After the unqualified success of Sydney's now famous Green Olympics it is clear that any city wishing to cost future Games will have to develop its environmental credentials. The lesson is Lot lost on the Beijing 2008 Olympic James Bid Committee, which is now set upon surpassing Sydney's achievements in pledging to deliver the first true Green Olympics.
The environment was certainly prominent n the city's bid campaign. "Across the board n infrastructure, technology, facilities and environmental protection we are sparing no effort to ensure that if selected as the site for he 2008 Games, Beijing will host the most successful, most technically advanced and greenest Games ever," said Liu Jingmin, vice mayor of Beijing and vice president of the 3eijing bid committee.
Critics of the bid point to Beijing's atrocious air standards, water quality and supply problems, its human rights reputation, and its underdeveloped tourist and transport infrastructure. However, China has developed an nay of environmental-goals which, if delivered, could make a real difference to the capital's environment.
The environmental clean-up after years of unfettered industrial development will not be easy. Compared with Sydney's clean-up of Homebush Bay, the main venue of the 2000 Olympics, Beijing's task seems daunting. The most significant difference is that Beijing's environmental problems are not located in one area; they are in fact widespread and mobile. Beijing's 2m citizens are all too familiar with heavy sandstorms blowing in from, the north, chronic air pollution, and inadequate water supply and quality levels.
Not to be intimidated, Beijing is ping all out to tackle these problems. Some US$12.2bn has been "located for environmental cleanups between 1998 and 2007. From hat, US$5.4bn will be invested in leaning the city's polluted air and waterways. Goals include the eradication of industrial pollution in the city proper and the establishment of an air quality index set by the World Health Organisation. A second natural gas pipeline will be built, supplying the city with natural gas direct from Shaanxi province.
Current automobile emission levels will be cut by 60 percent, most buses and taxis are to be fitted with natural gas engines, and coal-fuelled boilers will be eliminated in all but a few large power plants. The city will also install 14 new wastewater treatment plants to treat 90 percent of its wastewater, half of which is to be reused, along with ensuring the safe disposal of all urban garbage. In addition, 40 percent of Beijing is to be planted with new trees.
As we wait for more project details to emerge, it is clear that turning these laudable targets into reality may prove to be a real headache. Among many problems to be faced include the lack of individual purchasing power to install clean and energy-saving household technology within homes.
Despite these difficulties, however, confidence in Beijing's eventual success is high. Most residents believe the city, and China, will deliver brilliant results.
For the proposed site, the bid committee has managed to secure one of Beijing's top locations – Olympic Green. The site is in Wa Li county, on the northern tip of the city's central axis is where more than half of the
Olympic venues will be located. It is being established as a technological showcase, displaying cutting-edge environmental technology that includes solar-powered venues using recycled water.
With 10,000 athletes and 500,000 spectators expected to attend the Games, Beijing will be testing new technology that may be introduced citywide. Potential programmes include the utilisation of renewable energy, the reduction of greenhouse gases and the conservation of natural resources. If feasible, these programmes may eventually be introduced throughout China.
In many respects, Beijing's promotion of environmental protection has already started to pay off. Most notably, residents have noticed some improvements in the city's air quality. Since 1998, the year the Olympic bid machine ground into action, the concentrations of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, total suspended particulates and carbon dioxide have decreased by 41 percent, 18 percent, seven percent and 21 percent respectively. Although this is part of a national trend, the city pledges to keep combating environmental problems regardless of the 2008 Olympic Games.
A successful Olympics gives the opportunity for a city, or indeed a nation, to present itself as modern, innovative and creative. It will also bring considerable financial riches. It is estimated that investment and consumption related to the 2008 Olympics will contribute 0.3 percent to the country's economic growth. Tourist revenue will be counted in millions of dollars and northern China can expect to see a much-needed new impetus in foreign investment.
The environmental achievements of the 2000 Olympic Games raised the bar. If Beijing is to gain the prestige it craves, it will have to surpass Sydney's standards and deliver quantifiable environmental gains to its citizens and the Olympic movement.
This article was written by Environmental Resources Management (ERM) China. ERM China was the first and remains the largest environmental, health, safety and social (EHSS) consultancy in China. With offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, it is able to provide consulting services to clients throughout the country.