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Although “sustainability” was added as an Olympic pillar in 1995, sustainability for the IOC and host city organizing committees has always been more about rhetoric than actual practice. Given the large amount of water, energy, and other resources necessary for the construction and operation of Olympic venues, the concept of a “sustainable Olympics” is an oxymoron. Even the narrower concept of a “relatively sustainable Olympics” has been more rhetoric than reality, given the low priority given to sustainability and the routine failure to live up to environmental promises.


Boston 2024, like many of its predecessors, is claiming that a Boston Olympics will be a “green Olympics.” But what is green about siting a venue right by an area of critical environmental concern (ACEC), home to over 200 bird species? What is green about tearing down the buildings currently in Widett Circle to build a “temporary” stadium that itself will be torn down? Even if the stadium is “reconstructed” elsewhere, it will still have to be transported—a difficult and energy-intensive undertaking. And what is sustainable about tearing down buildings just approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority to build an Olympic Village that may subsequently be scattered throughout the city? And what is green about And where is the “sustainable planning” in hundreds, even thousands, of miles of special IOC lanes and an Olympics that extends across the commonwealth and even beyond to places as far as Madison Square Garden and Wrigley Field?


According to the World Bank, Boston is the fourth most vulnerable city in the US to economic losses due to flooding as the sea level rises. As we plan for the years and decades ahead, we have bigger priorities than a three-week party. 


Looking ahead to Boston 2024


Ian Cooke, "Olympics Coming to Neponset?" Neponset River Watershed Association, June 26, 2015,


  • “…Squantum Point is a sensitive wildlife habitat, an unusual floodplain forest which is perpetually stunted by saltwater and flooding into a dense shrubby habitat that attracts an extraordinary diversity of bird life, including some 200 resident and migratory species.”


  • “Because of this—as well as its value for passive recreation, freshwater wetlands, beach, shellfish beds and fascinating aviation history—Squantum Point Park was included in the state designated Neponset River Estuary Area of Critical Environmental Concern or ‘ACEC.’”


***Interested in learning more about Squantum Point Park, check out this photo essay.***


Doug Zook, “POV: Earth to Boston: You Haven’t Polled Me about the Games,” BU Today, April 8, 2015,


  • “It’s well into the time where we must pay close attention and consider the damages of any proposed action on the dynamic home that sustains us. It’s time for those advocating for the 2024 Olympics in Boston to embrace the reality that our well-being and our Earth are closely linked. Having the 2024 Olympics here only reinforces the delusion that humans can do pretty much what they want, even if it means jeopardizing the future. Ignoring the ‘Boss’ is never a good idea, especially when it is expressing itself so clearly to us.”


Rio 2016, billed as the “Green Games for a Blue Planet”


“One of the Sites for the 2016 Summer Olympics is Completely Filthy, and It’s Going to Stay That Way,” Business Insider, March 11, 2015,


  • “Rio de Janeiro will not make good on its Olympic pledge of slashing the flow of raw sewage and garbage into the Guanabara Bay, where the 2016 games' sailing and wind surfing competitions are to be held, the state's top environmental official acknowledged Friday…Brazilian officials' promise to cut the flow of pollutants into the bay by 80 percent was a key part of the city's Olympic bid document and widely held up as among the most enduring legacies of the games. But with just 1 1/2 years to go before the showcase event, it has become increasingly clear that the target wouldn't be met.”


  • “The bay cleanup has been a sore spot in Rio's fitful Olympic preparations almost since the city won the games back in 2009. Environmentalists have consistently warned that even with the clock ticking, nearly nothing has been done.”


Jason Plautz, “Brazil Made Big Environmental Promises for Its Rio Olympics. Here’s Why It Won’t Keep Them,” National Journal, July 2, 2014,


  • “The optimistic environmental promises are a product of a misaligned incentive system. Countries' hosting bids are greatly bolstered when they include major green pledges. But once the event is awarded, there are few, if any, consequences for countries if they don't follow through.”


  • Jay Coakley, professor emeritus at University of Colorado (Colorado Springs): "If the money hasn't been allocated up front, what can happen is a city or region goes so deeply into debt and there's so little money and energy left to complete those projects...Sustainability goals usually get shoved to the side. It's difficult to have an event with the footprint of the Olympics and make any improvements that have a net sustainability impact."


  • “The northern city of Natal, for example, completed just one of seven planned transportation upgrades and ended up nixing three entirely. A high-speed rail line between Sao Paulo and Rio that was to be functional during the Cup never even put out bids. And solar panels meant to power several stadiums never went up.”



