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Can the Games be Green?



I chose to write about an article from the New York Times titled, “Higher, faster, more sustainable”.  The article is dated February 21, 2018.  The author’s name is Kendra Pierre-Louis and she’s a part of the climate team at the New York Times.  The climate team is responsible for emailing subscribers weekly in regards to climate change.  The article deals with the Pyeongchang Olympics and their efforts to be greener.  I believe the author’s intentions for this article were to give the readers a little hope regarding such a massive scale event as the Olympic Games.  She also seems to be shining a light on how much damage has already been done in the process.

The Olympics organizers estimate that there will be approximately 1.6 million metric tons worth of carbon dioxide emissions during the games.  It is because of this that they are striving for a more sustainable and greener Olympics.  The article states that Pyeongchang is the first Winter Olympics to be ISO 20121 certified.  This is a standard designed to reduce the environmental footprint and maintain sustainable practices.  The Rio Olympics were also ISO 20121 certified, but they still have a lot of their old event facilities that are unusable and collecting dust.  The author uses the term “white elephant stadiums”, which refers to past Olympics stadiums in other countries that are taking up massive amounts of space.  These old stadiums are too big and awkward for any other event to be held in them.  There was a lot of environmental destruction that occurred in order for South Korea to host the Olympics.  Tens of thousands of trees, some of which were over 500 years old were cut down in order for the ski run to be built.  The Olympics organizers have allegedly pledged to plant 1,000 trees once the games were over.  In my opinion, I feel as though they should plant a whole lot more.  The South Korean government is undecided as to whether or not they’re going to tear down the Jeongseon Alpine Center built on Mount Gariwang.  The Olympic sized ski run could be profitable.  However, the $109 million stadium will be torn down after the Olympics so the country doesn’t have to spend unnecessary money to maintain it.  I’m glad that they’ve decided to tear it down afterward.  It’s a shame how past hosting countries have such huge stadiums that are completely worthless now.  The author ends the article by describing how incredibly damaging the past Winter Olympics were in Sochi, Russia.  There had been illegal wastes being dumped within a national park, as well as blocked migration routes, and the logging of rare trees.

The author’s tone almost sounds cynical throughout the article.  I say this because she mentions how Pyeongchang is certified to be sustainable in accordance with the International Organization for Standardization, but then brings up the fact that past countries have been more or less devastated by the construction of Olympic stadiums.  It’s an overly negative article with small bits of a hopeful future after the games.

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One thought on “Can the Games be Green?

  1. Rachel Skidmore

    This is very interesting, usually it is easy to overlook how harmful something can be simply because it is a spectacle- it’s fun for us to watch. No one ever watches the bachelor thinking “wow, how much gas did that limo use bringing up the contestants to meet that guy? They totally could’ve just walked”. It’s about the spectacular aspect- who gets the rose. Same with the Olympics! I had no idea that they were so wasteful, simply because it’s hard to look past all that bright shiny American Exceptionalism. It does make a lot of sense. Perhaps in the future in an effort to go more green, the Olympics could use the resources of all different countries that already have a course for their specific sport so that one country didn’t have to bear the burden of constructing and deconstructing the stadiums. Sure, it’d be far less fun and there would definitely be some pushback, but think of how much cheaper and less wasteful the Olympics would be if this were the case.

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