Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Do you know about the environmental impact of 2014 Olympic Sochi village?

And that is just the least of it.
While I enjoy watching sports, I'm guilty of being a troll around the games (and I'm not the only one!). In fact, I like to think about the impact of humans on our planet, I may not be alone.
To cut to the chase, any or all, this is what I think could be done:
  1. Limit the number of athletes per country per event, rather than Canada entering 3 bobsled teams, for example.
  2. Instead of building new venues, rebuild those already in existence.
    Mackay - used with permission
  3. Cancel the Olympic Games in lieu of world-class events, such as the X-Games, World Figure Skating Championships, or Commonwealth Games, with media coverage, annual medals.
  4. Limit the age of participants to those of about university age (16 - 22 years).
  5. Eliminate elite full-time athletes, professional athletes, such as NHL millionaires, to level the playing field.
  6. Limit the number of events in which an individual competitor can enter.
  7. Remove the gender bias, create an equal number of events for men and women.
  8. Eliminate physical and financial bias: integrate the schedule of the Olympics and the Paralympics to be held concurrently.
  9. Create fewer subcategory sports, and more diversity.
  10. Eliminate judged sports in the Olympics.
  11. Value the top 10, top 20 finishers, top 100: no one 'fails' who is fit. No one fails, who tries and qualifies. 
  12. Make activity accessible to all: direct education into creating a Participation Lifestyle and Masters competitions.
  13. Redirect Canadian Olympic cost savings to funding more child and adult amateur sports to fight obesity.
  14. Provide work for retired Olympic athletes, to coach and train kids in universities and high schools, the workplace.

Biopsychosocial costs 

There was controversy surrounding the games, of course, in the areas of human rights, equity, fairness, and especially around unfairly judged sports. Canadians, at the very least, should be critical. The pressure to perform in extreme sports, such as the halfpipe, killed Sarah Burke. The pressure to perform triple and quadruple jumps, in lieu of an emotional skate in individual skating performances, lessens the enjoyment for me. Falling, apparently, is de rigeur... e.g., Julia Lipnitskaya, who is 15 

The pressure on Canadian to achieve gold at all costs, concerns me. Not only financial, but the costs of physically repairing torn bodies, torn ligaments and torn minds. If we are directing psychologists and physiotherapists (Tessa Virtue's full-time physio) to care for elite athletes, what about the average person who needs such support to simply earn a living? It doesn't seem just. We abandon an athlete, after the Olympic Games, leaving them without a purpose in life or a job.

My brother, mom, myself
skating at Toronto City Hall
There is no equity in full-time sports. You need financial backing of some sort, which does not level the playing field.  How, in all good conscience, can we send 2 dozen hockey player millionaires to Sochi?

Emotional costs

Then there is the emotional toil on families, who must manage former athletes who are seriously injured or die from their performance training. (Sarah Burke ruptured artery, 1983 - 2010; neck and spinal injuries, ADAPTIVE SNOWBOARDER MATTY ROBINSON DIES AFTER CRASH ; Canada 3's Sorenson concussion; knee injuries, Devin Logan out for season with injury).
We can read about people, like Clara Hughes, biker, skater; Oliver Bone, sailor; Caroline Olivier; freestyle skier,) all who faced depression after their medal career bids were over.

Subjective judging

Me, dad, my little brother
Judging occurs in many sports, none so unfair as at the corrupt Olympics. Figure skating is the first that pops in our minds, but the so-called X-Games sports, were subject to interpretation. No longer is it just the highest, fastest or strongest. The esthetics of sports, like figure skating, seems overlooked. The judges valued Sotnikova's 7 triple jumps over Kim's 6, but "her grace, maturity, composure and soaring jumping ability", and "a poised and flowing tango routine", according to Jere Longman. To my mind's eye, Kim seemed more beautiful and existential. Virtue and Moir, accused of messing up the Finn step, seemed more poised, and in the zone. 

Canada Pond Hockey rink, Gravenhurst
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been accused of bribery and corruption, as well. It's a big, well-oiled machine, sucking up taxpayers money from all parts of the world, traveling to countries to accept wining and dining in return for their votes. With many developed countries paying athletes, coaches, equipment suppliers, psychologists and consultants to produce gold medals, I'm still wondering at the efficacy and the justness of the IOC machine.  ("International Skating Union out of touch on judging controversy").

