In theory, sustainability has been an area of interest for the 12 host cities of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ since the initial planning stage; in practice, a number of projects have already left the drawing board and yielded results. But how can you guarantee that these initiatives will hold firm and grow stronger as time passes, particularly within the stadiums?

To answer this question, FIFA and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) invested in a Sustainability Training Programme for the operators of the 12 stadiums that will be at the centre of attention in 2014. Many of them are not experts in sustainability and feel the need to expand their knowledge on the subject, in order to shoulder the responsibility of managing such complex buildings.

“Back at the World Cup host bidding process, we decided that FIFA would support local sustainability projects as long as it would not be limited to stadium construction,” explained Federico Addiechi, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for FIFA. “For us, what’s important is supporting operations and the future management of these installations in a sustainable way.”

“We’re not talking just about the World Cup here, but the life of the stadium beyond that,” added the CEO of the LOC, Ricardo Trade. “We will leave a legacy both regarding the new stadiums themselves and also in terms of administration for future management.”

With six of the 12 arenas already completed, representatives of the host cities spoke about the challenges they have faced at various stages. Many came to the conclusion that it is not always easy to make the transition between sustainability plans during construction and the new ‘reality’ after the stadiums are inaugurated. Everyone agreed that achievements such as these would not have been possible without the FIFA World Cup.

“The state of Mato Grosso is reputed to be responsible for the most deforestation in the country, due mainly to soya and corn plantations. We wanted to change that image. So we decided to take advantage of having the FIFA World Cup here,” explains Joao Paulo Borges, special adviser to the Extraordinary Secretariat of the FIFA World Cup in Cuiaba. “We were the first host city to think about sustainability, in as much as the Arena Pantanal had relied on environmental studies from the outset with the aim of getting a LEED certificate.”

Through encouragement from the federal government, other stadiums followed suit as financing by the BNDES [Brazilian National Development Bank] demanded an environmental certificate. “For the Brazilian government, the question of sustainability was inextricably linked with preparations for the FIFA World Cup, as much in terms of the stadiums as with the legacy the World Cup would leave our country,” explained Ricardo Gomyde, director of professional football at the Ministry of Sports. The initiative worked so well that the environmental certificate now features on the FIFA list of requirements for the next FIFA World Cup, starting in 2018 in Russia.

Over the course of two days, representatives of the 12 host cities shared their experiences of what had been done in terms of sustainability and worked on areas that could still be implemented, both environmentally and socially.

“Here we tried to convey the core concepts of sustainability. We spoke at length about the environment, awareness of energy and water consumption, as well as social responsibility, interaction with the community, labour issues and relationships at work,” explained Marcia Menezes dos Santos, chief instructor at the training programme and director of the Special Projects Unit at the Centre for Building Technology (CTE), a consultancy specialised in sustainability for buildings. “The objective over the three workshops is for the stadium operators from the 12 host cities to understand the processes and concepts and to bring them into their routines in an evolutionary way.”

“Our city is already known as an ecological city; we are now working towards it being sustainable, too,” said the secretary of the Extraordinary Secretariat of the FIFA World Cup in Curitiba, Reginaldo Cordeiro, who was representing city mayor Gustavo Fruet. “Even in terms of urban mobility, we have worked hard in terms of sustainability, for instance – our investment in cycle paths.”

The stadium operator training programme has received the support from the Ministry of Sports and the Curitiba City Hall. Both Brazilian and overseas specialists gave talks. The next workshops are scheduled for November 2013 and February 2014, with locations to be decided.