A panel of experts has said that environmental concerns may soon force a change in Olympic programmes, particularly in events that are historically significant but lack mass participation such as bob-sleighing.
Speaking at the Ninth World Conference on Sport and the Environment, Egidio Dansero, from the Olympic and Mega Event Research Observatory at the University of Turin, said that the 2006 Winter Olympic Games rehabilitated many disused industrial sites in Turin. “Unfortunately, expensive facilities that were built outside of urban areas to accommodate particular events are no longer in use.”
Building these kinds of sites as a solution for future Games, he said, is not sustainable, and the only real alternatives are to either always have the Games in a fixed location or to cancel the less popular and more resource-demanding events.
Other speakers presented the green credentials of previous Olympic Games, claiming that the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games and the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics have set the benchmark for environmental considerations in future bids. The 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway, saw strict environmental regulations in construction, with strong emphasis on the use of public transport, locally sourced materials and the use of a mountain as a structure in constructing facilities to reduce climate control costs, according to Sigmun Loland of the Norwegian School of Sports Science.
Richard Cashman of the University of Technology, Sydney, said that the site for the 2000 Games was chosen because it was highly polluted from years of industrial use and dumping. The site was cleaned up and much of the environment restored. Construction met high environmental standards and the future success of the site was ensured through good transport connections and office facilities.
Environmental considerations have become one of the three pillars of the Olympic Games along with sport and culture, with environment advocacy groups playing a large part in putting together the Sydney bid.
The panellists at yesterday’s conference pointed out, however, that only so much can be done to make the Games truly environmentally friendly, as a tremendous amount of travel and construction will always be required. How environmental demands will affect the games in the future remains to be seen.