Friday, June 15, 2007

Sustainability of Olympic proportions

Guest blogger: Debbie Dickinson

George Monbiot, environmentalist, journalist and one of my fave- gurus, wrote a damming piece in a major UK (quality) newspaper on the legacy left by Olympics in the cities that host them.

He says:

“The Games are supposed to encourage us to play sport; they are meant to produce resounding economic benefits and to help the poor and needy. It’s all untrue. As the evictions in London begin, a new report shows that the only certain Olympic legacy is a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.”

He then cites a record of environmental and social disruption failures in city after city that hosts the games. As a big fan of the Olympics, I am also not na├»ve to their negative implications. Sadly, I couldn’t help but nod in agreement at almost each of Monbiot’s claims. So there’s room for improvement – and who will act?

It’s thus with optimism and eager anticipation that we at the GRI learnt this week that the Vancouver Winter Olympics (2010) released their first sustainability report. It’s the first sustainability report ever issued by an Olympic Organizing Committee, so it’s pretty significant news. Their website says:

"VANOC is the first Games Organising Committee to integrate not only environmental but also social and economic responsibility. The report outlines VANOC’s six areas of direct decision-making and actionable authority, including accountability; environmental stewardship and impact reduction; social inclusion and responsibility; Aboriginal participation and collaboration; economic benefits from sustainable practices; and sport for sustainable living. VANOC is using Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines, a credible international standard in corporate sustainability reporting."

Whilst other Organizing Committees have considered environmental implications, Vancouver (and London 2012) are the first to have a broader sustainability lens that covers environmental, social and economic implications.

Congratulations to Vancouver 2010 and London 2012 in this high-profile step in planning for a more sustainable Olympics.

Let’s hope Monbiot’s future discussions on the Games reminisce a more positive legacy…

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