The Vancouver 2010 Olympics' claim as the "greenest Games ever" came in large part thanks to the efforts of a longtime Whistler administrator, the head organizer said Friday.
John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, said in an interview that Jim Godfrey, the former administrator at the Resort Municipality of Whistler and Executive Director of the community's 2010 Games Office, was a key force in ensuring that sustainability ranked high on the organizers' priorities.
"As soon as (the Games) became remotely close to a fixed idea, he was involved and he has, I would say, been a relentless, loyal giving soldier to the project," Furlong said. "I think in very many ways an unsung hero."
Godfrey was involved with the Games from the very beginning - so early that Furlong doesn't remember a time that he wasn't a part of it. He was on the board of directors of the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation and became involved in "every meaningful leg of the journey" thereafter.
It was when the organizing committee began to debate its values that sustainability came to the fore. Furlong remembers hearing Godfrey "passionately put a flag down" for sustainability to be one of the values of the 2010 Games.
"I have to say, when Jim Godfrey was standing up, talking about the idea of delivering the most sustainable Olympic Games ever, I found myself, and he will tell you this, not really sure what he was talking about," Furlong said. "Obviously I feel very grateful for the fact that he did it. It made the organizing committee a better committee, a more thoughtful committee, it turned us into better planners."
A commitment to sustainability resulted in a number of initiatives that attempted to make Vancouver 2010 the "greenest Games ever." Among other things, VANOC took on a carbon management program that started with a carbon forecast put together by the David Suzuki Foundation and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
It then worked with the Sauder School of Business at UBC to forecast its carbon footprint based on operational plans up to July 2009. The study forecast that the Games would generate a total of 270,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, 120,000 directly and 150,000 indirectly.
The organizers thus set about reducing their emissions through initiatives such as harvesting and reusing waste heat energy from ice refrigeration plants at the Whistler Sliding Centre; compacting and centralizing the athletes' villages in Vancouver and Whistler to minimize energy and travel requirements; and expanding public transit for the length of the Games.
VANOC also adopted a no-idling policy and took on Offsetters, a Vancouver-based carbon asset management company, as the first carbon offset sponsor for an Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Furlong didn't trace all these efforts back to Godfrey alone, but said he played a key role in making environmental responsibility an important facet of the 2010 Games.
"The difficulty is that when you are trying to sort of, to do things that are viewed by some as somewhat revolutionary, there's always a worry that it's going to cost more to achieve one outcome," Furlong said. "I think Jim saw a far bigger potential in this than many did at the time and I think a lot of people were not so sure."
The result of VANOC's claim the Vancouver Olympics were the "greenest Games ever" has stimulated a competitive spirit in future Olympic organizers to be even greener. Organizers of the London 2012 Olympics hope they can beat out Vancouver for the "greenest Games" moniker, championing low waste and low carbon emissions.
They may well have Godfrey to thank for the challenge.