Sochi 2014, billed as the “Zero Waste” Games


Igor Chestin, “Sochi Olympics Have Left a Trail of Environmental Destruction,” The Conversation, February 14, 2014,


  • “The most environmentally damaging construction was the joint highway-railway route from the Adler district of Sochi by the coast to Krasnaya Polyana in the mountains. The River Mzymta used to be a spawning area for roughly 20% of endangered Black Sea population of Atlantic Salmon. Now, no more salmon come up the river due to pollution and destruction of spawning sites by streamlining the river bed.”


  • “More than 3,000 hectares of rare forests were logged for their large numbers of Taxus (yew) and Buxus (box) trees, and many sites where red deer and wild boar overwintered were uprooted and destroyed. Some migration routes used by bears and ibex on the Aibga Mountain Range were also destroyed – and for what? The road itself is a wasteful extravagance, which could have been easily avoided by simply repairing and widening the existing road.”


“The Not So Sustainable Sochi Winter Olympics,” Time, January 30, 2014,


  • “Green promises, says Suren Gazaryan, a zoologist and member of the environmental campaign group Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus (EWNC). Speaking with TIME from Estonia, where he is currently living in exile thanks to criminal charges levied against him by Russian authorities for his human rights work in 2012, Gazaryan explained that the construction process for the Games has been hugely damaging for the region. He and the ENWC have documented evidence of illegal waste dumping, construction that has blocked the migration routes of animals such as the brown bear, limited access to drinking water for locals and a generally decreased quality of life for many in the city of Sochi.”


Amelia Urry, “Sochi Olympics are Bad for Environment and Locals Alike,” Grist, January 22, 2014,


  • “Not only is this shaping up to be the most expensive Olympics in the history of the games, with $51 billion of new development, it is also arguably one of the most destructive. Five thousand acres of pristine forests have been felled, while wetlands that served as important stopovers for migrating birds have been filled in. Landslides and waste dumping threaten the watershed, which feeds into the Black Sea. Building within national parks in Russia used to be limited, but that regulation was reversed in order to make way for some games facilities, hotels, and roads.”


  • “The construction projects have also left local Sochi-ers in the lurch, facing frequent power shortages, land subsidence, flooding, and widespread pollution.”


Alec Luhn, “The Hidden Environmental and Human Costs of the Sochi Olympics,” The Nation, January 22, 2014,


  • “…it’s found in places like the Sochi-area village of Uch-Dere, where smoke from underground fires pours out of a sprawling construction waste dump polluting the neighboring river; in the village of Akhshtyr, where limestone quarrying has dried up the wells and covered residents’ fruit in dust; and in the village of Vesyoloye, where construction waste dumping triggered a landslide that ruined homes. The activists who try to fight these abuses have been harassed, jailed and, in the case of at least one environmentalist, looking at prison time.”


  • “The coastal cluster of venues was built atop the Imeretinskaya Lowland, renowned for its rich bird life. With the start of Olympic building, much of it was filled in with construction waste, and now the 40,000-seat Fisht Olympic Stadium, which will host only the opening and closing ceremonies, sits in the lowland. “



London 2012, billed as the “Greenest Games Ever”


John Ruch, "London Protester: Olympics Damaged Park," Jamaica Plain Gazette, May 8, 2015,


  • “The London 2012 party line is that the Olympics upgraded Greenwich Park to a better condition than before. But Rachel Mawhood, a key protester of the Greenwich Park Olympics usage, told the Gazette this week that the Games left permanent damage—including hundreds of mature trees cut back or cut down."


  • “The losses included a ‘unique Roman pavement’ and a ‘rare acid grassland habitat” destroyed partly through heavy herbicide use, she said. A historic park entrance gate was demolished for vehicle access and later replaced. Then there were the trees….‘Hundreds of trees had major limbs removed…Any trees on or too near the cross-country course were felled, and the stumps ground down into the soil.’”


Timon Singh, “6 Ways in Which London 2012 Has Failed to be ‘The Green Olympics,’” Inhabitat, August 5, 2012,


  • “Unfortunately, as the games have drawn closer officials have been noticeably distancing themselves from their original targets and have been focusing on “reducing” and “mitigating” the carbon footprint of the games.”


  • “The problem is that no one knows exactly how much energy the games will actually use – conservative estimates have stated that the games will probably produce 3.4 million tons of CO2. By comparison, the UK’s total annual emissions are around 550 million tons.”


