The 2016 Rio Olympic Games – The “Green Games”?

Posted on August 9th, 2016 by

Picture of the Olympic Rings over Rio

Since Rio de Janeiro was awarded the title of ‘Host City’ for the Olympic Games in October 2009, the Rio 2016 Organising Committee have had their hands full. They are expected to procure over 30 MILLION products ranging from food to sports equipment and to do so responsibly.

This means breaking each product down and ensuring that all of its core components are sourced responsibly, asking questions such as –

  • Do they have a low (or neutral) carbon footprint?
  • Are the products of sufficient quality?
  • Can the products be recycled at the end of their life?

This and much more must be asked to every single supplier of every single product used at the Olympic Games.

It’s not just about sourcing these materials ethically either; there must be a use for everything after the Olympic Games as well (e.g. Chairs, Venues, Buildings etc.) and anything that cannot be reused must be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.

Before we assess Rio’s ability to cope with these high demands, let’s take a look at how other Olympic hosts have performed in recent years…

Picture of womens heptathlon at London 2012 Olympics

London 2012

The London Olympic Games were the most sustainable yet, saving the equivalent of 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide thanks to their responsible sourcing and sustainable practises.

The following are some of the ways that the organisers achieved this:

  • They used surplus gas pipes to construct the top ring of the Olympic Stadium.
  • They built the Olympic Park on previously contaminated industrial land.
  • They used 100% sustainable sourced timber to build the Velodrome.
  • They used recycled copper to build the Copper Box arena (and used recycled rainwater at this venue)

They have now found new uses for these venues; with the Olympic Stadium being used by West Ham United, the athletes’ village being used as a new residential area and the velodrome being opened for public use.

London 2012 really raised the bar for future Olympic Games.

A bar that definitely wasn’t reached in Sochi…

Sochi Winter Olympic Games 2014

The Sochi Winter Olympic Games were full of controversy, from corruption to doping allegations.

Organisers promised to minimise waste, source sustainable materials and have minimal impact on environmentally sensitive areas.

Sadly, they failed to live up to many of those promises – Quarries were dug into the nature reserve in Akhshtyr and used to dump construction waste.

Venues were built on over 8,000 acres of Sochi’s National Park drastically reducing the biodiversity of the area.

Picture of closing ceremony at Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

There was absolutely no talk of sustainable sourcing and builders often used the cheapest possible materials.

WWF explains how the Russian government “refused to fund the post-Olympic environmental rehabilitation program” that would have cost the equivalent of £23 Million; not a huge amount compared to the £39 BILLION that Russian spent preparing for the games.

So how do Brazil compare to previous hosts?

Brazil currently produces approximately 85% of its electricity from renewable sources. To put this into perspective, the UK only produced 15% of its electricity from renewable sources when London hosted the Olympic Games in 2012.

On top of this, The Rio 2016 Organising Committee has laid out a strict sustainability management plan highlighting the committee’s aims, values and principles for before, during and after the games.

Surely this makes Rio a strong candidate to host the greenest Olympic Games yet?

However, Rio isn’t without its existing problems. Guanabara Bay (the Olympic sailing venue) is heavily polluted with hundreds of tonnes of unprocessed waste every year. Couple this with a struggling Brazilian economy and you have a huge environmental hazard that isn’t going to be easily fixed.

Picture of Guanabara Bay, Rio

In fact, just 5 days before the start of the Olympic games, The Independent reported that “water in Rio’s Olympic venues holds viral levels 1.7 MILLION times what would be considered alarming in the US and Europe” and predicted that swallowing only 3 teaspoons of this water would almost certainly cause infection; putting around 1,400 athletes at risk.

This is not the only health hazard either. The much talked about Zika virus poses a threat to tourists too. Fears that it will spread outside of South America has caused many people to bypass the Olympic Games and watch from home.

There is much uncertainty among the Rio Olympic Games and the true outcome will not be known until long after the games have finished.

One thing is certain though; good or bad, these Olympic Games will leave a legacy like no other.

What are your thoughts about the Olympics?  Do you think there should be more pressure to ensure the hosts should be using sustainable materials?

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