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Walking the Talk
Paris 2024 Gives First Look at Its Circular Approach to Olympic Games

Focusing on the material footprint of the upcoming summer Games, Paris 2024 is leaning heavily into recycled materials and plans for reuse of all temporary infrastructure, furniture and equipment.

This week, Paris 2024 unveiled the first results of its circular economy strategy for this summer’s Olympic Games. Integrated into every level of the organization, the strategy is based on three key principles: organizing the Games with fewer resources, making better use of these resources by promoting eco-design and ensuring the second life of resources after the Games. For all the facilities, Paris 2024 has proposed a more responsible model: thinking about their post-Games life before the Games even start.

Tokyo 2020 were the first Games to implement circular principles — through initiatives including medals podiums made from post-consumer recycled plastic materials and medals made from recycled consumer electronics. Paris 2024 aims to take this further, with circularity woven into every possible aspect of the event.

Assessing and reducing the Games’ ‘material footprint’

From spectator seating, tents, beds, chairs and tables to tennis balls, shuttlecocks, flags, bibs and so much more, organizing the world's largest international sporting event requires a vast amount of equipment and many resources.

As with its carbon footprint, which Paris 2024 has controversially proclaimed will be half that of previous Games, the organization wanted to calculate its “material footprint” in advance of the Games, i.e. the sum of the weight of all the resources mobilized for the needs of the Games — a first in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Venue by venue, Paris 2024 has produced a detailed map of the resources needed to organize the Games with the aim of reducing and pooling resources and controlling their life cycle before, during and after the Games.

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Regarding suppliers, Paris 2024 applied its Responsible Purchasing Strategy — of which circularity is one of the pillars. In its calls for tender, Paris 2024 has given preference to suppliers who:

  • adopt an eco-design approach to their products and services,

  • give priority to equipment hire and long-life products,

  • use lower-impact raw materials such as recycled materials or production offcuts,

  • are committed to certification processes,

  • offer solutions for the second and end-of-life of products (reuse, recycling),

  • minimize the use of packaging and promote reusable or recyclable packaging.

To date, thanks to the application of this Responsible Purchasing Strategy, 90 percent of the six million resource elements used will be deployed and taken over by the Games' service providers and partners, who manage a large proportion of the services required to organize the Games. The remaining 10 percent of resources will be the direct responsibility of Paris 2024, as the Organizing Committee.

Organizing an event with fewer resources

At the time of the bid, Paris 2024 proposed a concept for a more responsible Games: capitalizing on 95 percent of existing infrastructure or temporary venues, to build less and thus mobilize fewer resources.

This principle of reducing resources is also reflected in the interior design of the ~40 competition and non-competition venues. By evaluating and pooling its needs whenever possible, Paris 2024 says it has been able to reduce the amount of furniture and signage needed from 800,000 to 600,000.

In addition to reducing its needs, Paris 2024 has given preference to hiring rather than buying from event organizers. Of the two million pieces of sporting equipment, three-quarters will be hired or made available by sports federations, along with 75 percent of electronic equipment including televisions, computers and printers. Finally, with Official Partner GL Events; as well as Arena, ES Global and Loxam — Official Supporters for temporary infrastructure and fitting out — 100 percent of the stands, tents and bungalows to be used will be hired rather than purchased.

Regarding catering, Paris 2024 has committed to reducing single-use plastic by 50 percent compared to the Games of London 2012 by using returnable, recycled and reused containers. To achieve this, Worldwide Partner Coca-Cola will offer packaging-free beverages by installing drinks fountains where the configuration of the venue allows to significantly reduce the use of plastic bottles.

More resource-efficient design

The second pillar of Paris 2024’s circular economy strategy is promoting eco-design. With respect to dressing competition and non-competition venues; installing signage; or furnishing spectator, athlete and volunteer areas, the eco-design approach to products has been a key evaluation criterion in Paris 2024's calls for tenders.

For the flooring for the handball, volleyball and sitting volleyball events, as well as wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, goalball and boccia, Paris 2024 chose Gerflor — a French company specializing in floor coverings. The 33,466 m² of sports flooring supplied by Gerflor will contain an average of 35 percent recycled materials and will be 100 percent recyclable; and Gerflor is committed to finding a reuse destination in sports or educational establishments after the competition, for all the flooring used during the Paris 2024 Games.

To furnish the competition venues, the Athletes' Village and the Media Village, Official Supporter RGS Events has sourced certain lots of furniture from companies in the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) sector, with the support of the Les Canaux association as part of the SSE 2024 program. The athletes' areas will feature coffee tables made from recycled shuttlecocks, poufs made from parachute canvas and chairs made from recycled bottle caps. As for the athletes' beds, Official Supporter Airweave has chosen to manufacture the base frames in France from 100 percent recycled cardboard, and to recycle them in France after the event.

100% second life for temporary infrastructure, furniture and equipment

By their very nature, the Olympic and Paralympic Games are ephemeral events. To ensure that the resources mobilized for the Games can be reused and do not become waste, Paris 2024 thought about the second life of material assets before the event. As with eco-design, the organization chose suppliers that incorporate second life into their products.

For example, Official Supporter Sodexo Live! will produce the 35,000 plates to be used in the Athletes' Village restaurant without a logo to facilitate their reuse. Also in the Athletes' Village, Official Supporter Saint-Gobain has developed partitions that can be reused to convert athletes' rooms into housing or to be reinstalled on other sites. Materials and temporary structures (tents, stands and bungalows) will be reused or recycled.

The second life of the Games' facilities also involves the legacy left by such facilities to the regions and the world of sport. In particular, the Organizing Committee has decided to bequeath the temporary swimming pools used during the Games to the Seine-Saint-Denis region for use by the local community.