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International Olympic Committee launches Mountain Protection Group

© Natalie Berry

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced the launch of The Mountain Summit, a group of sporting organisations linked to mountain activities who are committed to protecting the mountain environment. The project will be run in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and its Mountain Heroes campaign. The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) is among the listed organisations.

'Mountains are extremely fragile. They are home to unique species that are particularly vulnerable to climate variations.'  © Natalie Berry
'Mountains are extremely fragile. They are home to unique species that are particularly vulnerable to climate variations.'
© Natalie Berry

The group will produce a guide on sustainable event organisation in the mountains and collaborate with athletes in the associated sports to promote awareness of the need to protect sensitive mountain environments. Advice for recreational mountain sport enthusiasts will also be shared.

Alongside the IFSC, other participating bodies are the International Luge Federation (FIL), the International Ski Federation (FIS), the International Biathlon Union (IBU), the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF), the International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations (IFMGA), the International Slackline Association (ISA), the International Ski Mountaineering Federation (ISMF), the International Cycling Union (UCI), the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA and Protect Our Winters Switzerland, a non-profit climate advocacy group for the winter sports community.

The IOC announced the news yesterday, on International Mountain Day. Mountain tourism, which includes activities such as skiing, climbing and hiking, accounts for 15–20 per cent of the global tourism industry, the news report reads.

'Mountains are extremely fragile. They are home to unique species that are particularly vulnerable to climate variations and melting glaciers. They are also under threat from the increasing volumes of waste generated by tourists. According to UNEP's Waste Management Outlook for Mountain Regions, up to 140,000kg of waste is estimated to remain after 60 years of expeditions to the Mount Everest region in Nepal, which has seen an exponential increase in visitors, from 20 in 1964 to approximately 36,000 in 2012.'

This latest project is part of the IOC's committment to sustainability, which is one of three pillars of Olympic Agenda 2020. The IOC has previously been involved in the UN's Clean Seas campaign and Sports for Climate Action Framework.

In related news, the UIAA announced today that alpinism has been identified as an Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of Humanity by UNESCO due to its human and social value. The report reads:

'Alpinism is not only a physical activity requiring athletic qualities and technical expertise. Defining it simply by pursuits like the exploration of fascinating landscapes or the quest for personal achievements is incomplete. It is all of these features and furthermore characterized by a frame of mind of personal engagement, sense of self-responsibility, knowledge of – and respect – for its natural playground, and strong solidarity and social relationships.

'These exceptional characteristics, its historical and cultural backgrounds, make alpinism worth identifying as an Intangible Cultural Heritage (=ICH) of outstanding and universal human and social value.'

Read our International Mountain Day article 'The Climate Crisis and the Future of Mountaineering.'


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13 Dec, 2019

that's a really important cause!

13 Dec, 2019

an important cause but the IOC has a poor track record. A colleague, together with a few others, was commissioned to prepare a report on the environmental impact of the Sotchi winter games which was fairly critical of the Russian approach but was ignored by the IOC and quietly lost.

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