Greening Olympics Reaches New Peak at the 2006 Winter Games in Italy

Greening Olympics Reaches New Peak at the 2006 Winter Games in Italy

Measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions, minimize water use in snow-making and promote eco-friendly hotels are among a raft of initiatives aimed at making next year's Winter Olympics the greenest ever, according to the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP).

The Torino Olympic Organizing Committee (TOROC) has unveiled its new Sustainability Report at an international sports conference co-hosted in Nairobi by the UNEP and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The conference, under the theme of "Sport, Peace and Environment," brings together around 350 delegates, representing up to 100 different countries. The list of invitees and speakers includes prominent athletes such as Olympic Medalist Frankie Fredericks, representatives of the IOC, including vice president Gunilla Lindberg, and representatives of a number of National Olympic Committees.

Pal Schmitt, chairman of the IOC's Sport and Environment Commission, said: "When you host the Olympic Games, among the main priorities must be the environment."

He said the meeting this week at UNEP's headquarters was a "good opportunity for the organizing committees of the Olympic Games to review achievements and explain their plans in the field."

The Torino Sustainability Report is being hailed as a milestone in the quest to make mass spectator events both entertaining and environmentally sound.

One of the cornerstones is the HEritage Climate TORino (HECTOR) project designed to make the Winter Games carbon neutral.

The organizers calculate that the 2006 Winter Olympics (10-26 February) will generate the equivalent of just over 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide with the main sources of emissions coming from transport and the operation of the Olympic venues.

The sister Paralympic Games will generate the equivalent of 15,000 tons of the greenhouse gas making the total emissions from both events just over 120,000 tons.

Under HECTOR these emissions will be offset via forestry, energy efficiency and renewable energy schemes both at home and abroad in line with the international climate change treaty, the Kyoto Protocol.

For example, the Piedmont Regional Government and the Pinerolo town council are financing renewable energy and sustainable energy projects.

Employees of TOROC will, during the life of the Games, generate an estimated 500kg of greenhouse gases which can be offset by buying ten Euros-worth of carbon credits linked with a reforestation project in Mexico; renewable energy projects in India and Sri Lanka and an energy efficiency scheme in Eritrea.

Ugo Pretato, head of environmental programs at TOROC, told the VI World Conference of Sport and the Environment: "Climate change and offsetting carbon dioxide emissions are high priorities for the Torino Winter Games, especially as winter sports and climate change are closely interrelated."

“This is the first time that an Olympic event will be able to offset all the carbon emissions produced during the event. They are being offset largely thanks to an investment of 3 million Euros by the Piedmont regional administration into energy efficiency projects, which are expected to generate an estimated 300,000 tons of carbon credits," he added.

The IOC, as part of this week’s events, has published its own "Guide on Sport, Environment and Sustainable Development." It was created with the view to present methodological and practical tools to the sports community, based on the major principles of sustainable development.

The guide, drafted by Professor Joseph Tarradellas of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Lausanne (EPFL), examines ecosystem services and their interrelation with various sports disciplines. It analyses the impacts that athletes and different sports from water sports and indoor disciplines such as gymnastics, to large outdoor matches have on the environment, and offers practical solutions and tips to participants and spectators alike.

Meanwhile, UNEP also announced it was signing on 18 November an agreement with the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Summer Games (BOCOG).

The memorandum of understanding is aimed at helping Beijing with its ambitious proposals in areas ranging from air, water and noise pollution up to transport, landscaping and the disposal of solid wastes.

UNEP will also be helping with public awareness campaigns which it is hoped will leave a lasting legacy among citizens in Beijing and China generally on the importance of the environment for long-lasting and enduring development.

Klaus Toepfer, UNEP’s executive director, said: “UNEP is delighted to be associated with both Torino and Beijing as part of our increasingly constructive relationship with the IOC and sporting bodies generally."

“Without doubt, sports and sports men and women can be a power for good in the world inspiring by example and bringing together communities, nations and cultures in a common understanding of the principles of peace and fair play,” he said.

“In terms of the environment, the two organizing committees are taking forward a green torch first lit in Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994. I am sure the measures they are both undertaking will make the upcoming Winter and Summer Games a crucial guide for environmentally friendly mass spectator events everywhere over the coming years,” added Toepfer.

Other Keystones of the Torino Strategy

Snow-making machines can consume large quantities of water. The construction of 20 new reservoirs holding 350,000 cubic meters of water had been originally proposed.

However, the organizers, in collaboration with the Province of Torino, were able to identify water-saving and other measures to reduce the scale of construction and thus minimize the impact on the landscape.

Now only nine new water storage facilities, holding around 220,000 cubic meters, have been built.

Monitoring at the recent World Cup for cross-country skiing, which took place at Pragelato, and other locations scheduled to host Olympic events has indicated that potentially high levels of sewage-related pollution might arise.

In order not to overload mountain water purification plants, the organizers plan to collect such wastes at sensitive sites and transport them to bigger metropolitan-based plants during the Games.

Extensive monitoring and rehabilitation has also been underway to minimize the impacts of construction at, for example, the ski-jumping venues around Pragelato and the bobsleigh track at Cesana Pariol.

Aerial photographs show that no new quarries have been opened and there has been no expansion of existing landfill sites as a result of these works.

In addition, trees, new habitats and natural engineering works are incorporated in and around these construction sites in order to restore the fragile mountain ecosystems and landscapes.

Restoration of ancient and old spring-fed fountains is also to be carried out in local mountain villages.

Other measures -- either completed, underway or planned -- include a waste materials plan to handle the anticipated increases in rubbish during the Games; the development of eco-friendly buildings at, for example, the new Olympic Village, and the use of pollution-free materials in their construction and an extensive sustainable transport plan.

In addition, TOROC has adopted the International Standards Organization’s 14001 standard alongside the European Commission’s Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) to ensure the “continuous improvement in the environmental performance” of the organization.

Meanwhile, sponsors of the Games are to be subject to a voluntary "sustainabilty program" in which they agree to meet a set of ethical and environmental standards. TOROC has also instituted a green procurement policy which aims to source environmentally friendly products and services.

It is also promoting the European eco-label for hotels and helping them to secure this green mark. Olympic accommodation for athletes will also be subject to the eco-label standards.