Gold for Green – Olympic Games

co2.gifThe Winter Olympic Games have kicked off in Vancouver, Canada, this week. The biggest of all sport events attracts thousands of people and usually there’s an increased demand for energy, which generally equals increased GHG emissions. The organizers of this winter’s games aim to make them the greenest ever.

Winter sports depends ice and snow, and preceding glaciers and unpredictable weather conditions make them particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming. At the same time, major sporting events such as the Olympic Games need huge amounts of energy to cater for all the needs associated with the games. Athletes, teams, fans and goods need transportation and require heated buildings and hot water. Producing snow and freezing ice sheets are also part of the consumer load. Furthermore there are sliding tracks, power equipment and lighting. All this generates GHG emissions, for example  130,000 tonnes of emissions are estimated to result from travel alone (based on ticket sales)!

To reduce the amount of energy used and to improve the environmental footprint of these Games the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have worked together for the past three years.

One approach was to determine the Carbon Footprint of the games, divided into two categories:

  • Direct carbon footprint: Games-related activities that are within VANOC’s control such as venue construction, operations, transportation and waste management
  • Indirect carbon footprint: emissions largely from air travel and accommodation at Games time by  spectators, sponsors and partners –outside of VANOC control.

The final, most detailed carbon footprint predicts the Games will generate about 120 000 t of direct and 150 000 t of indirect emissions, totaling to 270 000 t of GHG emissions.

The steps aimed at reducing the Games’ footprint include:small_recycle.gif

  • Clever, compact venue-site selection in Vancouver and Whistler in order to minimize energy and travel needs.
  • Applying innovative technologies and approaches to energy management, like harvesting and reusing heat energy from refrigerators and to replace diesel generators with hydro power.
  • Expanded public transport
  • New energy systems with increased share of renewable energy to meet demand at the Olympic and Paralympics Villages in Whistler and Vancouver.
  • Low-flow toilets using rain water, separate bins for organic waste, energy-efficient grass-clad roofs…sun.gif

The idea is that these Games will be exemplary for other major events in the future, for example UNEP is working together with the organizers of the next Winter Games in Russia already. They are also partnering with the organizers of the FIFA World Cup (South Africa 2010) and the Indian Premier League cricket competition. Ideally in the future such major events will show us record results in terms of energy efficiency and innovative strategy!

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