Greenpeace (down)grades Athens 2004

Greenpeace has awarded the Athens Olympics organization a gold medal for «lost opportunities for the environment.» A year before the Games begin, the environmental organization says that instead of taking a leaf out of the book of the Sydney Games organizers and using environmentally friendly materials, Athens is in fact diminishing the environmental «pillar» of the Olympics. They claim that particularly the Olympic Village, the supposed «pride» of the Games, is incompatible with every concept of environmental management. According to Greenpeace, the homes in the Olympic Village, which were supposed to meet contemporary energy saving specifications, «are incompatible with the Environment and Public Works Ministry’s Action Plan Energy 2001, relevant ministerial decrees and EU directives.» According to the plan, annual energy requirements for cooling buildings in Athens should not be more than 15-20 kilowatt hours per square meter, yet every home in the Olympic Village requires 40-66 kilowatt hours for the purpose. At the same time, there is no provision for solar systems, not even for hot water. Plastic pipes have been used rather than recycled material, paints are not environmentally friendly and there are no provisions for saving water. Greenpeace does recognize that of the many projects underway, «many of them, particularly in the transport sector, will improve the quality of people’s lives.» It also emphasizes that many of the projects would never have been carried out if the city had not organized the Games. Nevertheless, it claims that an opportunity has been lost to adopt actions and new technologies in energy, construction, water and waste management. «In most cases, they have resorted to the old-fashioned construction method, making no allowances for innovation,» it said. Greenpeace has dismissed the environmental commitments made by the IOC and the Athens 2004 Organization as nothing but promises forgotten as soon as made. It accuses the IOC of turning a blind eye to Athens’s failure to protect the environment during the Games preparations. It accuses the Athens 2004 organization of doing nothing more than declaring its good intentions, and the government, particularly the Environment and Public Works Ministry, of not adopting any action to highlight the environment as one of Athens’s strong points, as was emphasized in its candidacy. «The contractors have made no attempt to diverge from their conventional obligations, ruling out any innovative environmentally friendly alternative,» Greenpeace said.