December 29th, 2010

An Environmentally Sound Olympics

An Environmentally Sound Olympics

There has already been lots of speculation about which country will win the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, and many believe that the United States is seriously pushing to win the bid. If they do indeed win this bid, not only is the United States Olympic Committee USOC looking to further athletic achievements, but to make substantial environmental changes to the event.  This began with naming Andrew Liveris and Dow Chemical the worldwide partner in the Olympics for the next decade.

If the United States wins the bid, there is much talk of athletic victories (during the last winter Olympics, Vancouver 2010 games, the United States won the most metals, nine gold, fifteen silver, and thirteen bronze) but the major changes will be the environmental ones.

While the Olympics are fantastic and extremely unifying, it’s quite a carbon-rich event. So while these changes may only seem minor, they’re actually a huge deal for our environment. It has been estimated that over 2/3 of the carbon emissions from the event is a result of some of the 1.5+ million attendees traveling (mostly via airplane) to and from the event.

CEO Andrew Liveris and USOC members are looking to do more by following the lead of the 2008 Summer Games that were held in Beijing. The 2008 summer Olympics made great efforts to showcase conservation practices and sustainable energy sources, Exactly what environmentally friendly services did the Olympic facilities feature?

  • Natural Light – Remember the famous ‘Water Cube’ where the aquatic events were held? The walls of the National Aquatics Centre provided natural light, and for the interior of the building, specially designed ‘beam-pipes’ funneled sunlight into corridors, toilets and car parks at venues, including the Olympic Green.
  • Solar power – Used to light lawns, courtyards and streets at several venues, including the Olympic Village. A 130 KW photovoltaic system illuminated The National Stadium, where events such as athletics and football were held.
  • Water Conservation – Waste water collected from the Qinghe sewage treatment plant was filtered and used for the various heating and cooling needs throughout the Olympics site, yielding a 60% savings in electricity. Rainwater was collected from around the grounds, collecting over 75,000 gallons by using water permeable bricks, pipes and wells installed on roofs, roads and green areas.
  • Recycling – The 2008 Olympic hosts aimed for a 50 per cent recycling of waste including paper, metals and plastics at venues. A modest expectation, considering that a test run carried out during the 11th World Softball Championships held in 2007, achieved a nearly 90 per cent recycling rate.

The Olympics in 2008 found new ways to make the even more green, and had great new ways of filtration and insulation for the event, the IOC and committee members are looking to do more. That vision has progressed to include dozens of other products which will help reduce waste and promote conservation. You can expect these products to appear at the coming events over the next decade and be a part of the USOC recommendations.

Co-written by Nerissa Barry and Daniel Fielding

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