If one were to choose a single word to describe the Tokyo Olympics, “exceptional” would come to mind as one of the top contenders. “Exceptionally” postponed by one year; organised in an “exceptional” period as a beacon of hope and solidarity; facing “exceptional” challenges; providing “exceptional” media coverage and experience to the millions of fans all over the world; but also building on the “exceptional” innovation capacity and potential of the Japanese host to turn the Games’ sustainability concept “Be better, together, for the planet and the people” into reality.

Indeed, innovation is an enabler of sustainability. Innovative solutions, out-of-the box thinking as well as novel cooperation across industries and sectors, and the ability to turn challenges into opportunities were at the core of the many sustainable initiatives and measures implemented by the Tokyo organisers. These elements will be also at the forefront of the efforts carried out by the future Olympic events’ host cities which have vowed, in their recent declaration, to "immediately address the climate emergency" in a bid to ensure a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the role of innovation in setting sport organisations and sporting events on path of sustainability, including climate change mitigation and adaption, is not reserved only to mega events and international sport organisations. Quite on the contrary, as shows the recent example of the NOC of Denmark’s Innovation Lab award for “Green Sport – shape the future of sport events”.

Bringing an entertainment and business angle to the search for innovative circular solutions that would help sport events’ organisers lower their environmental and climate impact, has proven to be the perfect mix to not only find great projects and ideas, but also to raise awareness. How exactly? The Innovation Lab put together a show similar to the TV programme “Dragons Den” in which a jury judges innovative project ideas based on 7 minutes’ long pitches by the contestants followed by a round of questions.

This year, seven finalists had the opportunity to present – and defend – their invention or idea at the award ceremony with New Loop, a company focusing on “circular” packaging for take-away meals, winning the Award.  With the Award, New Loop will get the opportunity to test their packaging solution at the Danish Championship Week (DM Ugen) and will likewise receive a check of DKK 25.000 (€3.400).

New Loop re-usable concept is not only aimed at sporting events, but is well suited for such. Their system includes a deposit-system for all types of packaging – from coffee cups to burger-boxes. The deposit-system collect a small fee for each piece of packaging, a fee which is returned when the user return the packaging, for it to be recycled.

Other than New Loop, six other finalist had the chance to present at the finals:

  • PurePoster, which produce signs and poster which are compostable in nature.
  • GripSign, which rent out banner stands and certifies banner production.
  • GreenGHOST, which produce running clothes of disused fishing nets.
  • Roster Athletics, a plartform, which tries to minimize printed material at sport competitions.
  • Goodiepack, a digital solution for preordering food.
  • Kleen Hub, which makes packaging that can be returned and reused throughout a city