We spoke to Chris Broadbent, founder of the first environment-based multi-sport event in the world and how going virtual in 2020 has been and what Planet Earth Games’ aim for the future is…
Keeping ourselves and the Earth we inhabit healthy are of paramount importance. And with more people wanting to do their bit for the environment, there are encouraging signs that we are living in the age of ecological awareness, where we’re beginning to understand it’s importance. The Planet Earth Games were launched in 2019 as the world’s first environment-themed multi-sport event, and have continued into 2020, albeit on a virtual level.
In the wake of Coronavirus, events across the globe experienced a huge crash and everything was put on hold. The Planet Earth Games were determined to carry on, though. Seeing the potential in virtual games and the way they have been experienced across the globe was enough for the people at the Planet Earth Games to push on without having to cancel this year’s event.
We spoke to Chris Broadbent, founder of Planet Earth Games, about how the games came about, how important it is to care for the environment, and how their Bournemouth-based partners including Sandbanks’ Land & Wave and Myriad are involved.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN A LITTLE ABOUT THE GAMES THEMSELVES?
The Planet Earth Games are a month’s worth of virtual and sustainable challenges throughout August. It is suitable for all ages and abilities. Entry is free and entrants can win daily prizes, such as a Fitbit, wireless earphones, head torches, food hampers, shopping vouchers and loads more. Challenges are as diverse as poster design, cycling, photographing wildlife, making coloured hummus, nature walks, cooking and so on.
HOW LONG HAVE THE PLANET EARTH GAMES BEEN AROUND?
We held our first event in the “real world” in July 2019 in Exeter, where we hosted a multi-event day that was free of single-use plastic, left no trace and gave out recycled medals. Families took part in cycling, walking, paddleboarding, plogging (that’s picking up litter and jogging), kayaking and more. We are an evolution of the South West Youth Games, which has a 20 year history of traditional community sport. But we had a real lightbulb moment in 2018. Young people were increasingly concerned over climate change and so were we as an organisation, so we didn’t feel we could continue as we were, ordering crates and crates of single use plastic bottled water, using fossil fuels in our power generators and ordering medals made 6,000 miles away. We felt the urgency required some radical, inclusive and highly relevant changes, and so the Planet Earth Games were born.
WHAT ARE THE PLANET EARTH GAMES’ MAIN GOAL FOR THE FUTURE?
To play our part in engaging more people into physical activity and environmental sustainability. Our role is to educate and inspire change in our audiences for their health and the planet’s health. We really believe in the power of sport and physical activity. It’s tribal — it connects people and is a powerful vehicle for change.
WHAT’S THE INSPIRATION BEHIND PLANET EARTH GAMES?
There is no one person or single moment, just the dawning realisation that we needed to do things better. About six months into our new model, Greta Thunberg’s climate strikes began to gain international attention and that just reinforced our position. We knew we had done the right thing.
THERE’S A HUGE RISE IN DEMAND FOR ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY EXPERIENCES. WHAT DO THE PLANET EARTH GAMES OFFER IN THAT RESPECT?
We offer such a wide variety of experiences that it is difficult to pinpoint one. In this aspect our multi-sport DNA has served us well. I really believe that young people – and older people – should try as many experiences as possible to find out what they enjoy, what they are good at, but to also broaden the mind. Most of all, I hope people just try something new. Something they would never have done before. Perhaps going for a family bike ride, cooking a vegan meal or swimming in the open water. We want people to emerge from their experience with the Planet Earth Games having been active, learnt something and feel much more connected to nature and develop some health habits along the way.
WHAT SPORTS AND ACTIVITIES DO THE PLANET EARTH GAMES DELIVER?
For our virtual event, and given current guidelines, sports are restricted to cycling, running, walking, swimming and climbing. But also have vegan cooking, litter picking, designing, mindfulness, and recycling in this year’s virtual challenges. It is about being active, but also learning something about the environment or gaining a closer to connection to nature. We love sport and are quite a sporty gang, but we have thought very carefully over what constitutes a Planet Earth Games sport. So, for example wild swimming and mountain biking are Planet Earth Games sports — people are being active and outdoors connected to a natural environment like the sea, rivers or forests. Swimming in a pool or cycling in a velodrome are not Planet Earth Games sports, because the experiences are very much man-made ones. The connection to the environment isn’t strong enough.
HOW EXPERIENCED ARE THE TEAM AT THE PLANET EARTH GAMES (IN TERMS OF EVENT PLANNING AND ORGANISING)?
We have great team of trustees and volunteers with public sector and private sector experiences all across leisure from early years to mass participation to elite sport. Personally, I have worked at over 300 sports events, including as Team GB media manager at the 2008 Olympics and Beach Volleyball Media Venue Manager at London 2012. That said, what is critical to what we do is not so much what you have done, but what you can do. We have volunteers still studying their degrees who have yet to embark on their careers, but bring a freshness and a finger-on-the-pulse approach that compliments the more experienced members of the team
WHAT IS THE PLANET EARTH GAMES’ MOTTO?
Our guiding principle is simply #HealthyPlanet #HealthyPeople.
HOW ARE YOUR BOURNEMOUTH-BASED PARTNERS SUCH AS SANDBANKS’ LAND & WAVE AND MYRIAD INVOLVED?
They are among our challenge setters for this year’s Games. We have 40 partners and ambassadors setting challenges and kindly providing prizes. We have been blown away with the names that have joined us from national brands like Riverford Organic Farmers to Olympic sailing gold medallist Hannah Mills. It’s a rare and broad coalition. But we won’t work with just anyone regardless of profile. Any partner or brand has to share our ethos of nurturing heathier, sustainable lifestyles
COVID-19 PUT A STOP TO EVENTS THIS YEAR. HOW DIFFERENT WILL THIS YEAR’S GAMES BE TO PREVIOUS YEARS, AND HOW MUCH OF A CHALLENGE WAS IT TO ORGANISE IT ON A VIRTUAL LEVEL?
We were forced to shelve two planned events when the pandemic arrived. We could have simply moth-balled and waited to see what 2021 would bring. Instead, we went back to the drawing board and saw real potential in the virtual games. There is a limited scope to how many people you can reach and engage with on-the-ground events. But digitally, the sky is the limit. So, from being largely regional, we have suddenly been able to engage people from all across the UK and beyond into our event.
ARE THERE ANY PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR YET? OR ARE YOU WAITING ON GOVERNMENT ADVICE?
We would like to get back to hosting ‘real world’ events. But the virtual games are here to stay! The pandemic has a definite silver lining in the cloud. There is evidence people have been considering their environmental responsibilities a lot more during the pandemic — they have been forced to explore and exercise in their local communities, and have enjoyed it. They have seen the potential in virtual experiences in their work and home life. So, we have a really scalable model now, which resonates with audiences. We can build on that next year and explore the possibilities internationally.
The virtual Planet Earth Games run from 1st-31st August 2020. For more information, head to their website, Facebook and Instagram pages. For more on our local environment-themed stories, please click here. And you can also follow HQB Media on all our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.