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GENEVA - The 2006 World Cup in Germany was the greenest ever.
But international football still has a lot of ground to cover before its environmental record catches up with the Olympics, the United Nations said at the weekend.
The UN Environment Programme (Unep) and German organisers said a battery of energy-saving measures and other steps more than compensated for the greenhouse gases generated by the World Cup, even down to the teams' flights to and from Germany.
"Unlike the Olympics, the environment has been something of an outsider at the World Cups, but this has now changed and to my mind there is no going back," said Achim Steiner, Unep executive director.
"Organisers of future Fifa World Cup events will now have to consider playing the environment up front as one of the leading strikers in the planning and policy strategies," he warned.
"Otherwise they risk own goals and offsides from domestic and international opinion."
The joint "Green Goal" project wiped off 17 000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from transport during the event, cut electricity emissions by one-third to 2490 tons, and about 2000 tones through other steps.
Other green measures at the World Cup included harvesting rainwater for pitches and minimising packaging waste by using returnable beakers for drinks.
Some stadiums even had dry urinals.
More than half of the journeys to and from stadiums were made by public transport.
But the World Cup in Germany missed an energy target of a one-fifth cut in emissions, despite added solar power installations on stadiums and the use of cleaner hydro-electric power.
Unep urged Fifa to include green targets in the World Cup bidding process, like the Olympic Games do.
The remaining 92 000 tons of carbon dioxide in Germany was offset by investment in clean energy projects for 900 farmers in southern India, as well as in a sewage gas project and a sawdust fruit drying furnace in South Africa.
South African officials were shortly expected to sign a deal with their German counterparts for help to green the 2010 World Cup.
Officials said international football was lagging behind in comparison with commitments by other sports.
Unep signed a deal with the International Motorcycling Federation last Friday to clean up motorcycle racing. - Sapa-AFP