Environment in Crisis

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The Green Olympics?

Winning the Bid
Games Preparation
Media and Secrecy
Leaky Landfill


When Sydney won its bid to host the Olympic Games in the year 2000, it hyped the Games as the "greenest" summer Olympics of all time. But a massive toxic waste dump lies underneath the fine landscaping of the Olympic site at Homebush Bay. The dump is covered by a metre of dirt and a mountain of public relations.

Homebush Bay is a former industrial site and armaments depot which, before its transformation, was subjected to years of unregulated waste dumping. In recent years asbestos-contaminated waste and chemicals including dioxins and pesticides have been found there, along with arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury and zinc. It is the worst toxic waste dump in Australia, and the bay into which the waste leaches is so contaminated that fishing in it is banned. The sediments in the bay have concentrations of dioxin that make it one of the world’s worst dioxin hot spots. The dioxin is largely the result of waste from a Union Carbide factory, which manufactured the notorious herbicide Agent Orange there during the Vietnam war.

What is impressive, in PR terms, is the way this massive toxic waste site has been transformed into a "green showcase", thanks in large part to the endorsement of Greenpeace and other key Australian environmentalists.

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Additional References:

Sharon Beder, Sydney's Toxic Green Olympics, Current Affairs Bulletin 70(6), November 1993, pp.12-18.

Sharon Beder, Sydney's Olympic Landscape: A Toxic Cover-up, Search 27 (7) August 1996, pp. 209-211.

Sharon Beder, "Leaky landfill" the way to go?, Engineers Australia, October 1998, p. 62.

Sharon Beder, Greenwashing an Olympic-Sized Toxic Dump, PR Watch, 6(2), 1999, pp. 1-6.

Sharon Beder, Media Self-Censorship in Australia's Olympics Bid, PR Watch, 6(2), 1999, pp. 7-8.

Sharon Beder, Selling a Leaky Landfill as the "World's Best Practice", PR Watch, 6(2), 1999, p. 9.

Sharon Beder, Green gloss over toxic Olympics site, Canberra Times, 23 September 1999, p. 10.

Sharon Beder, Let the Spin Begin!, Harper's Magazine, May 2000, pp. 50-1.

Sharon Beder, '. . . And what the tourists will not see', Sunday Age, 18 June 2000, p. 8.

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© 2003 Sharon Beder