation network. The development of a regional sport, tourism and cultural belt and leading-edge urban regeneration projects are underway.

In terms of social development, local communities are restructuring to fully and appropriately take part in the opportunities provided for housing, employment, education and attaining a work/life balance. Participation in national fitness and community winter sports activities continues an upward trend, in line with Beijing’s vision of engaging 300 million people in winter sports in China. Of course, each and every Olympic and Paralympic gathering is not only a tremendous opportunity, but it is also filled with challenges and as Murphy’s Law reminds us, if anything can go wrong it will. Nonetheless, the Games can deliver lasting benefits.

The 2022 Beijing Winter Games are a work-in-progress and will be a learning experience even after the Olympic flame leaves Beijing to begin the journey to Paris and then two years later to Milan. However, the legacy of the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics will continue to enrich Beijing, China and the world long into the future.


Prof. Frederick Dubee, an advocate for the United Nations Global Compact since its inception in 2000, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment; a professor at the Beijing Genomics Institute and executive director international of the Global Management Education Institute at Shanghai University; teaches at the post graduate level in China, Switzerland and Australia. With extensive experience as an international business executive, his research interests focus on the role of business working in partnership with relevant stakeholders to overcome structural violence and accelerate sustainable development. Contact:

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