Ocean pollution: a fight worth a splash

12 Nov 2018
IOC News Sustainability

International Olympic Committee (IOC) Clean Seas Ambassador and two-time canoe slalom Olympian Mike Dawson is attempting to complete the world’s first full descent of Africa’s treacherous Kwanza River, using his expedition to raise public awareness about the devastating impact of marine litter in Angola and around the world. 

The audacious challenge is part of a partnership between the International Canoe Federation (ICF), the IOC and UN Environment’s Clean Seas initiative, the aim of which is to increase global awareness of marine pollution and implement measures that address gaps in waste management. 

Two previous attempts to conquer the river have failed so far – including one by Mike Dawson himself. Leading an international expedition of canoeists, Dawson will navigate the treacherous rapids of the Kwanza – Africa’s fourth largest river – which features some of Africa’s most remote gorges, dropping around 30m per kilometre. They will be followed by a film crew who will be capturing footage of the expedition to create a feature-length documentary, thereby raising global awareness of the impacts of pollution and showcasing Angola’s natural and cultural diversity.


“My paddling expeditions have provided me with a unique opportunity to witness and enjoy the most beautiful rivers and places on the planet,” said Dawson. “At the same time, they showed me first-hand how we are polluting and destroying our environment. We need to encourage change. There’s nothing more heart-breaking than paddling down a pristine remote waterway and discovering a ton of pollution.”

According to the United Nations, about 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans every year. Recognising this challenge, the ICF is looking at progressive initiatives to ensure that canoe sports worldwide are environmentally sustainable. By being a change-maker in this area, the ICF hopes to encourage other International Federations to join the campaign. 


“We are extremely happy to be partnering with Mike and the ICF to create awareness about the challenge of marine pollution,” said Michelle Lemaitre, IOC Head of Sustainability. “The IOC is strongly committed to driving meaningful action across the Olympic Movement, and actions like this one are a fantastic way to leverage the Movement’s power and reach. The ICF is one of nine International Federations that have signed up to the Clean Seas initiative so far, and we hope that many more International Federations will follow suit.”

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