This past weekend, Cape Town played host to one of the greatest ultra-marathon events in the world - the Two Oceans Marathon. Not only is the event one of the most important on the calendar for the city, but it attracts almost mythic support from visitors and locals alike.
While the event has attracted huge interest, and it generates much-needed revenue for the city, the after-party litter has catapulted this years race into the headlines for all the wrong reasons. And the litter relates mostly to the plastic waste associated with the drinks and energy supplements handed to runners at the various water-tables along the route.
After the race, it is estimated that while a large percentage of the used sachets and bottles were collected by cleaners, it was the ripped corner tabs and 'spouts' of the sachets which were spat-out by runners as they consumed the drinks that caused the 'stink'. Estimates are that as many as 1.5 million of these pieces were overlooked by cleaners after the race - probably because of their perceived insignificance, waste that ends-up in the surrounding environment - and even the sea, posing long-term threats to the environment and wildlife. Organisers claim that they have made every effort to minimise this type of waste and that they are looking at innovative ways of addressing this in the future.
But the problem itself lies with organisers and sponsors of these mega-events that find it easier to apologise after the effect rather than implement and manage a sustainability strategy during the planning, management and coordination phases of the events themselves. Were it not for growing consumer and community awareness of the impacts - and results of events like these, nothing would be done to minimise the 'unintended consequences' of poor planning. The event organisers of the Two Oceans race didn't consider greening their event, and this leads to the kind of problem that was highlighted this week.
The days of 'business as usual' in the eventing sector have passed, and organisers that still believe they don't bear the brunt of negative press following their events are fooling themselves. There is ample evidence of how world-class events are greened and made more sustainable, and the time has come to take responsibility for poor planning and to make an effort to change.