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Powering the Winter Games: Part II

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powering winter games

Last week on the Direct Energy Business blog we chatted about the winter games and the efforts organizers have put into making the games as energy efficient as possible.

Today we’ll be looking back at games from the past to see how they measure up to this winter’s efforts.

Rio 2016 and London 2012 — A Look Back

When we look back at the Rio 2016 Olympics, there are three aspects of energy use that stand out the most.

First there was lighting efficiency, which took the form of, in part, light dimming schedules which used 50% less power via energy-efficient LED.

Second, a new metro train line connected downtown Rio to the western part of the city where several Olympic events took place, with the goal of offsetting 55,449 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

And third, energy-efficient food packaging (microfoaming, which makes for lighter packaging) was used to reduce the carbon footprint.

Even more impressive, the 2012 London Olympics was a prime model for energy use, considered by many to be the greenest games in Olympic history, thanks to a reduced carbon footprint and 20% cut in energy consumption.

Then there was the live energy use dashboard known as ‘Visi’, which the public could view anytime during the games. One thing ‘Visi’ showed was that the Velodrome, the Games legendary, sustainable, indoor cycling track was the most energy efficient venue, utilizing natural lighting and ventilation to hit a 31% energy efficiency mark over standard building regulations. No air conditioning necessary!

It gets even better: the Water Polo Arena was built to be torn down after the games and completely recycled, the Basketball Arena used 65,617 square feet of recyclable PVC fabric, and the Copper Box (for handball and badminton), incorporated 88 (mostly) recycled copper pipes that saved 40% annually on lighting costs, plus had a roof that collected rainwater for waste management (like the Velodrome).

All told it’s no small wonder the 2012 London Olympics reinvented the Olympics energy paradigm.  

The International Olympic Committee — A Look Ahead


The International Olympics Committee (IOC) created and continues to evolve a remarkable sustainability vision, with a deep focus that includes infrastructure/natural sites and climate.

Here’s a look inside at some of the highlights.

Infrastructure and natural sites — design and build an Olympic House to be certified and recognized according to sustainability standards and increase the efficiency of all Olympic buildings. 

  • build viable infrastructure that has minimal footprint
  • respect protected natural areas
  • promote urban green spaces
  • conserve water resources
  • protect water quality

Climate — achieve carbon neutrality through the reduction of indirect and direct greenhouse gas emissions (compensating emissions only as a last resort), including for Olympic corporate events.

  • Align carbon reduction strategies with Paris Climate Agreement
  • Ensure these strategies are in place for operations and events
  • Plan sports facilities and events to adapt to objectives

The visionary path to the IOC’s Sustainability Strategy traces back to 1992.

 Here are some quick-hitting fast facts to give you an idea of how things have unfolded: 

  • 1992: The UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro features the topic of the environment for the first time in the Olympic Games Questionnaire.
  • 1994: Environmental audits are made standard for Olympic Games planning and construction. 80%+ of transport to and from the Olympics are by train or bus.  
  • 1996: Centennial Olympic Park becomes most expansive urban green space in the U.S., at 21 acres. The environment and sustainable development are talked about in the 1998 Olympic Charter.
  • 1998: At Nagano Olympics, meals are served on 900,000 environmentally-friendly paper plates, which are eventually composted for cardboard products or recycled into fuel

  • 1999: The IOC publishes a six-year, $137 plan for transforming Sydney’s degraded Homebush Bay into usable public space for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

  • 2002: In Salt Lake City, the Utah Olympic Oval is the first ever Olympic venue to have LEED green building certification, as it used one-third less steel than the same size building would use otherwise. 18 million trees are planted around the world in the name of the Olympics, with 100,000 of those in Utah.

  • 2004: Over 290,000 large and 11 million small trees are planted in Athens, Greece and the city reconnects its city center to the sea via the redevelopment of the Faliro Coastal Zone.

  • 2006: The Turin Olympics is the first Games to receive international recognition — ISO 14001 and  EMAS — for environmental management. A carbon offsetting program is also instituted.

  • 2007: The IOC is awarded the UNEP Champion of the Earth for promoting sustainable development.

  • 2008: In Beijing, the Olympic Village receives LEED green building gold certification, a first outside the U.S.  At the same time, measures are put in place to grow forestation, improve air quality and improve waste treatment and public sewage treatment systems.

A 2020 Olympic Vision for Hydrogen

Japan is on a mission to take low-carbon emissions to a new low through hydrogen technologies for its 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

A clean energy test on a large scale.

Led by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry together with the Ministry of the Environment, Japan is encouraging the production and use of hydrogen:

The Olympics provide an opportunity for the workforce to demonstrate how low-carbon communities can be created through the combination of these technologies to produce and use carbon dioxide-free, hydrogen-based power at a lower cost.”

Ministry officials are asking those in the science community to build “energy carriers”, including ammonia and methyl-cyclohexane, which can store energy and later be used in heating and other energy applications. The goal is to get the 2020 Japan Olympic Village to be a hydrogen-powered event.

The government is also collaborating with several US universities and businesses to make rechargeable lithium ion batteries (with nanoscale in-cell sensors), which can be used in lightweight hybrid-powered vehicles, which will ultimately save fuel and emissions, and on shrouded wind turbines.

In conclusion, it’s safe to say that the Olympics will continue to showcase energy efficiency efforts in unconventional ways, perhaps teaching the world how to reduce its carbon footprint. If your business is looking for ways to reach sustainability goals, Direct Energy Business has experts who can help.

Request a Call today and we’ll get you in touch with one of seasoned professionals who can help you create a customized plan fit perfectly for business and your business goals.


Posted: February 13, 2018