Study Says Athens Olympics Loses the Race for Environmental Excellence

Study Says Athens Olympics Loses the Race for Environmental Excellence

The 2004 Olympic Games in Athens won’t win a gold medal for its environmental friendliness, according to a new report from Greenpeace.

The report, How Green the Games? examines how environmentally friendly the Athens Olympics will be.

“Athens is very far from learning the lessons from Sydney. Greece has acted as if there was no past from which to learn,” said Nikos Charalambides of Greenpeace Greece. “Despite the good intentions expressed by the Athens 2004 Organising Committee, there is very little evidence that Athens has applied any learning thus leaving a huge gap in the ongoing process of moving toward sustainable development for all Olympic Games.”

The report points out that when Athens was still a candidate city, the official position of the Greek authorities was clear and straightforward: “The Olympic Games are a challenge as well as an opportunity for the broad implementation of programs and actions which are environmentally friendly and in accordance to the principles of sustainable development…Projects will be realized with the use of environmentally friendly technologies and materials, and this will be a prerequisite in all relevant tenders.”

With the exception of the means of public transport, which have shown impressive improvements due to the Olympics, and the decision of some prior and current sponsors of the Games (Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Unilever) to commit to the use of cooling equipment that uses natural refrigerants and does not destroy the earth’s climate, the environmental record of the Athens Olympic Games is very poor, says Greenpeace.

Green energy is the sector of the most striking failure for the Athens Olympics. It was the intention of ATHOC that all electricity used by related premises and users during the Olympics in 2004 should be generated by renewables. The green energy produced for and distributed at the premises of the Games is close to zero. With regard to solar energy, photovoltaic cells (PV) have been excluded from the Olympic Village and other Olympic venues. The same is true for solar thermal systems, both for hot water supply as well as for solar cooling.

“This list of failures in the environmental performance of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games shows that when there is no strong political will, failures will override wins. Athens is well behind Sydney regarding the environmental performance of the Games. The distance from environmental excellence and sustainability is that big that Athens is disqualified from this race”, added Charalambides.

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has the responsibility to ensure the Olympic Games have a minimum impact on the environment and leave a positive legacy for those hosting the Games. The ATHENS 2004 Organizing Committee avoided any dispute with the government and public authorities on environmental issues. According to Greenpeace, “The Greek Government had the power, money and time to set the standards and ensure that hat Green Olympics become a reality. However, they have proven themselves short-sighted and have aimed for the absolute minimum. Public authorities have shown a high level of indifference, incompetence and lack of action.”

“The IOC needs to secure the appropriate resources and show real interest that will make sure clear environmental guidelines are set for each candidate city – beforehand – and are well respected. If not willing to do so, it should simply stop claiming that the environment is the third pillar of the Olympics because it sounds like a bad joke,” concluded Charalambides