Game On in Greece, Just Not Green

Criticism of the Olympic venue construction in Athens started a few weeks ago when people voiced their concerns that the buildings and hosting infrastructure wouldn’t be completed in time. Now that the construction is almost done, Greenpeace has come forward to take the Athens Organizing Committee down another notch with a dismal report on how well they have met goals for following sustainable practices and incorporating renewable energy sources.

Athens, Greece – July 30, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] A simple PDF file on the Greenpeace Web site classifies the committee’s efforts with smiley faces for seven reached goals, apathetic faces for eight not quite perfect goals, and frowning faces for 15 goals not met at all. Goals set by the committee for the “large scale” use of solar, wind and other alternative energy sources fell under the frowning face category. “Despite the good intentions expressed by the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee, there is very little evidence that Athens has applied any learning thus leaving a huge gap in the ongoing process of moving toward sustainable development for all Olympic Games” said Nikos Charalambides of Greenpeace Greece. With regard to solar energy, photovoltaic cells (PV) were excluded from the Olympic Village and other Olympic venues. The same is true for solar thermal systems, both for hot water supply as well as for solar cooling, Greenpeace reported. Sydney, Australia and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) set a precedent for the summer games of 2000 when they made the environment the third pillar of the games. Greenpeace was asked to develop a set of environmental guidelines and included goals for: – Reducing toxic contamination – Conserving energy through the use of renewable and sustainable sources – Environmentally friendly refrigeration and air conditioning – Eliminating the use of PVC – Reducing the use of timber – Encouraging water conservation – Providing mass transportation Though Sydney didn’t meet all of the 34 guidelines built around the seven goals, Athens seems to have by-passed most of the guidelines for creating greener games. In an arena where excellence is defined by how well the next player performs in a game, Charalambides probably wouldn’t even let the historic city known as the home of the Olympics march in the opening ceremony. “Athens is well behind Sydney regarding the environmental performance of the Games,” he said. “The distance from environmental excellence and sustainability is that big that Athens is disqualified from this race.”

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