Are the Olympics worth it? That was the question posed to the Sports, Legacy and Sustainability panel on March 13, 2010. Bruce Kidd, former Olympic athlete and guru of sports and sustainability, anchored the panel with an opening reflection on sustainability in Olympics past. He seemed encouraged by the progress, yet hesitant to answer yes to his question.
Bruce gave credit where credit is due: VANOC did build some of the greenest buildings in the world to host athletes; it was the first Olympics to embrace Aboriginal participation at the organizing level; and, VANOC’s Buy Smart program broke ground in the area of sustainable purchasing.
The most important legacy of the Games is athleticism, before the environment, before anything according to Kidd. And although Canada has proudly hosted three Olympic Games, we were disappointed to hear that participation of children and youth in sports in this country is plummeting.
Kidd was joined by Derek Wyatt, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Group and James Tansey of Offsetters. Wyatt talked candidly about the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) lack of commitment to ensuring a sustainable legacy in Host Cities. In his opinion, Host Cities carry the sustainability agenda with little support from the IOC.
Wyatt is advocating for the IOC to support the creation of an “Olympic University” in London that would provide training and education to disenfranchised inner-city East Londoners. Wyatt believes this is a missed opportunity. The Organizing Committee for London 2012 could hire more of the so called “underemployed” inner-City folks from East London if training was provided amongst this population.
James Tansey was more positive and sited the sustainability wins of VANOC including their commitments to offsetting the carbon footprint, the green building designs and the training legacy of the Buy Smart program.
Despite having different priorities, the panellists agreed that Host Cities and those who live there feel a deep sense of human spirit and pride, which in itself is a large legacy. Human’s need food for the body as well as the heart, said Kidd. To paraphrase James Tansey: ‘on that gold medal Sunday, Canadians had so much pride they didn’t know what to do with it’.
This is a debate that will continue. We see many benefits – but are waiting to learn more about the real results before making a final decision. What do you think? “Is it worth it?” Please post your comments as you begin to reflect on your Olympic legacy.