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  • Writer's pictureAlizée CCM

Will Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics be sustainable?

Sustainability is a key buzzword linked with the Olympics because “sport is an important enabler of sustainable development.” (United Nations, 2015) This makes us question...Are the Olympic games prompting the sustainable development of their host cities?

The Inclusion of sustainable agendas is becoming more common with each Olympic event. Only recently however, in 1996, did the International Olympic Committee (IOC) declare protecting the environment a named priority (along with sport and culture.) and with it produce a sustainability strategy for host cities. The importance of the environment is significant for facilitating cities towards sustainability, through rethinking and redesigning the long term future of their cities’ infrastructure and quality of living; bringing a plethora of social and economic benefits with it. A successful example is London 2012, who regenerated a low income, socially struggling area of London, into a thriving community even to this day.

United Nations - 11th Sustainable Development Goal “Sustainable cities and communities”

Sustainability within the Olympics context is a learning curve:

The importance of sustainability within the Olympic games is a focal point. In fact, many cities strive in competition to be the most sustainable games yet; which is great news!

However, despite strategies and plans in place, the execution of these plans falls short. We have seen a range of both failed and successful sustainability attempts and thus, each Olympic games so far is a learning curve for us all; teaching about how and how not to manage the notion of sustainability within a host city.

With just over 2 years until the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Beijing has taken on board the success of previous sustainable attempts. This has enabled them to be on track as the most sustainable Winter Olympics yet.

Beijing 2022 can set a new benchmark for a sustainable Olympic Games, on one hand benefiting from the legacy of the Beijing 2008 and on the other developing a new winter sports destination in a sustainable way," (IOC president Thomas Bach)

Beijing is learning from its successor Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Pyeongchang was the first Winter Olympics to achieve an IOC certification; an environmental standard designed to help events incorporate sustainable practices. This proved to be a huge success for the event in maintaining environmental standards.

In addition, Beijing are also reflecting upon their previous summer Olympic event, in 2008. As a result, Beijing has created an “Olympic Sustainability Advisory Committee. The committee has encompassed standardisation from the offset, to lead and manage sustainability priorities and decision making throughout;

“this is the first time that the Organizing Committee has integrated the notion of sustainable development, into the entire process of preparation, hosting, and subsequent development." (Zhao Yinggang, the deputy director of Beijing 2022 Sustainable Development Council.)

How exactly is Beijing 2022 Olympics enforcing sustainability?

The Beijing 2022 Olympics has implemented a low carbon plan to reduce their carbon footprint. One method they have chosen to do this is to create all Olympic venues to solely function electrically on sustainable energy sources. Furthermore, all transportation services supplied will be done so by clean energy vehicles. This low carbon management plan is implemented right now and for the longevity of the future even after the games have finished; demonstrating to citizens how to live a low carbon lifestyle.

Moreover, the role of reusing Olympic buildings already built in Beijing (from the 2008 Olympics) was a big decider in the outcome of Beijing winning the bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics. By regenerating and rebranding a lot of Olympic venues already in place, this extensively contributes towards a low carbon footprint. Despite some new buildings being under construction for the games, they are done so to environmental standards, enabling a holistic long term purpose for each venue.

“We hope the Beijing 2022 Games will help accelerate the growth of the environmental protection industries, popularise low-carbon lifestyle among the public, boost green and quality development of China’ economy and society, and make the public feel more fulfilled and content”,Zhang Jiandong, Vice Mayor of Beijing.

The role of the Olympic games provides both an opportunity to transform cities to function more sustainably, but also creates a unique learning curve to apprehend and adapt plans and strategies of sustainability. The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics is an exciting event to keep informed about, because the event could lead the way as a flagship for a sustainable Olympic Games, but also prompt the drive for sustainable efforts within cities across China overall.

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