No gold medal for the environment in the Athens Olympics

Posted on 16 July 2004

The Athens 2004 Olympics have lost any chances for a medal on environmental performance, according to the first comprehensive assessment of the costs and benefits of the upcoming games by WWF.
Gland, Switzerland – The Athens 2004 Olympics have lost any chances for a medal on environmental performance, according to the first comprehensive assessment of the costs and benefits of the upcoming games by WWF. It calls on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ensure that future Olympic host cities strictly abide by official environmental rules and regulations. 
  
The WWF report, Environmental Assessment of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, evaluates the environmental wins and losses of the Athens Olympics based on the Sydney 2000 Olympics benchmark for "clean and green" games.

On a scale of 0–4, it rates the environmental component of the Athens Olympics at a very disappointing score of 0.77. The lowest scores were given to areas such as environmental planning and evaluation, protection of fragile natural and cultural areas, waste management and water conservation, and the use of environmentally-friendly construction technologies. The highest scores went to the fields of public transport, the improvement of existing infrastructure, and the promotion of environmental awareness. WWF is concerned that these wins may disappear when the Olympic Games come to a close. 
 
"Unfortunately, the environment never figured as a priority in the planning of the Athens Olympic Games. While the IOC calls the environment its third pillar of Olympism, it has done very little to keep this from crumbling under the weight of other priorities," said Demetres Karavellas, Chief Executive Officer of WWF-Greece. "Greece must now move forward and look at what can be done to reverse the environmental impacts the day after the games." 
  
According to the report, during the seven years since Athens won the 2004 bid to host the Olympics, the organizing authorities made no effort to integrate the environment in the planning mainly due to the fact that the IOC failed to enforce the environmental regulations enshrined in the Olympics charter. As a result, the Athens Organizing Committee and the Greek government failed to deliver on their commitments to abide by basic environmental standards, such as the use of solar power and recycling and waste management. 
 
WWF calls on the IOC to enforce strict standards not only in sport, but also in the environment and sustainable development. The IOC must respect the environmental component of the Olympic Games and ensure the mistakes of Athens will not be repeated by future host cities. WWF urges the Greek government to learn from the environmental wins and losses and integrate the environment in its overall development policy. 
  
"Beyond excellence in sports, the Olympic Games should also be a showcase for the highest environmental standards and sustainable development," said Demetres Karavellas. "The IOC and the promoters of candidate cities must ensure they do not leave behind a legacy of environmental degradation."
 
For further information:

Theodota Nantsou
Conservation Manager, WWF-Greece
Tel. +30 210 331 4893
E-mail: t.nantsou@wwf.gr
 
Mitzi Borromeo
Press Officer, WWF International
Tel. +41 79 477 3553
E-mail: mborromeo@wwfint.org
 
NOTE:
Every score refers to the performance (environmental footprint) of the seven-year period that has lapsed since Athens won the 2004 Olympics bid. The scoring procedure was based on a variety of criteria, mainly the existence concrete and measurable commitments, the achievement of an integrated approach to particular issues and an assessment of the heritage to Athens. The experience of previous Olympic Games, mainly those of Sydney and Barcelona, which in contrast to Atlanta achieved significant environmental victories, was also considered.
 
Piles of construction debris have been abandoned in the sensitive forest habitat of Schinias.
© WWF-Greece / T. Nantsou
The Olympic Rowing & Canoeing Centre has caused serious damage to the freshwater and forest ecosystem of Schinias-Marathon.
© WWF-Greece / T. Nantsou
Water-demanding plane trees were hastily planted along the Marathon Route. They are irrigated with drinking water.
© WWF-Greece / T. Nantsou
Schinias hosts a sensitive forest habitat that is protected under EU law.
© WWF-Greece / T. Nantsou