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VANOC's Consultant Gives It a Bronze for Greenness

Suzuki Foundation finds little evidence of strong engagement by the parent organization, and recommends the IOC play a stronger role to ensure that future host cities like London and Sochi follow through on their environmental commitments.

The Vancouver 2010 Olympics deserve a bronze medal for climate protection initiatives, the David Suzuki Foundation concluded in a "climate scorecard" released this week and reported in the Vancouver Sun.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee hired the foundation in 2008 to estimate the carbon impact of the Games and to recommend ways to offset those emissions. Prior to that engagement, the foundation had been one of VANOC's most vocal critics.

David Suzuki himself was at a press conference to award the "medal" to VANOC. He gave the Olympic organizers credit for innovative and energy-efficient venues, but lamented that a legacy of the Winter Games will be more carbon emissions.

The carbon will come from cars and sprawl due to the decision to upgrade the Sea to Sky Highway, instead of investing in rail transit between Vancouver and Whistler.

VANOC could have been more transparent about its sustainability budget and how it acquired offsets, while the International Olympic Committee could have played a stronger role in making sure its sustainability "pillar" is properly upheld, the foundation noted.

Our perspective: The Olympics must set a shining example of sustainability in action. VANOC has instead focused on being a little greener than previous Olympics. At that rate, it will take decades for the Games to eliminate their negative environmental impact.

VANOC will use this moment as an opportunity to close the door on debate about its sustainability practices, hoping that the Games' excitement will dissolve the messy details into a green memory.

Thus we don't expect to see any sustainability-related media reporting objectively from the Games starting next week. Instead, VANOC PR will spoon-feed the broadcast media with the official message of sustainability, which will be delivered unabridged. Watch for music-backed stories of frogs and reclaimed wood, positioning the "greenest games ever" as "carbon neutral" in the minds of the viewing public.