  • “In order to make the entire operation as emission-free as possible, the Games have had to do a lot of carbon offsetting. This means that in exchange for creating large amounts of CO2, the Olympics are funding environmental projects to counteract the emissions from their operations. Unfortunately, this ‘pay-to-pollute’ scheme has drawn a lot of criticism – especially from those who see it as a ‘carte blanche’ for developed countries to pollute as much as they like without trying to cut their emissions.”


Tom Antebi, "The Real Environmental Impacts of Hosting the Olympics in East London," Corporate Watch, July 27, 2012,


  • “An area more controversially affected by the development is the Lower Lea Valley, widely known as a green lung for London, with the vein of the river Lea (or Lee) running through the middle. The importance of the valley for local wildlife cannot be underestimated….In fact the valley forms a corridor for a number of migratory birds such as ducks, geese, warbles and thrushes. Kestrels and herons are also known to make use of this oasis….It constitutes a rest and refueling space for these various migratory species, which would otherwise be forced to fly further afield. Yet, despite its natural importance, this green lung, along with many more areas with huge importance for local residents and critical to wildlife, is seeing habitat loss and disruption.”


  •  “An example of this is the Bully Point Nature Reserve, which was bought in 1972 by the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority, which landscaped it into its nature reserve form. ‘Bully Point nature reserve, a secluded and very much loved area...was bulldozed out of existence. It was...a haven for wildilfe, but sadly no more,” the LVF told the Ecologist….The reserve was removed in order to build the Velodrome arena, a permanent structure that will host the track-cycling events.”


  • “Reports from the HEF that one SINC [Site of Importance for Nature Conservation] within Hackney Marshes has been lost permanently to the Olympic development and at least one other is facing disruption have been confirmed by both the LVF and Hackney City Council in email exchanges. 'The Arena Fields SINC has been lost as part of the Olympics. Biodiversity enhancements have been designed for Hackney Marshes...East Marsh will temporarily be used as a coach park during the Olympics'…Similarly, the LVF noted 'areas of Common Land in Hackney...some permanently, such as Arena Field where the press and media center is being constructed; and at least one temporarily East Marsh'. The permanent loss, common land known as Arena Field ‘was lost in July 2007, [for the] construction of the Press and Media Centers and their multi-storey car park, an arena for handball, food and beverage halls and the Loop Road.’”


  • “Probably the most reported and controversial loss due to Olympic development is the Manor Garden Society (MGS) allotments. This allotment collective found themselves right in the middle of the Olympic Park, and consequently felt the sharp end of the compulsory purchase order driven through their 100 year-old grounds.”


  • “As well as all the issues mentioned above, Stratford is a former industrial zone which has repeatedly been shown to be unsafe, with clean-ups of toxic ground-water from leaking chemical storage costing millions and the discovery of radioactive contamination. An investigation from Games Monitor found that 7,300 tonnes of contaminated soil was shifted in the run-up to the big build – soil with a uranium radiation signature which experts said posed a serious inhalation hazard. Corporate Watch learnt from Mike Wells from Games Monitor that after winning the bid, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) did not have enough time to both build on the site and do a full decontamination process. Instead, they skipped testing for radioactive contamination when they did the original survey, which is now known to be present at the site. They illegally buried thousands of tonnes of material 200 metres from the main stadium and have been excavating and building on it ever since."


Colin Hunt, “Has the London Olympics Really Gone Green, and What Can the Gold Coast Games Gain?” The Conversation, July 15, 2012,


  • “Despite the commitment, failures in delivery have already attracted a good deal of attention. The most conspicuous is in energy, where the CSL [“Commission for a Sustainable London”] criticises the lack of an effective plan. The renewable energy target will not be met, because a wind energy project was cancelled, and the carbon footprint will not be reduced by much.”


  • “London does not meet all EU air quality standards. This together with the need to cut greenhouse emissions prompted the development of impressive public transport infrastructure and links. However, diluting this is the provision of 4,000 cars to transport the ‘Olympic family’; and congestion on an ageing road network could still pose a problem. Rail transport from Europe is being encouraged. But the greenhouse emissions of international travellers are not accounted for and will be only marginally ameliorated by carbon taxes and airline offsets.”


  • “Sustainable fuels such as biogas could have been used much more for combined heating and cooling. Instead, fossil fuels will be prominent; 169,000 litres of diesel be used in power generators. The indirect energy consumption of offices and operational sites will be around 25 million kWh, sufficient for town of about 160,000, drawn mainly from the grid.”


