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Feature 2 - Green games origins

Lillehammer the first with Green Games

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There were four principles that formed the cornerstone of Lillehammer’s "green plan."

1. The LOOC established environment as one of the criteria by which the success of the Games would be measured. Policy documents set specific environmental requirements for energy consumption, waste disposal, procurement, building materials, recycling and other aspects of development.

2. Environment was seen as an integral part of all activities, rather than as a separate program in the hands of one sector. This meant that decision-makers in every field could potentially be held responsible for neglect of the environment.

3. Legal requirements with regard to regional and land use planning were met in a consistent way; waivers and exemptions were avoided. Advisory boards on environment and architecture also provided guidelines for construction and development.

4. The organizational infrastructure was established with participation from the public sector, the LOOC and non-governmental organizations. NGOs like Project Environment-Friendly Olympics were part of the "official team." The various committees and working groups were to promote innovative environmental solutions and to address environmental challenges up front, before conflict arose.

"We like to think of the Lillehammer Games as a turning point," Berntsen said in his 1996 address at the Lillehammer Conference. "Special efforts were made to reverse trends and to limit the extent of damages inflicted upon nature. We feel in a sense that we have made an environmental ‘investment’ into the Olympic Movement. The (1994) co-operation agreement between IOC and UNEP gives us confidence that our ‘investment’ is in safe hands."

In the three Games since Lillehammer, the biggest environmental effort has put forth by organizers of the Sydney Olympics. Indeed, the environmental commitments made by Sydney organizers were one of the reasons the Australian city won the right to host the 2000 Games.

Following Lillehammer’s lead, Greenpeace consultants were hired by organizers of the Sydney Games and involved in the planning. The athletes village was solar powered and half of all water used was reclaimed rainwater. Suppliers and sponsors made commitments to improve their practices, such as Coca-Cola’s promise to phase out the use of environmentally unfriendly refrigerants.

However, Greenpeace only gave the Sydney Olympics a C— rating overall. Plans for a solar thermal power station were abandoned and air conditioning and refrigeration systems used ozone-depleting gases, contrary to original plans. As well, the clean up of the Homebush Bay area, site of several Olympic events and previously a dumping ground for toxic industrial waste, was only partially completed.

But like Lillehammer, Sydney’s greatest environmental legacy may be mental rather than physical. The use of recycled materials and designing for energy conservation brought a new base of knowledge to many key players in Sydney’s construction industry and in government. Sponsors and suppliers were also convinced of the virtues of "going green."