As I was watching all the athletes represent their countries in the exciting events, from snowboarding to short track skating, I began to wonder how the Olympics is involving itself in sustainability efforts since it is an iconic global event. With worldwide sponsors such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds, there is an obvious pressure for the games to partake in such sustainability efforts and show they care about these issues.
To my surprise, the Olympics have only recently made a surge towards sustainability efforts. In fact, the 2012 Olympic games in London will be the first to study and define the potential carbon footprint of the games in advance to take the proper steps to minimize it. However, over the recent years the Olympics have made rapid and impressive progress towards making the games as green as possible. In the 2000 Sydney Olympics where issues such as water management, simple recycling programs and protection of local environment were tackled, the Olympics displayed its interest, but lack of sophistication. However, only ten years later in Vancouver, the Olympics managed to design and construct the venues with green standards, engage stakeholders, and even reach out with programs such as “Do your part”, which were few among many other initiatives. Here, you can find their homepage and a complete list of their main initiatives and attempts to spread sustainability efforts.
The Olympics were not alone either in their efforts. As previously mentioned, the Olympics did have the mega-sponsor known as Coca-Cola, who contributed to sustainability efforts at the games greatly. Coca-Cola associates wore apparel created from recycled bottles, about 120 per shirt, along with athletes, amounting up to 33,000 green items and took many other initiatives.
I was glad to discover that even though the Olympics may have not always been highly involved with sustainability, they are making real and significant steps in the right direction. Hopefully with the new initiatives continuing to grow, we will all be able to watch Shaun White and Lindsay Vonn continue to compete on real snow.
I think this is a good point and definitely something interesting to look into. However I feel it is also important to define what exactly you are considering “sustainability”. While things such as carbon footprints and environmental initiatives are a key part of sustainability, it is also important to look at the positive impact that the games have on the surrounding communities through other things. Corporate Social Responsibility often requires more of a focus on finding ways to create sustainable positive change in a community, where we define sustainable simply as an initiative with a long-term impact.
If we define “sustainability” in this slightly broader way, we might see a different impact from the games. The reason that the location for the games is such a competitive decision is because they provide the opportunity for huge infrastructure growth and an important inflow of money into the local economy. These effects, especially the changes to the infrastructure, can have a truly important long-term effect on the communities.
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