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Feature 2 - Green games origins

Lillehammer the first with Green Games



The Olympic motto has always been Citius, Altius, Fortius (Swifter, Higher, Stronger), but until 1994 there were only two "pillars" to the Olympic Movement: sport and culture.

That changed with Lillehammer, Norway, host of the 1994 Winter Olympics, the first "green" Games.

"As we enter the Third Millennium it is the IOC’s chief duty to respect the environment," former International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch said at the Lillehammer Games.

In June of 1994 the IOC signed an agreement with the United Nations Environmental Program. Through this agreement the IOC and UNEP pledged to "jointly undertake specific international actions" to help make sports events environmentally friendly.

In August 1995 the grandly named Congress of the 100-year Celebrations of the Olympic Movement in Paris recommended amendments to the Olympic Charter to accommodate environment as the third pillar of the Games. Rule 2, paragraph 10 of the Olympic Charter states: "…the IOC sees that the Olympic Games are held in conditions which demonstrate a responsible concern for environmental issues and encourages the Olympic Movement to demonstrate a responsible concern for environmental issues, takes measures to reflect such concern in its activities and educates all those connected with the Olympic Movement as to the importance of sustainable development."

One of the first sport governing bodies connected to the Olympic Movement to adopt the environmental pillar was the International Ski Federation (FIS), which pledged at its 1994 congress to conduct its sport in an environmentally friendly way. However, the FIS became involved in an environmental controversy when it was proposed the 1998 Olympic downhill be started in a Japanese national park. Environmental concerns won out and the downhill was shortened.

There have been three Olympic Games since Lillehammer, Atlanta in 1996, Nagano in 1998 and Sydney in 2000. Each has made efforts to be environmentally responsible, with Sydney being the most acclaimed. But the environmental movement within the Olympic Movement really began in Norway.

Norwegians by their nature and by their history have strong ties to their environment. A poll conducted prior the 1994 Games showed that 67 per cent of Lillehammer’s population considered the environment to be their highest priority, ahead of employment, better roads and Norwegian gold medals.

But as Olav Myrholt described in a 1996 article for UNEP’s Our Planet magazine: "The organizers at Lillehammer did not ‘go green’ painlessly, nor did the area escape from the Games unscarred. Hosting such a big sports event inevitably brings environmental damage. Natural recreational areas are changed into sportscapes and roads are enlarged. Massive resources, space and energy are used for an event lasting just two weeks. The facts and figures show that biological resources and green space were lost at Lillehammer. The Games were certainly not ecologically sustainable."