Athens 2004 disqualified from Green Olympics

Feature story - July 29, 2004
The Athens Olympics may boast gold, silver and bronze medals this summer - but green medals will be nowhere in sight despite Greece's promises of making the 2004 Olympics the greenest ever.

Despite Greece's promises of making the 2004 Olympics the greenest ever - they are even less environmentally friendly than the Sydney Olympics

We all heard the promises, so how come the Athens Games make few, ifany, concessions to environmental protection and don't highlight anygreen solutions?

When Athens was still a candidate city, the official position of theGreek authorities was clear and straightforward, according to its bidthe "Olympic Games are a challenge as well as an opportunity for thebroad implementation of programs and actions which are environmentallyfriendly and in accordance to the principles of sustainabledevelopment...projects will be realized with the use of environmentallyfriendly technologies and materials, and this will be a prerequisite inall relevant tenders."

Such promises conjure up images of solar panels, recycled andnon-toxic building materials however it seems they were just pipedreams. With the exception of public transport, which has shownimpressive improvements due to the Olympics, the environmental recordof the Athens Olympic Games is very poor. Athens will undo much of theprogress on environmental issues made for Sydney 2000.

Our campaign for the Sydney Games to be the first green games was instrumental in ensuring the 2000 Games showcased and promoted solutionsto environmental problems. The solar powered athletes village was theworld's largest solar suburb and was later sold as public housing.Solar powered venues meant lower costs and less global warmingpollution. The reduction in use of PVC plastic in buildings showed thatthere are practical alternatives to this poison plastic.

One of our major victories was the Coke Spotlightcampaign, which saw Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola meet our demands for anew refrigeration policy to reduce its impact on global climate change.The online campaign included downloadable stickers and letters to Coke.Only one month after the website went live, Coca-Cola committed tophasing in climate friendly refrigeration. We also targeted Unileverand McDonald's as part of our Greenfreeze campaignlaunched back in 1992. Instead of using global warming chemicals,Greenfreeze fridges use natural gases so avoids both depleting theozone layer and fuelling global warming.

One of the few environmental bright spots of Athens - the fact that Olympic sponsors, Coca Cola, McDonald's, Unilever, have now committed to using Greenfreeze is down more to our campaign and pressure from online activists than the Athens Games organisers.

Environmental failings

So the lack of green commitment in Athens is even more shocking.Green energy is the most striking failure for the Athens Olympics. Itwas the intention that all electricity used by related premises andusers during the Olympics in 2004 should be generated by renewables.For a country that markets it self as a country of endless sunshine,solar energy for the games shouldn't be so difficult. But green energyat the Games is close to zero.

"This list of failures in the environmental performance of theAthens 2004 Olympic Games shows that when there is no strong politicalwill, failures will override wins. Athens is well behind Sydneyregarding the environmental performance of the Games. The distance fromenvironmental excellence and sustainability is so big that Athens isdisqualified from this race," said Nikos Charalambides of GreenpeaceGreece.

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has the responsibility toensure the Olympic Games have a minimum impact on the environment andleave a positive legacy for those hosting the Games. The GreekGovernment had the power, money and time to set the standards andensure that the Green Olympics become a reality.

However, they have proven themselves short sighted and have aimedfor the absolute minimum. Public authorities have shown a high level ofindifference, incompetence and lack of action. The world is the loserat these games.

Find out more:

Read our briefing on the short falling of the Athens Olympic Games: Green - the missing link

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