  • “Materials reuse is very low. While nothing reaches the dump, recycling isn’t a perfect solution: it costs money and uses energy.”


  • “Some PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which contains the dangerous pollutants cadmium, lead and phthalates, is still being used on site; and some cooling systems still use HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), a powerful greenhouse gas.”


Mei-Ling McNamara, “The Great Olympic Greenwash,” Al Jazeera, June 21, 2012,


  • “This year's medals, the largest and heaviest in Olympic history, will be made almost entirely from the raw materials extracted and smelted at the Kennecott Copper Mine, owned by Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto. But now this mine is also at the centre of a federal lawsuit in the Utah courts, where Rio Tinto Kennecott stands accused of violating the US Clean Air Act for over five years.”


“#London2012: An Olympian Exercise in Corporate Greenwashing,” Ceasefire, April 25, 2012,


  • “Amidst its lofty rhetoric about excellence and sustainability the London Olympics have chosen some of the world's most unethical companies as corporate sponsors. Phil England presents powerful first-hand testimonies from victims and campaigners dismayed and angry at this betrayal.”


Jules Boykoff, “Has London 2012 Been Greenwashed?” The Guardian, April 22, 2012,


  • “Dow Chemical is a "worldwide Olympic partner" for the 2012 Games, enjoying one of the elite £63m sponsorship deals with the IOC. The firm has also agreed to provide a £7m decorative wrap for the Olympic stadium. In 1999, Dow Chemical merged with Union Carbide, the notorious US firm responsible for the 1984 gas disaster in Bhopal, India. Dow's involvement has roused ire in numerous circles.”


  • “BP is a "sustainability partner" for the London Olympics. To be sure, Locog, the London Olympic Games organising committee, sealed the partnership deal before the Deepwater Horizon debacle in the Gulf of Mexico, the underwater oil geyser that haemorrhaged some 750m litres of oil and killed 11 workers. But BP had already established a dodgy environmental track record. In March 2005 – before signing on to sponsor the London Games – a BP oil refinery in Texas City, Texas, exploded, killing 15, injuring more than 170, and sending a cascade of toxic chemicals into the environment.”


Mike Wells, "London 2012: Not for Fish or Rabbits," Games Monitor, August 6, 2011,


  • "My information was there were large numbers of dead fish which were being deliberately flushed out of the Olympic Park through a new lock. There were reports of an incredible stink from all the decomposing fish, and that the kill included top and bottom feeders, which led me to believe there may have been thousands of dead fish. I went to a place just downstream of the Olympic Park and found around thirty large dead and decomposing bream. As the fish kill had happened around a week and half previously, this fitted in with the tip-off, and had given the Olympic authorities time to flush most of the fish carcasses out of the Park..."


Mike Wells, "Contamination and Controversy in the London Olympic Park," IndyMedia UK, May 10, 2007,


  • "For more than a century what will be the Olympic Park was home to some of the nation’s dirtiest industries. Within, and surrounding, what will be the Olympic Park some 7,500 people were employed in the chemicals industry. A new document reveals a second case of radioactive waste dumped in 1953 in a former landfill site within the Park. An Environment Agency analysis shows higher than normal levels of radioactive material in the River Lee."


Vancouver 2010, “Greenest Games Ever” (2010 edition)


Jules Boykoff and Janice Forsyth, “2012 Olympics: London, Check Vancouver,” The Guardian, January 2, 2011,


  • “However, according to a report from the University of British Columbia's Centre for Sport and Sustainability, greenhouse gas emissions increased steadily during the delivery phase of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and rose eight-fold during the games themselves. A significant chunk of this derives from the inevitable need to travel to Vancouver to participate and spectate. More than half the energy used for the games came from fossil fuels that exacerbate climate change. Additionally, the production of solid waste during the games was ten times as much as before the games were delivered and staged. And this damning data, it should be remembered, were largely supplied by Vanoc itself, not an independent source.”


Sakura Saunders, “Indigenous Activists Expose Olympics Greenwash,” Climate & Capitalism, February 16, 2010,


  • Clayton Thomas Mulle, Indigenous Environmental Network:  “When we look at the assessment of the carbon footprint of the Games, the reality of it is that they only looked at very surface issues; they only looked at the flights…They did not look at the forest loss, the tree loss, the impact on wetlands. They did not look at the construction CO2 imprint of all of the machinery that has been going 24/7 for the last year in preparation for the Games.”


