Cousteau Represents Environment at Winter Olympics

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, February 11, 2002 (ENS) - Jean-Michel Cousteau, ocean explorer, environmentalist, educator, and film producer, has become the first person to serve as the global symbol of the environment at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

Cousteau was one of eight people to carry the Olympic Flag during the Opening Ceremonies into the stadium in Salt Lake City, where it flies as a symbol of the principles of the Olympic games, which include sport, culture, and most recently the environment.

The eight participating dignitaries, who represent the five continents symbolized in the Olympic Rings and the three tenets of the Olympics, included Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Africa), John Glenn (The Americas), Kazuyoshi Funaki (Asia), Lech Walesa (Europe), Cathy Freeman (Oceania), Jean-Claude Killy (Sport), Steven Spielberg (Culture), and Jean-Michel Cousteau (Environment).


Jean-Michel Cousteau at the 2002 Winter Olympics (Photo courtesy Ocean Futures)
"I am deeply honored to represent the third and newest principle of the Olympic Games: the Environment," said Cousteau. "Clean water, air, and biological diversity are our planet's legacy. I carry this Olympic Flag in recognition of every human being as well as for future generations whose birthright is a sustainable global environment."

The International Olympic Committee added environment to sport and culture as the third principle of the Olympics in 1994. Although other Winter Olympics have incorporated elements of environmental awareness and activities into their events, this is the first Winter Olympics to set a goal of zero emissions and zero waste.

As more than 2,500 top athletes from 77 countries begin to compete for the Olympic medals, Cousteau congratulated the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for its efforts to incorporate environmental awareness and sensitivity into every aspect of the 19th Winter Olympic Games.

"This is an opportunity for all of us to understand and appreciate our connection to the natural world, especially the ocean, which is the cornerstone of life support on our water planet," he said. "Water from the sea undergoes a transformational journey, eventually becoming snow that is fundamental to the Winter Games. It will go on to become life giving fresh water, and then make its way back to the sea. And so, the health of the ocean and the health of our species are directly connected."

The son of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, Jean-Michel spent much of his life with his family exploring the world's oceans aboard the research vessels Calypso and Alcyone.

After his mother's death in 1990 and his father's in 1997, Jean-Michel founded Ocean Futures Society in 1999 to carry on this pioneering work. This nonprofit marine conservation and education organization develops marine education programs, conducts research, and fosters a conservation ethic.

The Earth Communications Office (ECO) has produced a public service announcement (PSA) that will run throughout the Games at various event venues encouraging people to protect the environment. Jean-Michel narrates the French language version of the PSA, which says, "We don't inherit the earth from our parents. We borrow it from our children."

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee and ECO have collaborated to create a series of environmental action steps that people can incorporate into their daily lives based on some of the environmentally sensitive actions taken at the 2002 Winter Games.

The activities surrounding the Winter Olympics will not be contributing to global warming, due to a zero emissions policy that offsets the entire impact of the emissions caused by the Games.

The Olympics' commitment to a zero waste policy means that close to 95 percent of the six million pounds of waste that will be generated at the games will be recycled.


Deer Valley Resort (Photo courtesy 2002 Winter Olympics Education Site)
Deer Valley Resort minimized the environmental impact of competitors and spectators during the Games, by reseeding 100 acres of land and reusing all soil that was removed for construction.

The Olympic Oval is being honored by the U.S. Green Buildings Council for utilizing an energy efficient external suspension system that uses half the structural steel of a typical building of its size.

The dishes, the paper, and the trash bags at the Olympic Games are made of biodegradable materials.

SLOC has announced that 70 local hotels, more than 8,700 hotel rooms, are participating in a program asking guests to reuse their towels and linens.

SLOC saw to it that 18,000 trees were planted in Salt Lake City, and Olympic organizers have developed a campaign that is well on its way to getting 17 million trees planted globally in honor of the Olympics.

Designers of the Snowbasin where the downhill ski racing events are being staged retained the slopes' topsoil to guarantee that the root systems of existing trees and plants would remain intact, and work near occupied birds' nests was suspended to protect sensitive species.

Olympic organizers are encouraging everyone to drink shade grown coffee, eat more veggies and buy organic foods at the grocery store.

The Zamboni ice resurfacing machines at the Olympics have been retrofitted to run on natural gas.

At the Utah Olympic oval, nearly two hectares (five acres) of white rubber membrane roofing material is used to reflect heat otherwise absorbed by the building, reducing temperature control costs.

"Olympic athletes are the ambassadors of the sporting world, and I am honored to be in their midst," said Cousteau. "Today I have the privilege of serving as an Ambassador of the Environment helping people better understand their connection to the water, air and land on which our lives literally depend. People protect what they love, and we can only protect what we fully understand."