(ATR) - Dow's Olympic sponsorship may not be immediately apparent to fans, but its imprint is felt on every aspect of Olympic life.
Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi (Dow)
From luge to golf, you can count on Dow technology to make the competition more exciting. Venues themselves stay as cool as needed because of Dow technology. In Tokyo, where heat is expected to be a problem, Dow is once again coming to the rescue.
Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi, Global Technology & Sustainability Director with Dow Olympic & Sports Solutions, discussed Dow's Olympic sponsorship this wide-ranging email interview with ATR.
Around the Rings
- What makes the Olympics and Dow a good fit?
- Dow has a longstanding history in the world of sports. It was at the 1980 Olympic Games that Dow first started supplying to Games venues. In the 40 years since, the partnership has evolved and grown from strength to strength. In 2010, Dow became the Official Chemistry Company of the Olympic Games and a part of The Olympic Partners (TOP) programme, and in 2017, following two successful carbon partnerships with the Sochi and Rio Organizing Committees, the IOC named Dow its Official Carbon Partner.
Just as the Olympic Games represent the apex of athletic prowess—challenging athletes to achieve the seemingly impossible—the Games have also inspired Dow to imagine greater things for our products and solutions.
Our technical partnership with the USA Luge team gave us the opportunity to bring our materials science expertise to a sport where thousandths of a second matter in competition. Our carbon partnership with the IOC enables us to encourage broader adoption of Dow solutions that reduce energy and materials consumption, enabling savings in carbon emissions and changing business as usual in industry value chains. For Tokyo 2020, Dow solutions are helping to insulate, seal, connect, coat and protect key Olympic venues.
To honor these many years of expressions of Olympic partnership, Dow has been running a primarily social media-driven campaign called #CelebrateTheMoments. This campaign highlights the many contributions of Dow and its partners to the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement throughout the years, focusing on technologies developed and utilized, awards (and medals) won, records broken and new levels of sustainability achieved. In particular, #CelebrateTheMoments has helped us share the story of how Dow alongside the IOC has been working behind the scenes at the intersection of science and sports to help catalyze and advance energy efficiency.
- Heat is a big worry for the Tokyo Games. What are some of the technologies that Dow will use to keep things cool, or at least to minimize heat-related problems? Solar roads? Solar heat blocking?
- Dow has been working with its customers to offer various solutions for the construction of new and temporary sporting arenas, as well as to retrofit existing venues from the Olympic Games Tokyo 1964 for use in 2020. This collaboration has resulted in infrastructure projects designed to meet high-performance standards.
Specific to addressing the summer heat and its impact on infrastructure, Dow polyurethanes for sealant applications are being used to fill gaps between walls, doors and window frames, helping to keep venues safe and stable by decreasing deformation risk caused by the expansion of concrete in high temperatures. This technology is in venues such as the Olympic Stadium, Ariake Arena, Tokyo Aquatics Center and the Olympic Village.
Dow technologies played an important role in design of new IOC headquarters (ATR)
Another iconic Olympic venue—though not one designed for competition—is Olympic House. Serving as the IOC’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, this new building has been named one of the most sustainable buildings in the world, earning LEED Platinum Certification. To help accomplish this, the IOC turned to Dow for efficient and sustainable product solutions, namely in the glass façade, with a combination of long-lasting silicone products for sealing and bonding. This enhances architectural design freedom and provides excellent resistance and durability for sound control and year-round weather protection of the building envelope.
- ‘Zero-wasting' is easy for most people to understand. But 'zero carbon'--- or at least toward zero carbon -- is harder. Can you explain what that means in layman's terms, at least for Tokyo 2020?
- Every part of the world is experiencing first-hand the consequences of climate change—from rising sea levels in coastal regions to increasingly intense wildfires in places like California and Australia. In order to help contain these impacts and meet the international goals set forth in the Paris Agreement [adopted under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change] to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, decarbonization needs to happen at an unprecedented pace. This means lowering the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by using renewable energy and making buildings more energy efficient, improving efficiency in industries and agriculture, and reducing waste of food, materials and resources. If no carbon emissions are produced from any given product, service or event then that is considered “zero carbon.”
Global sporting events such as the Olympic Games have a significant carbon footprint from permanent and temporary infrastructure construction, operations, and the travel of athletes, spectators and media to the Games. It is the responsibility of the Organizing Committee to measure the emission sources under their authority, reduce them as much as possible and devise a strategy to balance the unavoidable emissions through climate benefits generated somewhere else so that the net carbon impact of the event is neutral. This represents both a move toward zero carbon and an effort to make the Games carbon neutral.
Dow and the IOC rewarded 10 IFs for tangible climate action in October. (IOC)
Dow is not the official carbon partner of Tokyo 2020, but of the IOC and the broader Olympic Movement. From the Tokyo Organizing Committee’s Sustainability Plan, it is evident that reducing emissions and delivering them with maximum use of renewable energy is paramount too.
As the official carbon partner of Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016, Dow helped organizing committees to balance specific carbon footprints from the Games through the climate benefits of projects implemented by Dow and our partners throughout Russia and Latin America. As the carbon partner of the IOC, Dow has already helped offset the IOC’s operational emission for the period 2017 – 2020. The key to success for all these programs was collaboration.
- Dow is in the third stage of a series of sustainability goals. What exactly does that mean, and what's next?
- Dow’s 2025 Sustainability Goals are the Company’s third set (or stage) of sustainability-related Goals since 1995, building upon its previous decade-long commitments. Dow’s 2005 Environment, Health & Safety Goals resulted in $5 billion in safety, waste, water and energy savings after a $1 billion investment, and Dow’s 2015 Sustainability Goals provided more sustainable products and solutions addressing global challenges in food, energy, sustainable water supplies and improved personal health. The 2025 Sustainability Goals focus on unlocking the potential of people and science, valuing nature, and building courageous collaborations.