  • Pina Belperio of and the Council of Canadians: “While the focus of the games has been here in Vancouver, the bulk of the environmental destruction has unfortunately been happening in Whistler…Probably the biggest impact has been at the Callaghan Valley, which is known to most of the outside world as the Whistler Olympic Park. That area used to be primarily old growth and second growth forest and to date the estimates that we’ve seen are a loss of totalling 100,000 trees or more. The area has been opened to development and there is talk that the area will become a four-season report following the Games.”


Christopher A. Shaw, “The Desolate Realities of the ‘Greenest Games Ever,’” in Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games (Gabriola Island, British Columbia: New Society Publishers, 2008), 239-250.


  • “To examine how Green the Olympics really are, no place is more fitting to start at than Eagleridge Bluffs…. Over the next few months, Kieweit logged a 50-plus-meter-wide swath through various species of old growth on the top of the Bluffs…a total of 2.4 kilometers hacked through the forest. The loss of the arbutus trees, already endangered in British Columbia, wiped out one of the few such forests in the Lower Mainland. For this road alone, the estimate was that over 12 hectares were destroyed and, at approximately 400 trees per hectare, this represents a loss of some 4,800 trees. Added to this ‘greenest Olympic Games ever’ butcher’s bill was the loss of a kilometer of the last wetlands in the Lower Mainland, home to the endangered red-legged frog. When done, the highway will have very little setback from the remains of the wetlands, virtually ensuring that this last precious remnant also won’t survive the pollutants spewing from the thousands of cars expected to use the route daily” (240-2).


  • “Moving northwards from Eagleridge towards Squamish, the extent of the environmental impacts become ever more obvious. In the 40 or so kilometers of highway undergoing widening, a simple count I conducted revealed over 1,000 trees cut down, entire bluffs and cliff faces blown apart and creeks contaminated by slash from felled trees and rocks pulverized by explosives” (242).


  • “All of this seems bad enough, but once in the Callaghan Valley, the numbers really begin to mushroom. According to the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and Whistler municipal Councilor Eckhart Zeidler, over 600 truck loads of old-growth forest will be cut to provide the trails for 23 kilometers of Olympic Nordic events. An average truckload would be 30 cubic meters of wood, somewhere between 20 and 30 trees….From this, we get a low estimate of the amount of mostly old-growth forest cut, almost 19,000 trees” (242).


  • “…VANOC and the RCMP have created a new secondary road into the area. Making a minimal assumption that it will duplicate the two-lane existing route…9,000 more trees will be downed” (242).


  • “We’re still not finished, since VANOC will also construct other sites in the Callaghan: ‘parking areas, three permanent stadiums, two ski jumps, a biathlon facility and servicing areas for sewage, water and power, a Nordic day lodge, sport operations buildings and maintenance facilities.’ If we make a bare minimum assumption that each of these separate items will be roughly a hectare in size…you have 11 hectares or 4,400 more trees that will fall” (242-3).


  • “An average-sized golf course is about 75 acres…for a total of 30.35 hectares, or 12,140 trees” (243).


  • “VANOC’s plans call for the construction of ‘legacy trails’ throughout the valley, more of the vast developer-driven scheme to put the entire valley into private hands….Based on the above calculations, this would add 37,499 to 75,000 trees to the butchery of what had been a relatively untouched alpine valley” (243).


  • “Their entire Olympic carbon debt will be over 3.7 million tons, or the equivalent of a city of over ten million for a year. Or viewed another way, Vancouver’s Olympic Games will emit more carbon than the amount of over 77 of 191 countries on the planet, basically more than the Republic of Armenia at 3.43 megatons. Viewed in the terms of British Columbia alone, whose emissions in 2004 totaled 66.8 megatons of CO2, the 2010 Games will be responsible for more than 5 percent of one year’s worth of emissions, or 70 percent of BC’s total in the same 17-day period” (246).


Beijing 2008, where the environment was so bad that the city was praised for ensuring breathable air


Jonathan Watts, “Olympics Environment: Beijing Shuts All Building Sites and More Factories to Clear the Smog,” The Guardian, July 28, 2008,


  • “…all building sites and more factories in and around Beijing may be temporarily closed if the air quality deteriorates during the games….Further traffic restrictions could also be imposed. Controls currently allow vehicles on the roads on alternate days according to their number plates. The measures have been extended to neighbouring Tianjin.


