SAN FRANCISCO, 15 JUNE 2008
Dear EarthTalk: The 2008 Summer
Olympics in China are drawing a lot of attention right now
reasons . I've heard, though, that one ray of light is
China's effort to make the event as green as possible. What's
going on in that regard?
Josh Rogers, Concord, NH
It's true that China is using the upcoming Beijing Olympics as
a sustainability showcase, going so far as to dub the event the
"Green Olympics." Through a partnership with the U.S.
government and the Maryland-based International Center for
Sustainable Development, China is giving Beijing a green
makeover to make the city a model for net zero pollution, green
building and sustainable community development.
According to China's Technology Minister Wan Gang, the Beijing
Olympics are expected to generate some 1.2 million tons of
carbon dioxide, in large part because of the flying the world's
athletes will do to get to and from the games. To offset these
potent greenhouse gases, China will take a series of measures,
Wan says, including planting trees, closing 1,000 small coal
mines before and during the games and banning up to a million
cars from city streets.
Beijing's Olympic Village, where the Chinese government has
been busy erecting dozens of stadiums and other structures
according to rigorous green standards, is emerging as quite an
example of sustainable community development. The steel-looped
Beijing National Stadium, for instance, includes a rainwater
collection arrangement, a natural ventilation system and a
clear roof with inflatable cushions made from ETFE (Ethylene
Tetrafluoroethylene), a kind of plastic that increases light
and heat penetration.
The "Birdcage," one of seven Olympic stadiums
being built in Beijing for the upcoming 2008 Summer
Olympics equipped with solar generators.
Photo: Beijing 2008 Olympic
Another example is the "Water Cube," a spectacular-looking
structure that looks like a building made of bubble-wrap.
Officially known as the National Aquatics Center, it is
completely surrounded with ETFE pillows and is expected to cut
energy use by 30 percent. And when it has finished serving its
purpose as an Olympic venue, it has been built to be converted
to a shopping area and leisure center with tennis courts,
retail outlets, nightclubs and restaurants.
All seven main Olympic stadiums are equipped with solar
generators capable of outputting 480 kilowatts of energy at any
given moment. Ninety percent of the lighting outside the
stadiums, as well as the entire hot water supply for the
Olympic Village will be powered by solar energy. Also, the main
stadiums will receive power from Beijing's first wind farm.
While the Olympic Games will only last for two weeks,
environmentalists hope the greening of Beijing will indeed
continue beyond the summer '08. Some proposals include building
14 wastewater treatment facilities to achieve 90 percent
treatment rate in Beijing, and extending potable water to the
Also, the municipal government of Beijing has invested in
expensive energy-efficient heating and transportation equipment
that will greatly improve environmental quality for decades
hence. Beijing, where 1,000 new cars roll onto the streets
every day, also plans to source clean energy from other parts
of China and through the purchase of pollution offsets on a
quickly expanding international market.
CONTACTS: ICSD Beijing 2008 Green
Olympics Initiative, www.solarcities.org/beijingolympics.htm;
Beijing 2008 Olympic
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