Dec 6th, 2023, 01:00 PM

The 'Green' Olympics Hoax

By Francesca De Nisco
The Seine has been a site of Olympic environmental concern. (Image Credit: Elsa Darlington)
Can the Paris 2024 Games deliver on its eco promises?

The Olympic games are a nightmare for the climate. The last two summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo released 2.7 million and 4.5 million tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, respectively. As the Paris 2024 Olympics approaches, can French authorities French be claim the Games will be ‘environmentally friendly’ this time around?

The Olympic Committee is determined to reduce the carbon footprint of the 2024 games by making changes to the preparation process, minimizing new construction, and using existing venues. In fact, the only venue being built from scratch is the Aquatics Centre.

The building of Olympic venues and infrastructure has historically unsustainable environmental effects. Most of the time, buildings for the Olympics use energy from a power grid, which is coal-powered. Coal has significant carbon, mercury, sulfur, and nitrogen emissions.

AFP Climate Journalist, Marlowe Hood. (Image Credit: Constanze Melz)

All energy powering the venues will be renewable and generated by wind and solar farms, and the Olympic Committee has partnered with the Ministry of Sport and the French National Olympic and Sports Committee to develop an app called Climate Coach, designed to predict, and reduce carbon footprint.

Although the carbon impact will be less than in previous games, its harm will not be totally eradicated. There is an expected carbon emission of 1.58 million tons for the Paris 2024 games and Paris 2024 and several past Olympics have been accused of ‘Greenwashing’, meaning their claims about environmental sustainability are believed to be only for show.

Marlowe Hood, an award-winning climate journalist, spoke to The American University of Paris’ Student Media last month. He discussed to these greenwashing allegations, stating, “I would say Paris is making a good faith effort, I don’t think they are greenwashing in the sense of trying to get away with something knowingly it's more about people who have good intentions but can’t deliver.”

Hood speaking to AUP Students about Climate Journalism. (Image Credit: Fiona Schlumberger)

Paris 2024 is using the ARO approach (Avoid, Reduce, Offset), which prioritizes taking account of carbon costs in advance rather than doing a post-event carbon assessment. There has been criticism stating that the ARO approach has been adopted to put off paying compensation without taking the more difficult step of ceasing carbon emissions.

Transportation during the Olympics will also have devastating effects on the environment. 10,500 athletes are travelling to Paris for the 2024 games and over a million tourists. Tourism in France already has existing issues with pollution and overcrowding. In 2018, tourism in France alone caused 118 million carbon emissions.

On the possibility of a ‘sustainable’ Olympics, Marlowe added, “Let’s say the goal is carbon neutral (when the last event is over, there will have not been any extra emissions) then that is where you must look very carefully at how they claim to do that. You must look at how credible those offsets are a lot of those claims now are based on carbon offsets, which is based on the idea that we are still going to admit the stuff, but we are finding a way to compensate for it.”

With good intentions and promises from the Paris 2024 Olympics, only time will tell if they will be delivered next summer.