  • “The data highlights a typically Chinese phenomenon: compared to the past, the situation is much better. But set against international standards, the country is lagging by some distance. Beijing is proud of the environmental gains of recent years. Millions of coal-burning homes have been converted to gas and production at the biggest iron company has been cut by 73%. More than 2,000 buses and 5,000 taxis are being upgraded or replaced with cleaner models, and five new urban railways have been added to the public transport system.”


“Greenpeace Urges China to Widely Apply Environmental Lessons from the Games,” Greenpeace, July 27, 2008,


  • “In the report, Greenpeace acknowledges Beijing's increased use of energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy. Examples include the use of geothermal heating systems and the introduction of wind and solar power. Beijing has expanded its public transportation system by adding five new urban railways and raised its emission standard for new vehicles to EURO IV, one of the most stringent in the world.”


  • “However, in many areas, Beijing failed to take the opportunity of the Olympics to adopt the world's best environmental practices, such as clean production, zero-waste policy, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, and comprehensive water conservation policies.”



Turin 2006


“How ‘Green’ Are the Winter Olympics?” World Wildlife Fund, February 10, 2006,


  • “According to the global conservation organization, the five ski-jumps in Pragelato affect four European protected sites, especially the special protected zone of the Val Troncea. The bobsleigh run in Cesena San Sicario has been built in a protected landscape.”


  • “WWF is also critical of the use of artificial snow for the Games as it weighs as much as five times more than real snow, damaging the ground and requiring millions of cubic metres of water, as well as concerned about energy consumption patterns throughout the event.”

  • “The Olympic flame, a 57m high torch which burns 8,000 cubic metres of methane per hour in 15 days, is enough gas to serve a village of 3,500 inhabitants for a whole year.”


Athens 2004


“No Gold Medal for the Environment in the Athens Olympics,” World Wildlife Fund – UK, July 16, 2004,


  • “On a scale of 0-4, it rates the environmental component of the Athens Olympics at a very disappointing score of 0.77.”


  • “The lowest scores were given to areas such as environmental planning and evaluation, protection of fragile natural and cultural areas, waste management and water conservation, and the use of environmentally-friendly construction technologies.”


“Athens 2004 Disqualified from Green Olympics,” Greenpeace, July 29, 2004,


  • “Green energy is the most striking failure for the Athens Olympics. It was the intention that all electricity used by related premises and users during the Olympics in 2004 should be generated by renewables. For a country that markets itself as a country of endless sunshine, solar energy for the games shouldn't be so difficult. But green energy at the Games is close to zero.”


Salt Lake City 2002


Cat Lazaroff, “Winter Olympics Not a Green Triumph,” Environment News Service, February 11, 2002,


  • “At Snowbasin, a bus unloading area was built too close to a stream, causing erosion and sedimentation. Yet the buses that were to have used this lot have largely failed to materialize, because most athletes and other Olympics personnel are being transported by a fleet of sport utility vehicles (SUVs).”


  • “Instead, the committee acquired 5,000 SUVs, with an average fuel efficiency of between 14 and 20 miles per gallon. Just 200 of these vehicles are equipped for use with alternative, less polluting fuels. To accommodate these vehicles, more than $35 million has been spent on new parking lots….The vehicles will add to the region's existing air pollution problem, which led to health warnings in the week leading up to the opening ceremonies last Friday.


  • “When budgets are being tightened, environmental programs will appear as luxuries rather than as integral components of a successful event.”


Martin Lee, “Greenest Games Ever? Not!” Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2002,


  • Alexis Kelner, co-founder of Save Our Canyons: "The only thing green about these Games…is the color of the currency being thrown around."


  • “In the beginning, some $6 million was budgeted by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) to address environmental concerns. In February 1999, that sum was reduced to $1.5 million, or just one-tenth of 1% of the 2002 Olympic budget.”


  • “But educational initiatives and public relations cannot mitigate the negative impact of major construction projects like the ski jumps at Utah Winter Sports Park, which have left a large, ugly gash on the mountainside.”


  • “Pristine mountain wilderness soon morphed into condos, restaurants and ski runs. Parking lots encroached on riverbed areas, degrading trout habitat and discharging waste runoff into the watershed. As approved by Congress, these developments were exempt from the usual public review required by the National Environmental Policy Act. "


  • Ivan Weber, head of Sierra Club – Utah "When environmentalists would bring up an issue…SLOC would say, 'It's too early to do anything,' and then at some point later would say, 'It would have been nice, but it's too late now."


