At a recent high-level event at the United Nations in New York, the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 Local Organising Committees joined Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and other representatives from the sport, including FIFA World Cup™-winners Cafu and Carli Lloyd to discuss the value of hosting mega sports events for sustainable development.

“Mega sports events have always contributed to sustainable change,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. “The benefits of these events have not always been long-lasting, but they must be. Mega events must leave enduring legacies that benefit societies long after games are over.

“All hosts of mega events should integrate sustainability at their core. Let us work together so that the motto of all mega events in the future is cleaner, greener and more sustainable.”

Following an introduction by Mr Ban Ki-Moon, Hassan Al Thawadi – the Secretary General for the Supreme Committee for Delivery (SC) and the CEO of the 2022 Local Organising Committee – said: “Football is unquestionably the number one pastime of the Middle East. “We live and breathe the game. Wherever you go in the region, you will witness football being played – in stadiums, parks, streets, on roundabouts and beaches.

“Football plays a vital role in the fabric of our communities. Multiple countries, multiple cultures, multiple religions – and across the Middle East I can assure you that passion for football unites us like nothing else can.

“From the day we launched our bid we have maintained that the 2022 FIFA World Cup would not be Qatar’s World Cup but a World Cup for the entire Middle East. We passionately believe that this is the perfect time for an event of this magnitude to be held in our region."

The message from Russia’s LOC was similar – mega sport events and the World Cup were there to make a difference in people’s lives using the power of the sport.

Milan Verkhunova, Head of Sustainability for the FWC 2018 Local Organising Committee, conceded the World Cup will be more than just a tournament – it is an opportunity to transform the mind-set of people, change perception and influence every day practice.

Ms Verkhunova gave an overview of the scale of Sustainability Strategy which is carrying out to deliver a great World Cup. It includes 9 key issues and 25 performance objectives in social, environment and economic dimensions.

She said: “There is so much to speak about and we want to look not only on tangible legacies, but also consider intangible impact of the World Cup. Besides new stadiums, airports, road infrastructure, utilities and urban beautification that are being developed, we are implementing more than 100 projects and activities in health and safety, inclusivity and equality, healthy living and sport legacy areas, as well as acting in biodiversity and environment protection. We definitely can use mega events as a tool for sustainable development." 

Nasser Al Khater, Assistant Secretary General for Tournament Affairs for the SC, also shared his view on the challenges and opportunities associated with a landmark event such as the 2022 World Cup.

He said: “We’re confident that over the next six years everyone will see this World Cup will be a driver to really push on progress which will have a direct impact on the future of this country. World Cup tournaments in general have always been celebration of cultures and I believe this World cup will be no different.”

The session was attended by key sporting and political figures from all over the world, including Brazilian legend and two-time World Cup winner Cafu as well as FIFA Women's World Cup winner Carli Lloyd from the United States and Laksmi Puri – Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Acting Head of UN Women, Wilfried Lemke, Special Advisor on Sport Development and Peace, basketball legend Dikembe Mutombo and 12-time German Gold Medalist Paralympian Verena Bentele.

The meeting was co-organised by the Permanent Missions of Germany, Qatar, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and Tunisia, and the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP).