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Research

Hull Centre for Sustainability and Olympic Legacy

Research and education into themes relating to the Olympics and their sustainability and legacy.

John Toner

Deputy Director

Dr John Toner

Email john.toner@hull.ac.uk
Telephone +44 (0)1482 463399

Zishang Zhu

Deputy Director

Dr Zishang Zhu

Email zishang.zhu@hull.ac.uk

The Challenge

The University of Hull is committed to a more equitable and sustainable future and finding creative solutions to address the challenges of environmental sustainability and social justice. As a result, the University has pledged to be a carbon-neutral campus by 2027, the first UK University to do so. Similarly, the International Olympics Committee has set an ambitious target for the Olympic Games and the Winter Olympics to be 'climate positive' by 2030.

According to a recent climate change report, more than half of Winter Olympic host cities (10 out of 19) will not be able to stage the Games again in by 2050.  By 2080, the number of suitable former hosts will drop to just six, the report written for the Rapid Transition Alliance says.

The Hull Centre for Sustainability and Olympic Legacy investigates how the Olympics can be more environmentally and socially sustainable. The Centre is exploring how the Olympics can leave a lasting legacy and contribute to a positive future for people, society and the environment.

The Approach

The centre provides a central hub for the University's wide-ranging research and activities designed to help the Olympics be more sustainable. Building on our collaborative partnership with Team GB, the centre is providing three, newly funded PhD research projects addressing Net Zero (Climate), Sport and Wellbeing (Competitors) and Sport, Social Impact and Wellbeing (Community).

Recent projects explore contemporary issues in sports coaching pedagogy and offer research into sustainable urban development, urban planning, the legacy of the Olympics, and other mega-events.  Research across a range of disciplines includes celebrating diversity in the Olympic story, finding low-carbon solutions to elite athletes' wellbeing and performance, and carbon footprint benchmarking to develop a tool for carbon reduction scenarios for the British Olympics Committee.

Team GB partnership

Aims

  • To provide a focus for collaborative research in the area of environmental and social sustainability and the Olympics through three core themes of Competitors, Community and Climate.
  • To investigate and be a source of expert knowledge on how Olympic values can create a positive change and a legacy in the area of sustainability on the environment, society and business.
  • To be a source of expert knowledge to the International Olympics Committee and through our research and Knowledge Exchange activities to help create policy evidence and recommendations in the related areas of investigation.
  • To stimulate research, teaching and Knowledge Exchange activities within our three themes amongst our academic community, including academics, postdoctoral staff, and doctoral and undergraduate students.

The Impact

The Hull Centre for Sustainability and Olympic Legacy brings together the University of Hull's research and teaching excellence and expertise in sustainability and social justice, supporting the University's vision for a fairer, brighter, carbon-neutral future. The Centre's focus is around globally researching and educating on themes relating to the Olympics and sustainability.

The Centre will also support the goals and recommendations outlined in the Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the International Olympics Committee's Sustainability Report 2021, including achieving environmental sustainability, enhancing sport's role as an enabler for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and continuing to set exemplary corporate citizenship standards.

Projects

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  • One Team GB Heritage Project

    The project formed the foundations from which Team GB developed the narrative and resources that supported athletes to connect with the Olympic heritage of Team GB in preparation for Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022. This research identified real success stories of British Olympians between 1896 to 2016, reflecting their cultures and values on and off the field and helping Team GB to understand the competitors’ diverse social backgrounds. These stories helped to celebrate, strengthen and drive forward the ethos of ‘One Team GB’ – and the Olympic concept of encompassing the cultures, ways of working and the collective beliefs of all team members.

    Main researchers: Dr Catherine Baker and Dr Jenny Macleod

  • Tokyo 2020 ‘360 Video’ Project

    The aim of this project was to improve performance of Team GB athletes by preparing them, ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games, for the environment in which they would train, live and perform. The aim was to help athletes understand what to expect from the Team GB performance lodge to support their wellbeing and performance. There were approximately 380 Team GB elite, world class athletes who used this software to experience the environment in Tokyo ahead of the games in 2021. The overall aim for the athletes to become familiar with the environment so that they could focus solely on their performance and not adapting to their environment. This also helped with the COVID-19 pandemic as travel restrictions meant that Team GB were unable to visit the venues ahead of the Olympic games.

