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Opinion: Sochi: Going for the Green...But Not Really

Olympic Rings photographer: Benjamin Thomas

With all of the controversy surrounding the Winter Olympics in Sochi this year – Olympic rings that refuse to expand, incomplete construction projects, security issues and LGBT rights – there is one thing Sochi did right.

The Russian Olympic committee had two goals: build the most environmental-friendly Olympic village and use green construction standards for the first time ever in Russia.

Green construction involves the use of eco-friendly building materials, renewable sources of energy, waste minimization, recycling, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and sustainable water and energy use. During the construction of Olympic facilities in Sochi, LEED and BREAM standards were adopted. These LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) standards include heat recovery systems, water reuse systems and rainwater use systems, dual-function heating and cooling technology, energy-saving lighting and more.

The Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee worked closely with leading international experts on environmental protection and construction, including the U.N. environmental protection program (UNEP), the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) and the U.N. Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The protection plans and programs were designed to preserve rare flora and fauna in the area.

While working to meet these green construction standards is wonderful, the publicity of these goals has misled many people worldwide.

The MIT Technology Review revealed that while Sochi officials are saying this is the first ever carbon-neutral games, putting on the Olympics directly emitted 360,000 tons of carbon dioxide. The MIT Technology Review writes that another 160,000 tons were emitted from the travel of judges, spectators and athletes. According to the MIT Technology Review, “That’s the equivalent of providing electricity from a coal plant to about two million people for the duration of the games.”

Part of Russia’s bid to the International Olympic Committee included a “zero waste” games, according to TIME. Clearly that didn’t happen.

You would think that with $51 billion and years to prepare, Sochi could make good on their promises. What it comes down to is that once again, the environment becomes less of a priority than other “more important” issues.

Photo License: Creative Commons