Editor’s note - An Olympic Dream

PHOTO: CHRISTINE MCAVOY

With the attention of the nation recently focused on the greenest ever Winter Olympics [no irony intended], everyone seemed to be rushing to the microphone.

The David Suzuki Foundation awarded the games organizers a bronze medal for their efforts to meet the sustainability goals set out in their winning bid. Among the successes cited in the report, the sustainable design of the venues features prominently.

There are certainly some notable achievements, including the extensive use of mountain pine beetle wood in the Richmond Oval and the spectacular living roof of the new Vancouver Convention Centre [See article in this issue]. On the negative side, the organizers came under fire for reneging on their commitment to buy carbon offsets for Olympic visitors arriving by air. However, Suzuki fell short of questioning the basic premise of the Olympics itself.

But when one adds to the environmental impact of air travel, the scale, complexity and effect on the community of ground transportation and security operations, not to mention the cost in cash and carbon of trucking snow to Cypress Mountain, perhaps it is time to reconsider the value of such massive international events.

Could future Olympics not be a more sustainable combination of the real and the virtual? Perhaps we could mount concurrent world championships for each sport, but hold them in different cities linked by the magic of live television. After all, the world has come together this way at times of crisis, so why not at times of celebration?
If Phil Collins can unite us by performing live in New York and London in a single day for Live Aid – then a city a day for the two weeks of a Virtual Olympics should be no problem. This way, the environmental footprint would be reduced, the social impacts minimized, and the economic benefits more widely dispersed.

Who knows, Collins might even waive his appearance fee if IOC would cover the cost of his carbon offsets.  That, at least, is my Olympic Dream.

Jim Taggart, MRAIC
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