    Main researchers: Jason Hayhurst and Professor Andrew King, student volunteers and Lampada Digital Solutions

  • Team GB Project Footprint

    Phase One

    The British Olympic Association (BOA) has ambitions to be a global leader in sustainability for elite sports and is developing a comprehensive sustainability strategy to achieve this. As part of this strategy development, the BOA has commissioned a team from the University of Hull’s Energy and Environment Institute working with Perform Green to undertake a Carbon Footprint benchmarking exercise and associated future projection of BOA’s activities in order to recommend informed improvements. The carbon baseline assessed through the Project Footprint fuelled further commissioned work, Phase 2, to look into high level reduction scenarios.

    Phase Two

    To join the world-leading sports bodies in the sustainability race, BOA is keen to sign up to UNFCCC’s Sports for Climate Action – commitment to cut emissions by 50% to 2030 and achieve Net Zero by 2040. Following the carbon baseline assessment through the Project Footprint, further work was commissioned between the University of Hull and Perform Green consultancy to develop a tool for carbon reduction scenarios. The developed tool looked at a range of commitments and gave satisfactory confidence in BOA’s ability to deliver the carbon reduction targets, leading to sign-up to UNFCCC’s Sports for Climate Action.

    Researcher: Dr Agoka Mockute

Group of students in Pearson Park
I Am Team GB event
Sport rehabilitation treatment room
  • Green2Gold

    This PhD Project, funded by the University of Hull, aims to develop a model for effectively implementing greenspace physical activity programmes in economically-disadvantaged areas of the East Riding region. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought considerable challenges for physical activity. Evidence suggests that economically disadvantaged communities are less likely to use existing greenspace areas and/or may have less access to well-maintained greenspaces. However, the East Riding of Yorkshire region is well-positioned to become the vanguard for understanding how to redress social inequalities in this respect.

    The health benefits of physical activity in greenspace (i.e. open, underdeveloped land with natural vegetation, urban parks, public open spaces, etc.) were brought to the fore during lockdown and consolidated by the Environment Secretary’s announcement of a £4M pilot project to assess the health impacts of “green prescribing”. This initiative involves a shift from GP prescriptions of established medication regimens towards “green exercise prescriptions” (e.g. outdoor activities such as walking, cycling, working on conservation projects, gardening, etc.) as a means of improving physical and mental health.The project involves working with a wide range of partner institutions, including East Riding of Yorkshire Council Public Health and local charity leaders, as well as Team GB.

    Researchers: PhD candidate Esther Carter; supervisors Prof John Saxton and Dr Caroline Douglas

  • Race to Zero: An Olympic Journey

    Elite sport has many benefits for a global society, including its ability to promote an environmental message to those who are hard to reach by other routes. However, it has a significant environmental footprint which should be recognised, and where possible, minimised.

    One of Team GB's strategic goals is to understand and reduce its carbon footprint, and this PhD project works in partnership with Team GB and two of the University's research institutes – the Energy and Environment Institute and the Logistics Institute – to further this goal.

    The project's overarching aim is to quantify and analyse Team GB's carbon footprint and strategically guide its reduction. The project will lead to a step-change both in Team GB's knowledge of its environmental impacts and in its ability to optimally minimise them.

    Researchers: PhD candidate Yazeid Aqqad; supervisors: Dr Simon Waldman and Prof Nishikant Mishra

  • Life Beyond Sport - Sustaining Team GB athletes post elite sport: Skills, careers, and mental health considerations

    Retirement from sport is an extremely significant 'hot topic' in contemporary sports research and is an area of huge importance to the Olympic athletes of Team GB. Very little is understood about the lives of retired athletes, including how their experiences of elite sport will govern their lives after being a competitive athlete. This research aims to fill the gaps in this area and to provide critical knowledge that can be used to support athletes' careers and well-being in their life beyond sport.

    Researchers: PhD candidate Neil Boardman; supervisors: Dr Luke Jones Jonzon, Prof Adam Nicholls, and Dr John Toner

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