Sydney 2000, the so-called “Green Games”


Helen Jefferson Lenskyj, “An Environmental Success Story?  2000 Olympic Games,” Progressive Planning Magazine 161 (2004): 13014,


  • “These [bid] documents failed to note, however, that the Olympic site at Homebush and the waterways at Homebush Bay were heavily contaminated with toxic waste: dangerously high levels of dioxin, asbestos, heavy metals and phthalates, a result of a history as the site of abattoirs, brickworks, armament depots, chemical plants and industrial dumps. Critics discovered that at least four scientific analyses and remediation plans for the site had been commissioned by the New South Walses (NSW) government between 1990 and 1992, but that it had decided not to take any action before the bid was submitted and to avoid jeopardizing success.”


  • “The Council proceeded to build a polluting drain through an endangered fragment of woodland as well as destroy AUS$28,000 (about US$20,000) worth of native bush regeneration that had been carried out by the Bankstown Bushland Society to preserve this woodland, which was protected by the 1995 Threatened Species Conservation Act. Overriding the two environmental groups’ objections, the NSW government approved Olympic organizers’ development application for a criterium cycling warm-up track through a second endangered and protected woodland.”


  • “The Sydney 2000 experience demonstrates the limits of a market-driven approach to environmental issues. Hallmark events like the Summer and Winter Olympics impose inflexible deadlines and rigid templates for sporting facilities, with little or no recognition of a local community’s environmental needs and priorities. Equally serious is the threat to democratic decision-making posed by what Sydney environmentalists aptly called the Olympic juggernaut. There was repeated evidence of these patterns during preparations for Sydney 2000, as organizers presumed local councils to speed up development approvals, fast-track environmental and social impact assessments and bypass community consultation—all in the interests of the Olympic industry”


Sharon Beder, “…And What the Tourists Will Not See,” Sunday Age, June 18, 2000, 8,


  • “This scenic hill [Kronos Hill] is in reality a huge mound of toxic waste including heavy metals, lead, hydrocarbons, asbestos, pesticides, dioxins and putrescible wastes dumped on what was once mangrove woodlands…Visitors on tour buses were able to watch the hill of waste grow another 9 metres to a height of 20 metres during Olympic preparations as contaminated soils and wastes were cleared from other parts of the site to make way for Olympic facilities.”


  • “Elevated levels of chlorobenzenes, chloromethanes and chloroethylenes have been found leaking into the groundwater here.….Olympic authorities have installed drains around the perimeter to catch some of this toxic flow before it reaches the Creek. What is captured is taken to the nearby liquid waste plant for treatment. The rest continues to seep down into the groundwater. This is the ‘leaky’ landfill approach preferred by the Olympic organisers over the more expensive sealed ‘bank-vault’ method.”


  • “The Olympic Stadium breaches the environmental guidelines, drawn up by environmentalists before the bid was won. These guidelines require the use of recyclable and recycled building materials, the use of plantation timber as opposed to forest timber and no ozone depleting chemicals in Olympic facilities. The stadium and other facilities have been built with ozone depleting air conditioning chemicals. Greenpeace unsuccessfully took them to court over this in 1998.”


  • “It would be dangerous to have holes too deep in this beautifully landscaped golf driving range made up of contaminated material containing arsenic, lead, cadmium, asbestos, pesticides, dioxins and dibenzofurans….The area has been classified under the ‘Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act’ as well as the ‘Unhealthy Building Land’ regulations….The creek that once flowed through this area has been moved because it was thought that digging trenches to put drains into that area to catch the chlorobenzenes, organochlorines and cyanide leaching out of the waste could have endangered the lives of the workers.”


  • “Olympic authorities long argued that there were no ‘established records of dioxin disposal’ here [Homebush Bay] until Green Games Watch uncovered the maps in 1997. Colin Grant, OCA's executive director of planning, environment and policy, publicly stated that the site did not contain any 2,3,7,8 TCDD (the most toxic form of dioxin)….After this statement was proven false, the OCA was forced to ‘unreservedly’ apologise for the ‘mistake.’”


  • “Having won the bid the Australian Olympic Coordinating Authority (OCA) quickly discarded the Greenpeace endorsed village design. The proposed Olympic Pavilion and Visitors centre, which was to be made of mud brick and recycled slag paving blocks, followed shortly after. It was ‘quietly shelved’, as being an unnecessary expense.”



