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From gold to green: why transport is the key to more sustainable sporting events

Reading time: 6 min

Transport is the main contributor to the carbon footprint of events like the Olympics and the Euros. But could a range of innovative, sustainable solutions make carbon-neutral spectator sports a reality?

It's going to be a summer to remember for sports fans.  

The Olympic torch is lit and making its triumphant journey around host nation France, in preparation for this year’s games. Across the border in Germany, the eagerly anticipated European football championships have just been kicked-off.

UEFA is incentivising spectators to travel by train for EURO 2024.
UEFA is incentivising spectators to travel by train for EURO 2024.© License CC

Excitement is as high as ever but, in recent years, sports fans have had to reckon with an uncomfortable truth: these flagship events come with an enormous carbon footprint. Rio 2016 produced an estimated, more than four times the amount that the city of Oslo produces in an entire year.  

By far the biggest contributor to this is transport. Fans flooding in from abroad could account for 90% of all emissions during the Euros in Germany. And, while the current hosts are taking ambitious steps to facilitate greener travel for fans and athletes, it remains one of the most stubborn barriers to carbon-neutral spectator sport.

In fact, their struggles shine a light on the enormity of the undertaking to decarbonize transport more broadly. But what makes this challenge so complex, and where can innovation offer solutions?


A challenge of epic proportions / Why is transport so challenging to decarbonize?

Transport is responsible for 21% of global CO2 emissions. Cars and vans are the biggest emitters, responsible for nearly half of that amount. Yet this is also the area where we have seen some of the most striking progress to curb emissions. Nearly 1 in 4 new cars sold in 2023 were electric, as high as 90% in Norway and 40% in China. And this rapid electrification of passenger vehicles is set to continue over the coming years.

In other industries like shipping, aviation and logistics, however, reducing emissions is much more complicated – not least because our modern lifestyle has been built around them running at relatively cheap rates. Aviation makes international travel affordable, whether for sporting events, holidays or business. Container ships and freight vehicles deliver everything from mobile phones and bricks to tennis racquets and footballs.

Each of these ‘hard-to-abate’ sectors has unique requirements, regulations and challenges. They need tailored solutions to start cutting emissions today.


Embracing innovation

Sustainable Aviation Fuels

Aeroplanes need fuels with an exceptionally high energy output per kilogram of mass, which is why kerosene is the typical choice. They also have extremely long lifespans – 20 to 30 years on average –and must go through extremely stringent safety testing. While small electric and hybrid models have taken flight, it will be many years before we see fleets of passenger planes powered in this way.

SAF can be used as a “drop-in” replacement for conventional jet fuel so aircraft engines do not have to be modified to use it.
SAF can be used as a “drop-in” replacement for conventional jet fuel so aircraft engines do not have to be modified to use it.© License CC

Fortunately, another technology is already available: Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). SAF is a revolutionary drop-in fuel that can be produced from various raw materials and blended with traditional fuels. At the OMV refinery in Schwechat, we make it from used cooking oil, transforming waste into a valuable resource. SAF has almost the same chemical characteristics as conventional kerosene and is suitable for all aircraft engines and airport infrastructure, while delivering over 80% lower carbon emissions over its lifecycle.

At OMV, we’ve been producing first quantities of SAF at our Schwechat Refinery in Austria since 2022 and we’re working to scale up our production capacity. We aim to reach up to 700,000 tonnes per year by 2030. In the meantime, our SAF Business Solutions program is driving demand by enabling companies to purchase SAF certificates, helping them measurably reduce their flight emissions. They have already helped tennis star Dominic Thiem reduce his.

A more sustainable aviation future beckons, and we're proud to be at the forefront of the transformation.

Sustainable road fuels

The logistics industry faces many similar challenges to aviation. Most supply chains rely on vast fleets of freight vehicles delivering materials and products cheaply, so operators must keep running costs as low as possible. To reduce emissions, some companies are upgrading their fleets of heavy-goods vehicles (HGVs) with hydrogen, electric and hybrid models, but this process is hampered by the high upfront cost of new vehicles and limited charging infrastructure.

Sustainable road fuels can reduce the emissions of trucks already in operation. Like SAF, they can be produced from biogenic materials and blended with conventional fuels. Our new MaxxMotion diesel, for example, is a high-performance fuel that offers all the advantages of our most premium diesel, with the added benefit of a 20% bio share from hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO). This reduces the value chain’s CO2 footprint by 11%, compared to purely fossil-based diesel fuels.

At the same time, we’re supplying HVO100 – reducing CO2 emissions by at least 80% compared to pure fossil diesel – to our partners, helping them run their truck fleets more sustainably.



The electrification of our roads is well underway. By 2030, EVs will constitute one fifth of all cars on European roads and by 2035, every new car sold must be emission-free. But charging infrastructure is not currently keeping pace.


OMV is evolving our eMotion business to meet this need. Our recent acquisition of Renovatio positioned us as Romania's largest EV charging provider, with more than 400 EV charging points today and plans to increase to around 650 by 2026.

We marked another important milestone in February when we opened Austria’s first publicly available truck charger. With two more set to open this year and a plan to equip all main transport routes in the country with truck charging infrastructure by 2026, we’re laying the groundwork for a fully electrified future on the road.

Lifestyle change?

We can think of big sporting events as a stress test of the sustainability of our interconnected transport systems. They reveal the magnitude of the challenges ahead, but also the potential solutions.

The transition to carbon-neutral transport is still possible, and innovative fuels and charging technologies will be a crucial part of the journey. But we cannot rely on innovation alone to get us there. Government support – whether it’s RefuelEU regulations mandating the aviation industry to step up its use of SAF or Germany incentivising Euros fans to use public transport – can drive demand for more sustainable travel. This helps make low-carbon solutions a more viable option, bringing them into the mainstream.


The transition will also require a rethink of how we use transport. That does not mean giving up things like flying or driving altogether, but by prioritizing the least harmful means of transport. It could mean taking the train rather than a short-haul flight, cycling or e-scootering to work rather than driving or walking to the shops rather than ordering online. When these approaches coalesce, we will tackle the issue from multiple sides, widening the window of opportunity to decarbonize transport in time to meet climate goals.

Paris 2024 aims to halve the emissions of the previous two in-person Olympic games, with transport at the heart of its strategy. Let this be the starting gun for a decade of progress.

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