Olympic Green Wins and Losses
SYDNEY, Australia, September 14, 2000 (ENS) - Public transport for virtually all spectators, solar energy generation and water conservation are some of the environmental successes achieved by the organizers of Sydney’s 2000 Olympic Games.
With the Olympics offical opening tomorrow, Greenpeace evaluates the actual construction and operation against the Environmental Guidelines for the Games and best environmental practices around the world.
The report focuses on the seven key issues: toxic contamination, energy, refrigeration and air-conditioning, PVC, timber, water conservation and transport.
The city of Sydney won the right to hold the Olympics here this year partly based on promises made in 1993 to make the games environmentally friendly. While noting the successes, Greenpeace points out a number of failures that will degrade rather than preserve the environment at the Olympic site.
WEAR YOUR SUNSCREEN
Sydney’s failure to meet its own environmental guidelines in air conditioning and refrigeration in Olympic venues is "the biggest and most systematic environmental failure of its Olympic Games," the Greenpeace report says.
Chemicals used in air conditioning and refrigeration at the games destroy the ozone layer, allowing an increasing amount of ultraviolet rays linked to skin cancers to reach the Earth.
In view of the fact that Australia has the fastest growing rate of skin cancer of any country in the world, Greenpeace says Olympics organizers should have made more of an effort to use chemicals that do not deplete the ozone layer.
"Not a single Olympic venue, either permanent or temporary, requiring air conditioning meets Sydney’s Environmental Guidelines. Greenhouse gases HFCs [hydroflurocarbons] and ozone depleting HCFCs are used throughout," Greenpeace reports.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT MADE EASY
One of the most significant successes of Sydney’s Environmental Guidelines was the high degree of public transport used for the movement of people, Greenpeace says. All but four of the 25 Olympic sporting events occur within the Olympic Park or the Sydney Harbour Zone, reducing overall transport demand.
No provision has been made for spectators to drive their cars to the core site of Olympic Park at Homebush Bay. No public car parking is available at Olympic Park.
Strong incentives to use public transport other sites were developed by building the cost of public transit into event ticketing.
The Olympic rail loop can move 50,000 passengers per hour with trains leaving Olympic Park station every two minutes. Both Sydney International and Domestic Airports have new rail stations and links to the city’s rail network. Spectators can travel directly to and from venues on 3,800 buses and rail-bus shuttles. A network of bicycle routes feed into Olympic Park venues.
Five hundred solar and electrical buggies will transport officials, athletes and staff around the Olympic site. Ferry services will move officials and athletes between major venues via Sydney Harbour.
But Greenpeace expressed "disappointment" that the local automotive industry did not use the Games as a showcase for new cleaner technologies in personal transportation, such as low emission fuel or hybrid fuel cars. "None of the 3000+ VIP car fleet provided by Olympic sponsor [GM] Holden will be fuelled by alternative fuels such as liquid petroleum gas as originally promised," the report said.
SUN POWER SHINES IN SYDNEY
Much of the energy generated for the Games is from renewable sources. All competition venues will use 100 percent renewable energy for the duration of the Games. Nearly half of all grid connected solar photovoltaics in the state of New South Wales are installed at Olympic Park.
The Village’s energy load is 50 percent less than conventional dwellings, saving 7,000 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide each year. This environmental benefit will continue after the Olympic athletes are gone as the Athletes' Village will become a residental suburb after the Games.
On the SuperDome roof, 1,176 solar panels provide 10 percent of its daily energy. Solar powered lighting towers will provide lighting for Olympic Boulevard.
Australia’s largest centralised solar domestic hot water system will provide hot water for the neighbouring Homebush Bay Novotel/Ibis hotels. The 400 square metre system will provide 60 percent of the hotels’ hot water needs, an energy reduction of 15 per cent. Eight hundred solar panels will power water pumps in the Millennium Parkland.
WATER AND WOOD
In the area of water conservation, "The collection and recycling of waste water for on-site treatment and the provision of separate potable and non-potable supplies to reduce demand on Sydney’s mains water supply were good achievements," Greenpeace found. Water saving devices and techniques at the Athletes’ Village and at Olympic venues will cut water use by 30 percent.
Construction workers union placed a ban on the use of imported rainforest timber, and Greenpeace said no evidence was found of timbers sourced from rainforests. Small quantities of timber from old growth forests and forests nominated for inclusion in World Heritage Areas were used. Still, "responsible timber practices seem to have been adopted by most Olympic venue developers," Greenpeace noted.
The use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) was minimized at Olympic Park. Greenpeace holds that themanufacture, use and disposal of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) produces hazardous chemicals including dioxin, which has been linked to birth defects, cancer and hormone disruption. The group has been campaigning against PVC around the world for years.
Greenpeace toxics campaigner Dr. Darryl Luscombe said, "One of the key successes has been to eliminate the use of PVC products in a wide range of building and construction materials and creating a market for a wide range of viable options."
Generally, PVC pipe was avoided for sewer, stormwater and water mains. The Athletes’ Village reduced PVC usage by weight against standard industry practice by about 70 percent. More than one million metres of PVC free cabling were used there. Australian made PVC free power and light cable, Envirolex, was developed to meet Sydney’s Environmental Guidelines and used extensively in the Athletes’ Village and other Olympic venues.
WASTE MANAGEMENT FOUND WANTING
There are other failures. Just 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) off the site, Homebush Bay and the Rhodes Peninsula is what Greenpeace calls "one of the five worst dioxin hotspots in the world" due to decades of chemical production by companies such as Union Carbide and Orica." One of the greatest failings of the New South Wales Government is its failure to live up to a promise to clean up this area - half a million tons of dioxin contaminated waste - before the Games."
Michael Bland, the Sydney 2000 communications manager for environment, previously held the position of communications spokesperson for the Greenpeace Olympics campaign from September 1993 until August 1999. His job now is to promote Sydney's environmental achievements to Australian and international media.
While at Greenpeace, Bland played a role in formulating the environmental guidelines for the Sydney Games. The guidelines were provided to the International Olympic Committee before Sydney won the right to host the 2000 Games.
Bland says an extensive remediation program has been undertaken in the Millennium Parklands, which surrounds Olympic Park. Nine million cubic metres of waste were dealt with in an environmentally friendly manner employing waste monitoring and treatment; degraded lands have been restored and wetlands enhanced; and hundred of thousands of native shrubs, trees and grasses have been planted.
Greenpeace is satisfied with the manner in which the dioxin contaminated waste found on the Olympic site has been dealt with. A new, non-incineration remediation technology, which uses heat to separate waste from soil and chemical treatment to break down the waste, was used to treat 400 tons of dioxin contaminated waste. Greenpeace lobbied strongly for this process to be used at the Olympic site because no toxic emissions are released as they are during the incineration process.
As for the waste generated by spectators and athletes, the Sydney 2000 Games aims to compost or recycle 80 percent of waste from the Games. Plates, cutlery, bin liners and bags used at the Games will be biodegradable.
GREENING FUTURE GAMES
For future Olympic organizers, Greenpeace has some recommendations. Make specific environmental commitments well before design plans are finalised and construction begins. Make these commitments public.
Environmental Guidelines must be clear and specific benchmarks that are non-negotiable, measurable and backed up by law. These benchmarks must be included in all of the tenders offered for Olympic development and made public.
Great enthusiasm for and expertise in environmental building and event management exists at all levels internationally, the environmental group has found. Greenpeace Australia's advice, "Seek out and engage those innovative and creative experts and companies interested in the environmental success of your event."