Related Scholarly Works


Martin Müller, “(Im-)Mobile Policies: Why Sustainability Went Wrong in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi,” European Urban and Regional Studies (February 2014),


Abstract: This paper proposes a tripartite framework of transportation, transformation and translation to conceptualise the circulation, mutation and impacts of mobile policies as translocal, socio-material networks. Drawing on material from semi-structured interviews, participant observation and documents it considers the value of this framework by examining the mobility of the sustainability agenda of the Winter Olympic Games 2014 in Sochi, Russia. The paper shows how sustainability policies were packaged and mobilised to flow to Russia (transportation), how ineffective governance arrangements, a lack of institutional controls and time pressure altered them (transformation) and how the results fell far short of initial bid commitments (translation). As such, it sheds light onto the multiple immobilities and mutations that come with the attempts to mobilise policies.


John Karamichas, “London 2012 and Environmental Sustainability: A Study Through the Lens of Environmental Sociology,” Sociological Research Online 3, no. 18 (August 2013),


Abstract: This rapid response paper examines the claim that Olympic Games hosting can encourage and/or accentuate the adoption of environmental sustainability (ES) policies by the host nation, with London 2012 as a case study. Six indicators that can be used in this examination are identified and subsequently tested in relation to changes brought by austerity/'Big Society' policies. The paper closes by suggesting that although the UK, unlike other hosts, had a relatively good ES standing; however, it appears that this has been significantly downgraded in the event and immediate post-event phases of the Games.


Justine Paquette, Julie Stevens, and Cheryl Mallen, “The Interpretation of Environmental Sustainability by the International Olympic Committee and Organizing Committees of the Olympic Games from 1994 to 2008,” Sport in Society 14, no. 3 (2011),


Abstract: The purpose of this qualitative multicase study was to examine the interpretation of environmental sustainability (ES) within the Olympic Movement. Two research questions guided the inquiry and sought to identify: (1) how the concept of ES has been defined by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and (2) how the concept of ES has been defined and enacted by the Organizing Committees of the Olympic Games (OCOGs). Raufflet's model of Corporate Environmental Management (CEM) paradigms guided a content analysis of 134 ES-related IOC and OCOG documents from 1994 to 2008. Findings revealed the IOC reflected a CEM adaptive paradigm. The OCOGs reflected an adaptive paradigm during the bid phase of the Games preparation that shifted to an incremental/detrimental paradigm during Games-staging. In addition, the findings indicated that the IOC and OCOGs CEM paradigms were incongruent.


Qing Tian and Peter Brimblecombe, “Managing Air in Olympic Cities,” American Journal 0f Environmental Sciences 4, no. 5 (2008): 439-444,


Abstract: The 21st century Olympic Agenda aims to align itself with the concept of sustainable development and has driven improved environmental quality in host cities, such as the Green Games in Sydney 2000 and the planned Beijing 2008 Games and in London 2012 as the Low Carbon Games. Air quality has long been a concern of Olympic mega-cities, although the air quality plans and strategies have often seemed short-lived and unsustainable in the long term. We have explored air quality data and air pollution control from seven Olympic cities: Mexico City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens and also Beijing and London which will host Olympic Games in near future. The study shows that despite a high altitude and air pollution problems, Mexico City had no clear environmental policy in place for the 1968 games. The characteristic smog of Los Angeles raised concerns about athletic performance at the Olympic Games of 1984, but there were limited efforts to tackle the ozone concentration during these games. The 1996 Atlanta Games represents a case where temporary public transport changes were used as a tactic to reduce air pollution. In Sydney a well planned sustainable strategy reduced air pollutants and CO2 emissions in 2000, but Athens' long efforts to improve air quality for the 2004 games were not wholly effective. Even where strategies proved successful the improvements in air quality seem short-lived. Current host cities Beijing and London are developing emission reduction plans. These have clear air quality objectives and are well intentioned. However, the improvements may be too narrow and may not be sustainable in the long term. Our analysis looks at the origins of success and failure and how more coherent improvements might be achieved and what would promote sustainable plans for air quality management at future games. The study illustrates the feedback between air pollution science and policy awareness.


Helen Jefferson Lenskyj, “Sport and Corporate Environmentalism: The Case of the Sydney 2000 Olympics,” International Review for the Sociology of Sport 33, no. 4 (December 1998): 341-354,


Abstract: This article examines the notion of sustainable sport in the context of preparations for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney. More specifically, the article critiques the strategy of `corporate environmentalism', which the organizers have deployed in their attempt to remediate the site of the Games.




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