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How green are the "Green Games"?

By Rupert Posner - posted Tuesday, 15 August 2000

Will the Sydney Olympics be the Green Games? This is the question people are constantly asking Greenpeace. Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple yes or no.

In the early 1990s, Greenpeace took advantage of Sydney's open anonymous contest for the best Olympic 2000 site design to show that, with commitment, a city could showcase environmental solutions.

Forward-thinking architects were consulted, ideas and environmental best practices gathered and a design plan was submitted. The Greenpeace Olympic Village was car-less, powered by the sun, used land carefully, included only non-toxic and eco-friendly materials, conserved and reused resources, and acted as a platform for cutting-edge green technologies. When the winners were announced, Greenpeace's design was among the top five.


Greenpeace then collaborated with alternative power and waste experts, green building designers, academics and our own team of international environmental campaigners to integrate the most progressive standards and help draft them for Sydney into what became the official Environmental Guidelines for the Sydney Olympic Games.

In September 1993, Greenpeace joined the Sydney Olympic bid committee in Monaco to promote the "Green Games" idea as a unique selling point of the city's concept to the IOC and other bidding nations as a possible positive legacy of any Olympic Games.

That was the beginning of what has become one of Greenpeace's most challenging but successful campaigns - to present the Sydney Olympic site as a showcase of environmental solutions.

Ensuring the Commitment

After Sydney won the 2000 bid, Greenpeace remained involved in all aspects of the development and construction of the Olympic site, playing an important "watchdog" role in ensuring that environmental promises became realities.

Greenpeace successfully lobbied the NSW Government to have the Environmental Guidelines become law, regulating the implementation of environmental solutions at the new Olympic site. Greenpeace worked closely with companies tendering to design, build and supply the Olympic site, protesting when the Olympic organisers fell short of their environmental commitments.

So how green are the Games?

The Sydney 2000 Olympics have produced a mix of wins and losses on the environment front. While the wins are impressive, Sydney could have done more to give the planet a sporting chance.



1. Environmental Guidelines

The Environmental Guidelines for the Summer Olympics are a strong policy framework. They are a set of rules for green action. When asked if Sydney really will be the first "Green Olympic Games", Greenpeace has to point to the Guidelines as setting Sydney apart from other cities. No other city has stated its environmental objectives on paper before building and even before winning an Olympic bid. When they were written, Sydney’s Guidelines were a progressive set of goals across all major environmental issues.

2. Coca-Cola’s worldwide policy change on greenhouse gas HFCs

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About the Author

Rupert Posner is an Olympics campaigner for Greenpeace Australia and is based in Sydney. He has worked with Greenpeace and the Olympics campaign since 1998. Before this he worked as a journalist in Australia and the UK and as a ministerial adviser.

Related Links
Australian Sports Commission
Greenpeace Australia
Olympic Coordination Authority
Olympics Social Impacts Advisory Committee
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