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Feature 2 - Green games origins

Lillehammer the first with Green Games



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Myrholt was project manager in the Environment Department of Olympia Utvikling, Lillehammer’s post-Olympic development company, and now is an environmental consultant to the IOC. He has been involved in the Sydney Olympics and in next month’s Games in Salt Lake City. But it was how he and others became involved in the Lillehammer Olympics that was perhaps the most critical step in the environment becoming part of the Olympic Movement.

"An initial environmental policy and an action plan were hammered out based on a proposal from Friends of the Earth in Norway and the Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee," Myrholt wrote. "The partners found common goals among widely different purposes and enlarged the environmental common ground. This precipitated a process, starting from grassroots, which set managers, politicians and environmental volunteers on a steep learning curve and turned the Games into a project-based ‘environmental showcase.’ Each of the 130 or so clearly defined projects was set to have a lasting effect beyond the 16 days of February."

"What made the Lillehammer Olympics so unique was not only their ‘greenness,’ but also the fact that LOOC was able to include the environmental groups in the day-to-day planning process," Hilde Elin Haaland wrote in a 1995 case study for Trade and Environment Database, an academic group based in Washington, D.C.

"However, this did not happen overnight," Elin Haaland continued. "In fact, the environmentalists were fundamentally against the Olympic Games being in Lillehammer in any shape or form."

Myrholt was a member of the Norwegian Society for Conservation of Nature when the Olympics were awarded to Lillehammer. The society, among others, was fiercely opposed to the Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee’s original plans to build the speed skating hall within an internationally recognized bird sanctuary.

As Thorbjørn Berntsen, Norway’s Minister of the Environment, said in a 1996 address: "Environmental pressure groups in Norway made their views on the Winter Games known early on, and a number of controversial issues made headline news. Progress was only made as conflict was replaced by co-operation between the parties involved. It was in a sense this ‘compromise’ between environmentalists and authorities that in the end gave substance and credibility to the ‘green’ image of the Lillehammer Games."

The speed skating hall was moved and redesigned and an independent watchdog group, Project Environment-Friendly Olympics, was established. But it was the decision by LOOC and the Norwegian government to include environmentalists in the planning process that made the Games what they were, and set the standard for future Olympics.