Green Olympics and Environmental Assessment

Greenpeace (2004)

The Olympic Games are a captivating tradition in which athletes compete on a global scale and countries are drawn together in collective visions of glory. However, there is an environmentally destructive downside to hosting such large-scale competitions in a different city every two years. Host cities spend the seven years after winning their Olympic bid building and improving infrastructure and services to prepare for the Games, to say nothing of the impact on the environment of the 16-day event itself. In recent years, and in light of this high energy- and resource-use, more emphasis has been placed on sustainability in the Olympic Games, with many host cities chosen based on their proposal for “Green Olympics” (Symington & Latham 2000; BOCOG 2008; Olympic 2011). The Olympics bring together citizens from around the globe, providing an excellent opportunity for sharing information and forging alliances. This begs the question of how best to use this opportunity to improve, rather than to degrade, the environment.

Using environmental assessment practices in the planning, implementation and follow-up stages of the Olympic Games would result in a more efficient method of ensuring the environmental sustainability of the Games. The screening and scoping phases could be carried out as cities prepare their bid for hosting the Games. During this phase, cities could determine their most sustainable options for hosting the Olympic Games, and initiate public consultations from the outset. Since the Olympics are such a large-scale event, proponents could take advantage of the multi-scale and multi-dimensional alliances already in place to examine cumulative effects in more depth, amassing information practical for future projects as well as for Olympic preparations. One aspect of particular importance would be to more actively include the public in decision-making leading up to the Games. This has been critically lacking in most Olympics in recent years, especially in regards to the treatment of the most marginalized citizens of host cities, such as the homeless (Symington & Latham 2000; BOCOG 2008, Ping 2008; Little 2010). A commitment to monitoring and evaluation following the Olympic Games could be pledged as part of the bid to host them, the results of which could be shared freely to encourage adaptive practices. Future Olympic host cities could then learn which techniques and approaches were the most successful in terms of achieving “Green Olympics.”

The Olympic Games present an opportunity to invest sustainably into the host city, which could be better accomplished by including environmental assessment standards as a requirement for host cities in an effort to streamline the “Green Olympics” so many cities are striving to achieve. By following the steps and incorporating the principles of environmental assessment, Olympic host cities could leave a legacy of environmental awareness and enhancement in the place of ignorance and degradation. The upcoming London Olympics could prove to be the perfect platform to show the world that it is possible to achieve an environmentally sustainable Olympics. The desire to create a long-term legacy of sustainability following the Olympic Games is already present as is emphasized by the following video; I suggest that employing environmental assessment guidelines is the best way to ensure the Games maintain this legacy, now and in the future.

The following link to a video shows the efforts being made to ensure sustainable practices at the upcoming Olympics in London 2012. These could easily fit into environmental assessment standards and set an example for future host cities.


Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG)(2008).The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Retrieved October 20, 2011 from

Greenpeace (2004). Athens 2004 Disqualified from Green Olympics. Greenpeace News Archives. Rertrieved October 27, 2011 from http://www. greenpeace. org/international/en/news/features/athens-disqualified-from-green/

Ki-moon, Ban (2011). UN Secretary-General press release from the UN News and Media Division, New York. Retrieved October 25, 2011 from

Little, Alan (2010). Olympic Treatment of the Poor Wins No Medals. Real Change. Retrieved October 24, 2011 from php/site/archives/3919/]\

Olympic Committee (2011). The Official Website of the Olympic Movement. Retrieved October 20, 2011 from

Ping, L.S. (2008). China’s Environment after the Olympics. Ecology Law Currents, 35:100, 100-106.

Symington, B., & Latham, H. (2000). How Green are our Games? Green Games Watch  2000. Retrieved October 24, 2011 from


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