20 Aug 2016
While the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Rio 2016 shared a message of environmental protection with the world, sustainability is already a key focus of the International Olympic Committee and Olympic Agenda 2020.
The strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement ensures that all Olympic host cities look closely at sustainability when they are planning and staging the Olympic Games, but many past host cities can already point to concrete examples of their own sustainability efforts.
The Olympic Games Sydney 2000, for example, worked hard to minimize the environmental impact of the event, with the Olympic venues built using sustainable materials and designed with a strong focus on energy and water conservation. Hosting the Games also led to the establishment of Australia's first large-scale urban water recycling system, which continues to save approximately 850 million litres of drinking water each year.
Furthermore, construction of the Sydney Olympic Park led to the restoration of approximately 160 hectares of badly degraded land and the establishment of one of the largest urban parklands in Australia. As a result, the local community is now able to enjoy 35km of cycle paths and walking trails, BBQ and family picnic facilities, bird watching, playgrounds and water play areas.
In addition to these environmental benefits, the venues that were built for the Games are still in use today, providing Sydney with long-term sustainable legacies. The Olympic Park – which was built especially for the Games and housed a number of key Olympic venues – has since become a thriving commercial, residential and sporting precinct that is internationally recognised for its world-class events, facilities and parklands.
The Park’s Olympic Stadium continues to host a range of major sporting events – including the 2003 Rugby World Cup final – while the neighbouring indoor arena regularly stages international pop concerts, as well as elite netball and basketball games.
The Sydney Showground Stadium, which hosted baseball during the 2000 Games, is now home to professional cricket and Australian Rules football teams, while the tennis, swimming, archery and hockey venues are all regularly used by the local community. In total, the Park’s venues host more than 5,700 events each year and welcome 10.5 million annual visitors.
The continued use of these venues means the economic benefits of the Games are still being enjoyed, with the Sydney Olympic Park annually generating well in excess of AUD 1 billion in economic activity for the host state, New South Wales. As a whole, the Games are estimated to have brought about a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) uplift of between AUD 6-7 billion (USD 4.8-5.3 billion), creating over 100,000 new jobs and boosting the number of tourists by approximately 1.6 million per year.
But for Cathy Freeman – one of the undoubted stars of the 2000 Games – the most significant legacy is one that can’t be measured.
“To me, the legacy lies in those intangible qualities such as the stories that people have to tell now because of the Olympic Games,” says the 400m gold medallist. “These are stories that can be passed on from generation to generation. For example, the night of my race, people are still talking about that event. People are still excited; people are still in that moment.”
With the start of the Olympic Games Rio 2016, those memories are sure to be stirred again, while reminders of the success legacies of Sydney 2000 are still evident throughout the city.