“Environment is one of the three pillars of sustainable development – development that respects people and the planet,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said at the signing ceremony in the Chinese capital with the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG).“Through sports and through the Olympic movement we can further these goals by holding games that minimize their environmental footprint and maximize the efficient use of resources,” he added of the agreement, which follows similar accords signed with the organizers of next year’s Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics and the 2006 football World Cup in Germany. A key part of the agreement involves public awareness campaigns and UNEP hopes to leave a lasting legacy in China and beyond on the links between mass participation events and a healthy environment.The campaigns will also link the importance of the environment generally in delivering sustainable development that benefits current and future generations.“Beijing has committed itself to very high and ambitious environmental goals, ones which if achieved will percolate out into Chinese society and out into the world as a whole,” Mr. Toepfer declared. “UNEP is delighted to be a partner in this endeavour and we stand ready to assist and offer advice to the organizers in their attempt to realize the greenest summer games ever,” he added.The green plans for Beijing are part of a growing commitment by Olympic organizers to put sport at the forefront of environmental planning and awareness.“Sport has the power to bridge the divide between communities and countries and in doing so help in our common quest for a more stable and peaceful world,” Eric Falt, Director of the UNEP Division of Communications and Public Information leading the UN side of the Beijing agreement, said.“Part of that stability rests on a healthy and durable environment. So the commitments made by the organizing committee for the 2008 Summer Games have resonance both within and beyond the sporting world. Through well-targeted and well-designed public awareness initiatives we hope to take this message to the people of China and to the peoples of the world,” he added.