The environmental impacts of the Olympics
24 July 2020 | Written by La redazione
Big sporting events have great impacts on the environment, how can we make the Olympics more sustainable?
The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo should have started on July 24 but due to Covid they were postponed to the summer of 2021. A historic decision, only three more times the games were not held, Berlin 1916, Tokyo 1940 and London 1944, always because of a world war. In the meantime, preparations for the winter ones of 2026 in Cortina d’Ampezzo are proceeding, and perhaps this period of pause should lead to a reflection on the impacts that events of this magnitude have on the environment.
The spirit that guides the Olympics is commendable, but it must be remembered that events of this magnitude are also enormous opportunities to revive the economy for the host country. Unfortunately, the economic side often takes the upper hand over that of sustainability and environmental protection, transforming what should be the celebration of the healthy values of sport, into the celebration of unbridled consumerism and limitless cementing.
Dirty Olympics. History is full of negative examples, particularly in recent years. The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, were a clear example of this problem. What in the intentions, as stated by Russia, should have been zero-impact games turned out to be an environmental disaster. The huge construction sites have had very little sustainable, in fact, widespread cases of illegal landfills for construction materials, use of animal migration territories as construction areas, spillage of waste into the waters and generally a decrease in quality have been documented of life for all the inhabitants of the region.
Brazil has also been no different. The Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016 were an environmental disaster, in particular as regards the water of the city, which was highly polluted before the Olympics, during the event a real health hazard. The concentration of viruses and bacteria in waterways and at sea was so high that, according to a study, it would have been enough to ingest three teaspoons to get seriously ill.
The Winter Olympics of Cortina of 2026. In Cortina d’Ampezzo the construction of new ski lifts and ski slopes, the expansion of existing ones, the construction of roads and parking lots to facilitate access to the areas are already underway and are raising many concerns, as underlined by a CAI press release. “Our commitment – explains the general president Vincenzo Torti – will be to take every opportunity, thanks to the help of our members present in the area, to oversee what is happening and compliance with regulations and authorizations; but even more to underline how the future of mountain life does not go through the destruction of beauty and the unsustainable ultra-load of ski lifts and multiplication of access concessions “. Concerns, these, also shared by the President of the Cai Section of Cortina Paola Valle “Just take a tour of the construction sites – comments the President – between Gilardon, Col Fiere, Rumerlo and Cinque Torri, to realize bitterly how the environmental aspect is left in the background “.
Tokyo 2020 + 1, a sustainable Olympiad? The Tokyo 2020 Olympics, postponed to 2021, promise, at least on paper, to put sustainability first. We don’t know if these promises will be kept but we know how Japan intends to keep this promise.
Starting from small things, gold, silver and bronze medals will be obtained from electronic waste, while uniforms will be obtained from recycled plastic. The projects include the construction of roads made of recycled materials capable of absorbing water to be able to reuse it, the construction of buildings will prefer the use of sustainable wood, in addition the structures that will host the athletes and their staff will be furnished with eco beds -friendly made of recycled cardboard and mattresses made of recycled and recyclable polyethylene once the games are over.
Now that the games have been postponed, Japan will have an extra year to try to face the challenge of sustainability in a global event.