Financial costs

I truly question how a country, like Russia, can spend $51 billion on this event, where people live in substandard housing.  With the average Russian unable to attend, due to the high cost in both
time and money, to spend a month's salary on tickets, lining up for hours to get a visitor pass, it seems insane. Residents, promised upgrades to lifelong housing, have been left hanging.

I'm afraid to check out how much Canada spends ($37 million in Own the Podium alone). A speedskater is selling her medal, and her skates, to pay for further training for 2018. "Olympic speedskater Anouk Leblanc-Boucher wants $1M for medal"
There are many places to raise the flag!

The Fuelling Athlete and Coaching Excellence Program (FACE)TM

Athletes and coaches can use the funding for:
  • training
  • equipment 
  • travel to competition
To date, the FACE program has helped over 2,400 Canadian athletes and their coaches by providing more than $8,000,000 dollars in direct financial support.

Environmental costs

The sheer impact of the mountain venues have largely gone unaddressed. Those who used to walk in these pristine mountains, have been highly critical of the venues where fragile forests, subject to erosion before the construction of these race tracks before they were built, are now unlikely to be maintained.

There are accusations of illegal dumping of garbage created from the construction process. Construction has blocked the migration routes of animals (brown bear, birds), limited access to drinking water for locals, and decreased the quality of life for city residents.

Canada’s Olympians not exempt from depression and anxiety even with ...
But athletes are not exempt from ... That 2010 French study concluded the most common diagnosed disorders among athletes were anxiety and depression.

Sochi Winter Olympics Criticized for Environmental Problems | TIME.com
  Sochi organizers pushed ahead with ... issuing interim sustainability reports measuring their environmental impact and devising an environmental strategy. As part of its bid, Russia told IOC members it would be staging a “zero waste” Games that followed green building standards. This was a huge challenge: organizers had to build infrastructure to host 88 other competing countries, the world’s media and hundreds of thousands of spectators in an underdeveloped region that was home to a UNESCO World Heritage site and a national park.

Canadian Olympic Committee boosting Own the Podium funding | CTV News
 Over the next four years, the Canadian Olympic Committee will pour $37 million into high-performance sport and the “ Own The Podium” program. The funding, which will go toward both summer and winter sports, is a 48% increase over the amount spent in the previous four years

Environmental activist who criticised impact of Sochi Winter Olympics is jailed

Vitishko, a geologist, is a member of the Environmental Watch on North Caucasus activist group and one of the most prominent figures in a campaign to shed light on the environmental impact of Olympic construction in the city of Sochi.

"Sochi 2014: the costliest Olympics yet but where has all the money gone?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-02-12.

Total estimated costs of recent Olympics (including Games-related infrastructure)

Beijing 2008 $43bn
Vancouver 2010 $8.9bn
London 2012 $13.9bn
Sochi 2014 $51bn


EG CameraGirl said...

The costs are indeed scary!

Red said...

You've done your research. Many people would agree with you and just as many disagree. the Olympics have become major money makers and that's what kills most of it.

Carver said...

Very well thought out post. I enjoy watching the Olympics but the issues you brought up bother me too.

DeniseinVA said...

A well informed post Jen, a lot to think about there, many good points made.

Debbie said...

WoW...this is a great entry, packed with lot's of information and facts we rarely think about.

and couldn't that money be but to better use, like feeding and clothing the homeless. educating our youth. i have always had so many mixed emotions about the olympics....the cost to build the venues is astronomical. can't we just pick one spot and use the same venues every four years??

you sure did do some time consuming research on this entry!!

Kay said...

To be perfectly honest, I was really glad that Chicago didn't get the Olympics it was vying for. We knew the cost would be astronomical and I didn't even figure in the things you've mentioned.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

I hear you on all the things you bring up. The thing is that many of us want to watch the world's best compete at the highest level of competition and all corrupt judging and such is part of the game.

Sochi was a bad choice for a venue because of the apparent environmental impact and huge corruption. Plus Putin seemed like it was a forum for legitmizing his particular kind of brutality.

You raise a lot of good points.