‘An opportunity to launch ideas for the future’ 

Sustainability key component of winning 2010 Winter Olympic Games

An Olympic bid cannot afford to ignore sustainability or the environment if it wants to win the event.

"Just about all (International Olympic Committee) members are aware of the growing importance of the environment and sustainable development and it may be one of the key factors in determining if they vote for city A or city B," said David Chernushenko, a member of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Sport and Environment Commission, and author of three books on sustainable management practices.

"In a nutshell it is something you can’t afford not to do.

"You really need to be as good as your opponent and if you don’t know how good your opponent is going to be you can’t afford not to do your best."

Chernushenko was speaking this week in Vancouver and Whistler as part of the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation’s speaker series.

"I want people to understand when and how the environment and… sustainability have become part of hosting the Games," he said.

"And it is becoming increasingly important to have a bid that is trying to make that linkage of environment, social issues and economic opportunities."

Sydney’s Summer Olympics in 2000 was the first Games to take the idea of sustainability to heart and work on trying to incorporate it into all themes of the event.

Chernushenko, who worked on the event, said Sydney made huge strides and set a new bar for other events to match.

He pointed to the city’s decision to locate major facilities on a contaminated site. The buildings constructed at the site used innovative technology when it came to energy conservation and water conservation. Designers and builders also focused on getting the future community to use public transportation.

Chernushenko admits that not every promise on sustainability and the environment can be met when it actually gets down to the nitty-gritty of hosting an event.

But, with public input and watchdog groups lobbying for important environmental and social gains, much can be achieved by host-communities.

"In theory the bid book is a contract," said Chernushenko.

"Unfortunately reality shows that an organizing committee is able to usually get itself out of following through on its promises."

When it comes to sustainability Vancouver and Whistler’s Olympic plan is a great one said Chernushenko.

"This is the most progressive bid I’ve seen in terms of both the number of people who believe in sustainability and the number of people who understand it," he said.

That’s reflected in using existing facilities where possible, building new ones that fit in with community needs and focusing on the use of public transportation.

Chernushenko is also impressed with the inclusive nature of the Bid Corp, which is working with leaders form the Downtown Eastside and others in the hopes of producing a Games everyone can benefit from.

The Bid Corp is working hard to sell their vision of the Games in B.C., especially since Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell announced this week that a vote on the 2010 Games will be held Feb. 22.

At press time it was unknown what the question would be on the vote or what would be done with the information.

The vote is expected to cost more than $500,000.

Chernushenko believes it is essential to have strong public backing if a host venue is to win the right to hold the Games.

"The IOC wants to know that your city, your country, wants to host the Games," he said.

But at the same time the public needs information on how the event will impact their communities.

Chernushenko admitted that an Olympic Games, by its very nature, is not sustainable.

"Anything that brings in huge numbers of people and consumes all kinds of fuel couldn’t be called sustainable," he said.

But, he added, an Olympics also brings with it incredible opportunity to raise the profile of environmental issues and sustainability globally, and offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the chosen city to be the centre of the world’s attention.

"Hosting the Olympics isn’t just about putting on a great show for the17 days or so of sporting events," said Chernushenko, president of Green and Gold Inc.

"It is an opportunity to improve your city’s infrastructure, its transportation, its communications, to bring about the renovation or refurbishment of existing facilities and build new ones.

"It is also a big societal project where the whole city, the whole region, and to some extent the whole country are part of doing something special, and so it is an opportunity to launch ideas for the future."

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