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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Olympic Games: Green as Can Be?

It is beyond crucial that the IOC maintains their word and continues to work towards a greener future, not only for the Olympic Games, but for the world.
Parker Jenkins
(Design by Parker Jenkins | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


Over a billion of people around the world tune into the Olympic Games. Whether winter or summer, fans show up to cheer on the representative athletes of their countries. Last year, Salt Lake City’s bid for the 2034 Olympic Winter Games was deemed the “preferred” choice.

At such a large scale, these events take years of planning and organization. Utah’s own bid will require efforts to effectively prepare the city to host the games. With such significant requirements, concerns regarding the impact of the Olympic Games on the environment have been raised.

Previous Environmental Impacts

One of the most notable impacts of the Olympics is the lack of sustainability of its venues. Many host locations, such as Rio De Janeiro and Beijing, stop the maintenance of their Olympic venues following the departure of the Games.

As a result, these large venues, which are often constructed for the Games themselves, are left to rot. The abandonment of these venues feels like a waste, especially when construction efforts are factored in. Are the environmental costs to construct these facilities worth it if they are just going to be an afterthought following the Games?

Travel is another notable factor when it comes to environmental impact. When it is time for the Games, crowds of fans and athletes travel to the host location. These travel efforts have quite an impact on the environment. The MIT Technology Review stated 160,000 tons of carbon dioxide were emitted for spectators’ and judges’ travel during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Furthermore, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics faced controversy due to their usage of fake snow. The artificial snow was of concern, as the chemicals used to produce it were feared to have a potential impact on the environment. The high reliance on artificial snow technology for the 2022 Olympics can be attributed to the already-present water shortage in Beijing, but producing the snow uses a significant amount of water and energy. In addition to its environmental factors, some athletes voiced concerns regarding the safety of artificial snow, which is prone to icing, making it faster and more dangerous than natural snow.

In short, there are a plethora of factors of the Olympics that are of environmental concern. Whether they are related to preparation efforts for the Games, or byproducts of the events themselves, these concerns must be addressed.

What Can Be Done

The International Olympic Committee has committed itself to promoting sustainability and minimizing environmental impact in future Olympic Games. That means making use of Olympic venues after the Olympics have passed. This has been well achieved in many previous Olympic host locations, including here in Utah. For example, the Maverik Center, which hosted ice hockey during the 2002 Olympics, is still in use today and is home to the Utah Grizzlies.

The IOC encourages host locations to get “maximum use” out of Olympic venues. This requirement promotes sustainability and aims to limit the need for additional construction. These efforts were well represented in the facilities of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Following the conclusion of the Summer Olympics, their venues continued to see usage through recreation.

Furthermore, the IOC promotes the use of existing venues. While previous Olympics have faced issues with deforestation and improper disposal of materials during preparation, the promotion of using previously constructed venues has a plethora of advantages. It deters damage to the natural environment, prevents excessive pollution from being created and encourages the continued maintenance of already-existing facilities.

In addition to maintaining venues, clean and reliable transportation is crucial. The Winter Olympics had a significant impact on public transportation here in Salt Lake. The Utah Transit Authority expanded many of its services to meet the needs of the Olympics back in 2002.

Previous Olympic hosts have had similar experiences, establishing clean modes of transportation for the Games. The 2012 Summer Olympics in London produced an increased investment in public transportation. This had a profound impact on transportation in the city, which is still seen today.

Providing these forms of transportation for the public diminishes the reliance on less-clean methods of transportation. As a result, progress can be made towards cutting the excessive amounts of carbon emissions seen in previous Olympic Games. Efforts toward a cleaner Olympics will require the promotion of sustainable, clean transportation.

What Does This Mean?

With the 2024 Summer Olympics looming and excitement growing about Salt Lake’s Olympic bid, it’s important to consider the Games’ environmental impacts. The Olympics have slowly but surely become more green over previous years, but there is still work to do.

Working to further promote sustainability, especially in the Games’ venues, will play a large role in protecting the environment. Furthermore, providing clean and effective forms of public transportation will continue to cut carbon emissions and has the potential to have a lasting impact on host locations. Though these are just two aspects of the Olympics’ environmental impact, they will undoubtedly help promote a cleaner Olympics in the future.

Given the current state of the climate, it is beyond crucial that the IOC maintains its word and continues to work towards a greener future, not only for the Olympic Games but for the world as a whole.


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About the Contributors
Jonah Marriott
Jonah Marriott, Sports Writer
(he/him) Jonah Marriott grew up in South Ogden, Utah, where he inherited his love for sports from his parents. He is a devout fan of each of Detroit’s major sports franchises, the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, and the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. He is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, with an emphasis in aerospace.
Parker Jenkins
Parker Jenkins, Designer
(he/him) Parker Jenkins joined the Chronicle in 2023 as a designer. He is currently pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering at the University of Utah. Parker grew up in Portland, OR and graduated from an arts school. In addition to design, he enjoys drone photography, filmmaking and soccer!

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