-Dow is involved in retrofitting some of the 1964 venues that will be used again next year. What are some of the things you are doing? And how will they make for a better spectator
and athlete experience?
- The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has shared that the venue infrastructure of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will highlight Tokyo’s heritage and history while playing a major role in meeting sustainability goals set for the Games. Specifically, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will have 43 venues — 8 new/permanent, 25 retrofitted, and 10 temporary. Both retrofitted and newly constructed venues have been designed with future function and permanence in mind.
Ariake Arena's grand opening is Feb. 2. (Wikimedia Commons)
Dow’s technologies are working behind the scenes of many of these venues—new and existing—to help insulate, seal, connect, coat, protect and deliver sustainability gains long after the closing ceremonies. For retrofits specifically, some of the Dow solutions implemented include, but are not limited to, acrylic emulsions to protect the long-term integrity of interior walls, as well as exterior wall coatings that help protect against corrosion and moisture damage to extend the life of the venues.
- Dow isn’t a household name like some of the other sponsors. Traditionally you haven’t done any B2C advertising around the Games. Will that change? How do you reach new business?
- Primarily seen as a powerful advertising tool for B2C companies, the Olympic Games and the greater Olympic Movement have challenged Dow to get creative in order to maximize the value of the partnership as a B2B company. Dow has developed a way to use the Games purposefully and successfully for four large objectives: business revenue and impact; brand building to drive top-of-the-purchase-funnel awareness of Dow’s capabilities and solutions; advance society’s journey towards a sustainable future; and employee engagement.
We’ve come to recognize the Olympic Games as one of our largest and most powerful “trade shows,” which helps guide the way we interact with customers. It is largely an opportunity for customers to experience and witness first-hand Dow solutions that are showcased at the Games, whether they are in venue infrastructure or athlete equipment and apparel. And to maximize reach of messaging shared throughout this business experience, we
have a robust media and social media program to reach key audiences not in attendance.
By advancing society’s journey towards a more sustainable future, we believe we’re creating a powerful, purposeful and profitable business and creating a blueprint for others to do the same. The way we see it – that’s a win-win.
Inspired by our work in Rio 2016 and Sochi 2014, Dow’s Official Carbon Partnership was created with the IOC. This collaboration was designed to take sustainability beyond game-time and host geographies and extend the positive influence of the Olympic Movement to a key issue of importance – climate change. Take Rio 2016, for example: even after athletes, spectators and the IOC left the host city, Dow continued the verification process and engagement in the region on carbon projects delivering a significant positive legacy.
- Dow has a golf connection – golfball coatings -- which is a little bit surprising. Are you sponsoring any golfers?
- Sports requires a lot of materials science too so it should not be surprising that Dow has several solutions for the world of golf. Dow solutions are working behind-the-scenes to improve the golf experience both on and off the course. For a full list, check out our infographic here
Dow is a long time sponsor of Suzann Pettersen, 2016 Olympian. (Dow)
Dow sponsors several athletes on the PGA Tour: Sangmoon Bae, Sean O’Hair, Corey Pavin, Tom Gillis and Danny Lee, a Tokyo 2020 Olympic hopeful. We are also a longtime sponsor of Suzann Pettersen, who competed on the Norwegian Olympic Team for Rio 2016. Suzann recently announced her retirement from the LPGA Tour, and we will continue to support her future ventures in the world of golf, including her role as vice captain of the 2021 Solheim Cup.
- Do you have any connection to the five new sports in Tokyo?
- Science and sports may seem like an unlikely combination, but in essence they’re both about breaking new ground, setting new records, and really pushing the envelope of what could be: how can we go faster, further, smarter, and longer? It’s all about improving performance, and it should be no surprise that this extends to the world of surfing – one of Tokyo 2020’s five new sports – as well. Dow’s VORACOR™ Polyurethanes System is leveraged within surfboards due to its shape variety, and lightweight, low density yet high strength profile, in addition to the fact that it’s easy to mold and extremely durable.
- What about the Paralympics? Will you do anything more or different from the Games?
- While the Paralympics hasn’t been part of Dow’s sponsorship of the Olympic Games, we hold the values and purpose of the Games in highest regard and have an annual employee campaign where we select employees who are Champions of Inclusion and bring them to the Paralympic Games. According to Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, a central vision of this year’s Games is to bring about positive reform to the world through three key concepts, one of which is “accepting one another” or finding “unity in diversity.” You’ll find this same dedication to diversity, inclusion and collaboration within our own organizational values and actions. We champion a fully inclusive workforce that reflects the world in which we do business.
-What is different from Rio 2016 to Tokyo 2020? Has much changed in four years?
- Our world looks a lot different than it did four years ago as we were preparing for Rio 2016. In September 2015, the UN released their 17 Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The revolutionary Paris Agreement was signed into effect in April 2016. And, more than ever before, investors are looking intently at ESG factors when determining company value, health and long-term success.
In many ways, sustainability has become one of, if not the most prevalent, global discussion. It is without a doubt a common thread of the Olympic Games.
- Anything we didn’t ask that you would like to say?
- Our collaboration with the Olympic Movement extends the beyond the Olympic Games. With a joint vision of seeing climate action in real-world applications year-round, Dow and the IOC created the “Olympic Movement Initiative” to guide and incentivize International Sports Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) —to measure, reduce and mitigate carbon footprints at the local level. The initiative rewarded carbon offsets to IFs and NOCs that have joined the UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework and are implementing real and tangible action to reduce GHG emissions within their respective operations and events.
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