Green Games for Canada's 2010 Winter Olympics?

2010 olympic mascots photo

Sasquatch, Thunderbird and Miga, Canada's Olympic mythic mascots. What, no polar bear? Photo: via VANOC

Torino, Salt Lake City, and China made sustainability promises for their Olympic extravaganzas, and now its Canada's turn to show its true green colors. Vancouver, the site of the 2010 Winter Games next February, has developed an extensive sustainability report with a long list of initiatives, an independent committee, including an eyeballing by the country's preeminent environmentalist, David Suzuki. There are LEED-certified venues that tap waste heat, Aboriginal involvement, and even the Games' mascots, mythological creatures like Miga (half orca/half seahawk), are promoting the anti-carbon campaign. One board member of the Advisory Committee on Sustainability Performance (BACSP), Kathryn Molloy, executive director of B.C.'s Sierra Club, which is making recommendations to the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games (VANOC), seems impressed with the efforts, (considering):

The most sustainable Olympics would be no Olympics. However, we are having the Olympics, so the fact that VANOC has made sustainability a priority is fantastic. If you looked at the direct impact on environment and social issues, you could see a lot of negatives about the Olympics in general. [But] VANOC is taking such a leadership role in sustainability, their influence is a catalyst for change. This is so significant that it probably outweighs the negatives.

At the Conference on Sport and the Environment in Vancouver, B.C., VANOC, the Games'
Organizing Committee announced extensive plans to green the Games with a sustainability declaration of its efforts to "harness the power of sport for change." The document describes the involvement in sustainable development and partnerships in biodiversity and habitat, energy and climate change, air and water quality, and waste management. There will be systems to reuse waste heat, irrigate with captured rainwater, and compost wood waste. Also, a commitment to Aboriginal partnership includes the Four First Nations--Lil'wat, Musqueam, Skamish, Tsleil-Waututh--in planning and hosting the Games.

vancouver paralympic center photo

The Paralympic Center at Vancouver's 2010 among the green and LEED structures.

Among all its eco-initiatives, VANOC is collaborating with the David Suzuki Foundation to reduce the size of the 2010 Games' carbon footprint. In managing the environmental impact, it's minimizing consumption of energy, water, materials, waste, and emissions with renewable energy, energy-efficiency projects, and for the unavoidable impact, carbon offsets will neutralize 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide produced at the 2010 Winter Games, estimated by Suzuki for air travel.

VANOC's Sustainability Performance Objectives describes locally and globally benefits in conserving the natural environment, and is also factoring in economics and social responsibility. There's that "Hydrogen Highway" and ethanol-fueled vehicles, here are some positive examples:

• Hillcrest National Bailey Stadium Park, home to curling events, the ice rink's refrigeration plant will be captured to heat the pool at the aquatics center.
• Richmond Olympic Oval (speed skating venue), features a roof from salvaged pine beetle-infested wood.
• Athlete's Village will be heated by waste heat redirected from municipal wastewater treatment systems, and after the games, LEED-certified modular units will be provided to homeless communities.
• The Buy Smart program weighs sustainability and Aboriginal participation with prospective suppliers' bids, and awarded a contract to Stewart Nahanee of the Squamish First Nation, owner of Cedars Us, to create 138 hand-made drums as athlete prizes.
• Whistler Olympic Park's wastewater treatment plant was upgraded to protect fish and wildlife around Madely Creek; biodegradable cleaning solutions and soaps are used in compatibility with LEED certification; a nontoxic ice melter is used after samples showed spikes in ammonia readings

The Suzuki Foundation report, "On This Ice," addresses the threat of climate change to the Winter Games, warning it could eliminate ice skating, cross-country skiing, and low-elevation downhill skiing by 2050, without action.

So, all this for a few weeks of gold-medal seekers? Or do these Olympian-size eco-efforts mean we have another green ski resort after 2010 -- and before 2050?

More about greening the Olympics:
Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Buses Planned for 2010 Olympics
Greenwash Watch: Carbon-Neutral Olympic Torch
"Exclusive Gated Community" to be Built Under Guise of Delhi's 2010 Commonwealth Games Village
Beijing's Olympic Village is World's Largest Green Neighborhood
Botanical Olympics for London 2012
International Olympic Committee Should Have Done More to Green Beijing, says Greenpeace

Green Games for Canada's 2010 Winter Olympics?
Torino, Salt Lake City, and China made sustainability promises for their Olympic extravaganzas, and now its Canada's turn to show its true green

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