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How many emissions created by olympics construction?

Sep 5th, 2008 | By | Category: Opinion

ARE we serious about lowering carbon emissions? By we, I mean all of us, the whole wide world.

If we are, surely one of the things we need to change is our approach to the Olympic Games.

The model of moving the games every four years to a different city, and having that city create massive new buildings for the limited use of a few weeks, is madness.

The scale of the building that goes on is huge, and the carbon emissions created would be significant.

It’s rather ironic that the polluted air we were so quick to belittle Beijing for, would have been partly created by the building spurt that went on to get the structures ready (yes, I know China has a huge building boom going on and a big pollution problem already.)

In George Monbiot’s book, Heat, he said cement was a high carbon emitting activity. There has been a lot of cement poured in the last 20 years to feed the monster that is the Olympic construction industry, and the Games seem to be becoming a competition between nations to build bigger and brighter.

Cement is not the only ingredient of construction – think of all the steel, cladding, paint, furnishings used. The manufacture of all these will be creating carbon emissions; then there is the transport of all the materials to the site.

The official Chinese Olympic Games website says there were 12 new venues created from scratch, 11 venues renovated and eight temporary venues constructed, as well.
The Beijing Olympic Village is made up of 22 six-storey buildings and 20 nine-storey buildings.
To prepare for Olympic visitors, Beijing’s transportation infrastructure was expanded significantly. Beijing’s airport underwent a major expansion, adding the new Terminal 3, the world’s largest airport terminal.  Beijing south railway station was reopened after two years of construction.
Within the city itself, Beijing’s subway expanded to more than double its capacity and overall size, adding an additional seven lines and 80 stations to the previously-existing four lines and 64 stations, including a new link connecting directly to the city’s airport. Also, a fleet of thousands of buses, minibuses and official cars transported spectators, athletes and officials between venues. (Wikipedia)

I have probably listed only half of the contributions to carbon emissions the Games would have made. And the cost of being an Olympics host is so mind boggling that it needs a separate consideration.
It would be nice to imagine that the new buildings might be a lasting asset for the city, and of good use to the general public after the games.

But if the experience of Athens, host of the 2004 games is anything to go by, it seems unlikely.

Despite the success of the games, efforts by local authorities to generate continuing interest in Olympic sports, particularly sports not popular in Greece, have largely been unsuccessful. In 2008 it was reported that almost all of the Olympic venues have fallen into a severe state of disrepair: 21 of the 22 facilities built for the games have either been left abandoned or are in various states of dereliction, with several squatter camps having sprung up around certain facilities, and venues afflicted by vandalism, graffiti or strewn with rubbish.Athenian authorities insist they eventually plan to sell off the venues. Wikipedia

We can’t afford this waste. We need to scale the games down, maybe have the different sports at different facilities around the world. With modern communications, it isn’t really necessary for everything to be in the one place.
Meanwhile, preparations for the London Games will grind on relentlessly.

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is a Whitireia Journalism student.
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