Green Cities

Double Standard: The Rio Games and Environmental Ruin

  This year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, promised to incorporate sustainability. Though the games officially start on Friday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been committed from the beginning to build a sustainable future though ethical event planning and staging, innovations in design and construction, and improvements in energy, water, and waste management. Sustainability reports and agenda’s from the IOC ensure that the environmentally safe practices will be incorporated in all stages of the games—from construction to ethical supply chains and transit options for visitors. The latest addition of the city’s commitment to sustainability sits three-meters high and six-meters wide at Copacabana beach —one of the venues for the Rio games. The iconic Olympic rings are made of 143 pounds of recycled plastic materials. Commissioned by the city government to combine art and sustainability, the rings are a reminder of the city’s commitment to recycling and environmentally responsible practices. The opening show tomorrow will have hints of sustainability, especially reforestation. Brazil has faced international criticism in the past for allowing forested land to be cleared for projects and cattle grazing. More recently, there is criticism from a number of sources that state Rio has not come through on its sustainability commitments in advance of the Games. Polluted waterways in Rio are said to put athletes, guests, and residents at risk for disease though the city and the state spent $10 billion cleaning up waterways since 2009; some scientists warn that athletes could contract “superbugs” resistant to antibiotics. Additionally, throughout Brazil between August 2014 and August 2015, 2,200 square miles of forests were cut down—an area almost five times the size of Rio. Earth Day Network planted over 40,000 trees in Brazil in 2013 and we need to do more. Combating deforestation, protecting the Amazon—the world most biologically diverse forest ecosystem—and providing locals with healthy forests to provide fresh water should be a priority not only in Rio, but throughout Brazil. The double standard of sustainability in the city for the Rio Games, while the rest of Brazil faces pollution and deforestation must be reconciled.