SYDNEY, Australia -- One month before the opening ceremony for the 2000 Olympic Games, Greenpeace Australia has issued a report card to the Games that shows Sydney has failed to live up to the promise of the so-called Green Games.
Australia won its 1993 bid to host these Olympic Games by promising to make them the most environmentally friendly games ever. Greenpeace measured the performance of Games organizers against their own environmental guidelines and commitments.
In its third and final Report Card on the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Greenpeace gave organisers a C grade, or 6 out of 10, down from the 7 out of 10, or B minus, awarded in September 1999.
"It's a bronze medal performance. While these Games will be green, they have only just crossed the line," said Greenpeace International Olympics campaigner Blair Palese.
"In evaluating the Olympics against the Environmental Guidelines and the commitments made by organisers, our Report Card shows there are some outstanding environmental successes here but some unnecessary and disappointing failures. So while Sydney 2000 will be the greenest Games so far, they will not be as green as Australia promised the world they would be."
First in the list of failures, the New South Wales government has not cleaned up toxic waste from Homebush Bay and the Rhodes Peninsula, next to the Olympic site. Homebush Bay was used as a toxic waste dump from 1949 to 1976.
In 1997, tests of waste dug up at North Newington, adjacent to the Olympic site, revealed dioxin levels 1,540 times what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designates as safe allowable levels.
Under the topsoil of Kronos Hill is a mountain of contaminated sludge buried in a 60 foot deep landfill. It is contains heavy metals, asbestos, lead, hydrocarbons, pesticides, and dioxins. According to Sharon Beder, professor at the University of Wollongong near Sydney and a civil engineer, writing in the May 2000 issue of "Harper's," magazine, "fills like Kronos 'remediate' toxins - as well as the legal liabilities of landowners - by letting them slowly leach away. Drains collect some of the poisonous runoff. The rest seeps into the groundwater."
On its list of Olympic green failures, Greenpeace points to confusion on what body will manage Olympic site toxic landfill after the Games.
The Lidcombe Waste Treatment Plant is located near the Olympic Village, taking in tons of industrial waste and emitting toxic fumes. It has not been cleaned up or moved. Instead, landscaping has been planted to hide the plant from public view.
Greenpeace says there is no excuse for the use of "ozone depleting and greenhouse polluting" air conditioning and refrigeration in Olympic venues.
The environmental group faults the organizers for using the gasoline burning GM Holden car fleet for VIPs instead of public transportation or vehicles powered by renewable energy.
Greenpeace blames the Olympic authorities for, "lack of transparency, management difficulties and failure to keep accurate environmental records."
Still, the Olympic organizers scored some environmental successes, Greenpeace acknowledges. First and foremost is establishing the Environmental Guidelines as a firm set of progressive goals.
The Guidelines contain over 100 commitments in the five key areas of energy conservation, water conservation, waste minimisation, pollution avoidance and protection of the natural environment.
Olympic sponsors Foster's Brewing and Coca-Cola's worldwide policy change on phasing out the greenhouse gas HFC as a refrigerant earned the Olympic games more green points, although both beverage companies will still be using HFC cooled equipment at the 2000 Olympics.
Renewable energy will be used at the Olympic site, earning the games more green points. Solar panels are installed on the SuperDome and all along Olympic Boulevard. Innovative building design helps reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. There is a reduction in the use of the toxic plastic PVC for plumbing, cabling and other fixtures. Sustainable timber has been used at the Olympic site and in a number of venues.
"Since the last Greenpeace assessment there have been significant achievements in the use of solar and green energy, the launch of an impressive sewage and water recycling system, progressive developments in composting packaging and Coca-Cola and have agreed to phase out greenhouse-polluting HFCs," said Palese.
"The past year has also seen a number of appalling failures. There is extensive use of PVC in temporary venues, a lack of commitment to natural gas buses, GM Holden completely failed to provide less polluting vehicles, Streets icecream wrappers do not comply with the waste strategy, all venues will use ozone depleting and global warming air conditioning, there has been inadequate disclosure by organisers of environmental work, and Homebush Bay remains one of the most toxic waterways in the world.
"Solutions to environmental problems exist. The Sydney Olympics could have been a world class showcase for these solutions, instead they only just manage to scrape in under the title, 'Green Games'."
Other positive environmental actions taken by the Olympic organisers that Greenpeace did not mention include the planting of at least four million trees at 500 sites around Australia, each site dedicated to an Australian Olympian.
The Olympic Sponsors Environment Network is an initiative of Olympics organizers to enable Olympic and Paralympic sponsors to network on environmental issues. Two meetings have been held each year with about 50 representatives from 20 to 25 sponsor companies and Olympics organizers.
Sponsors discussed environment and the Olympic Games, the role of environmental groups, risk management, media, packaging, waste management, life cycle analysis, and environmental communications and marketing.
Some of the sponsors have made contributions to the greener nature of these Olympic Games. Fuji Xerox has offered remanufactured machines for Olympics offices. EnergyAustralia is offering renewable energy, energy efficiency services and solar energy projects.
Recycling is popular for the Sydney Olympics. Visy is using recycled paper packaging, recycled plastic products and cardboard for furniture. Olex is using PVC-free cables. Carlton & United Breweries have developed recyclable PET beer bottles and investigating the use of recyclable plastic beer cups.
Lindemans Wines has developed recyclable plastic wine glasses. The Royal Australian Mint and the Perth Mint are offering PVC-free coin packaging.
Bovis Lend Lease, part of the consortium that constructed the Olympic Athletes' Village, has been given Prime Minister John Howard's Living Cities Award for Urban Environmental Leadership, in part for its work on building projects within Homebush Bay.
The Greenpeace Green Games Report Card can be found online at: http://www.greenpeace.org.au/campaigns/olympics/index.php3