promised measures, particularly the village design and the environmental
guidelines, were heralded as a major environmental breakthrough
in urban design. "No other event at the beginning of the 21st
Century will have a greater impact on protecting the environment
than the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney," stated a SOBL news
release. New South Wales minister Bruce Baird said that Sydneys
Olympics would be an environmental showpiece to the rest of the
world and a model for other cities to follow in future games (SOBL
1992). Ros Kelly, the Federal Minister for Environment, Sport and
Territories, also put out a news release arguing that "a vote
by the international community for Sydney will be a vote for the
environment" (Kelly 1993).
the bid was won, however, the governments lack of genuine
commitment to a green Olympics became apparent. It discarded the
winning village design, the one that was supposed to be a showcase
of green technology. The consortium of architects that had designed
the village, including the Greenpeace-commissioned architects, complained
of being "absolutely shafted". Within a year, Greenpeace
was forced to denounce the governments failure to keep to
the environmental guidelines written by Short and Bell.
considerations also led the planners to quietly shelve another environmental
showcase, the Olympic Pavilion and Visitors Centre. The original
design had envisaged a centre made of recycled materials with natural
1994, Paul Gilding resigned as head of Greenpeace International
and went into business for himself as an environmental consultant.
One of his clients was Lend Lease/Mirvac, the same company that
had participated in behind-the-scenes strategizing to win the Sydney
bid. Lend Lease was hired to draw up a new plan for the athletes
village. The new village design, unveiled in 1995, was touted as
environmental because it used solar technology, even though the
plans called for the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) as a building
has campaigned internationally against the use of PVCs, and the
environmental guidelines which it helped draft for the Sydney Olympic
Games had called for "minimizing and ideally avoiding the use
of chlorine-based products (organochlorines) such as PCB, PVC and
chlorinated bleached paper". The Olympic Coordination Authoritys
decision to abandon this commitment came in the wake of a deliberate
public relations campaign by the plastics and chemical industry.
1995, Andrew Byrne of the Sydney Morning Herald revealed
how Australias Plastics and Chemical Industries Association
(PACIA) was financing a campaign to undermine commitments to a PVC-free
Games. PACIA was concerned that making the village a PVC-free showpiece
would add momentum to the Greenpeace campaign against organochlorinesa
reasonable fear, since that was precisely the point behind the original
contributions from member companies, the PACIA launched a PVC Defence
Action Fund for the purpose of bringing pro-PVC experts from Europe
to brief key government officials. Other tactics detailed in a document
obtained by Byrne included enlarging its Olympic lobbying program,
developing a "credibility file" on Greenpeace, and promoting
the benefits of PVC on the internet. PVC manufacturer James Hardie
even became a member of the Olympic Village planning consortium.(Byrne
government continued with its own PR activities, offering guided
tours of the Olympic site to the public, and announcing a major
tree-planting effort coordinated by a "Greener Sydney 2000"
committee, which would provide "a unique opportunity to involve
the whole community in the 2000 Olympics". A landscaping project
for the site was heralded as greening the site, even though the
toxic waste beneath remained untreated (Moore 1997, p. 4).
evidence of toxic contamination of the site filtered out, environmentalists
involved in the Olympics bidding began to change their stories.
In 1995, Four Corners, the ABCs major television current
affairs program, featured Greenpeace and Kate Short criticizing
the cover-up of the sites toxic contamination (which they
had known about all along, but had previously refrained from mentioning).
subsequent years, Greenpeace staged various actions to highlight
dioxin contamination in the vicinity of the Olympic site. "Our
investigations show that not only is the Green Games
concept rapidly becoming a cynical farce, but that the presence
of high levels of dioxin at Homebush Bay presents a real environmental
and health threat", stated one Greenpeace news release. David
Richmond, the head of the Olympic Coordination Authority (OCA),
responded by accusing green groups who highlighted toxic contamination
of the Games site as doing "damage to Australia" (Hogarth
number of revelations about dioxin on the Homebush site posed another
public relations crisis for the OCA in 1997. Colin Grant, OCAs
executive director of planning, environment and policy, publicly
stated that the site did not contain any 2,3,7,8 TCDD (the most
toxic form of dioxin). After this statement was proven false, the
OCA was forced to "unreservedly" apologize for the "mistake"
by OCA as an "environmental special adviser," Kate Short
organized a series of forums in 1998 on "Dioxin and Beyond:
Enhancing Remediation Strategies at Homebush." In reality,
the forums were carefully staged public relations events aimed at
creating the appearance of public consultation without the openness
that true public involvement would have required. Attendance was
by invitation only, and the forums primarily showcased speakers
dwelling on good news about the remediation.
the forum series, in what seemed like an attempt to give the forums
a veneer of having been a real consultation, the Australian government
announced that a further $11.6 million would be spent for an "enhanced
remediation program" which would consist of validation, monitoring
and "education and community development" involving school
children, but no further treatment of the wastes.
the pressure mounted for public disclosure of documents relevant
to the Sydney bid, the Games promoters turned again to using the
cover of a private company in order to maintain secrecy, claiming
that its financial documents belonged to internal auditors who were
a private firm and therefore exempt from Freedom of Information
rules (Clark 1999).
involvement in the Olympic Games has been an environmental embarrassment,
it has also been a goldmine of opportunities for the individuals
and organizations that supported the Sydney bid. The Sydney Morning
Herald became a "Team Millennium Partner" for the
Games, and it established a unit to "maximize the associated
Bell and Paul Gilding both left Greenpeace to become consultants
to companies seeking contracts to construct Olympic facilities.
Both have also participated as paid consultants in preparing Stockholms
bid for the 2004 Olympics.
contrast, Robert Cartmel, the Greenpeace campaigner whose misgivings
kept him from joining in the campaign to greenwash Homebush Bay,
has since been squeezed out of his job.
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Andrew (1995) 'Secret fund set up in bid to derail 'green' Olympics',
Sydney Morning Herald, 26 August.
Pilita (1999) 'Slippery Olympics: Why We're in the dark', Sydney
Morning Herald, 8 March, pp. 1-2.
Ros (1993) 'World Environment Day and our environmental olympics',
Murray (1997a) 'Toxic talk poisons Olympic relations', Sydney
Morning Herald, 19 July.
Murray (1997b) 'Olympic village gets all-clear over dioxin', Sydney
Morning Herald, 24 July, p. 5.
Matthew (1997) '$120 million to green Olympic site', Sydney Morning
Herald, 19 February, p. 4.
(1992) 'Committee to Ensure Sydney Games are Green', News Release,
(1993) Sydney 2000 Environment Guidelines, March.
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