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Agreement to Boost Environmental Awareness at Summer Olympics

Eco Assistance Also Offered to Cities Bidding for 2012 Games

Nairobi/Athens, 2 June 2004 – An agreement aimed at boosting the environmental profile of this year’s summer Olympic Games has been made between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Athens organizers.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed today in the Olympic Tennis Centre in the Greek capital between the Organizing Committee for the Athens 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games (ATHOC) and UNEP.

UNEP also announced that it was establishing contact with the five cities short-listed for the Summer Olympic Games of 2012 to discuss how the environment can feature high in their proposals.

Klaus Toepfer, UNEP’s Executive Director, said: “Athens 2004 have made environmental commitments in areas such as recycling, public awareness and developing green spaces. We are sure that some of these will leave a lasting and healthy legacy beyond this year's summer games”.

“It should also be made clear that these 2004 Summer Olympic Games are being organized in one of the most difficult atmospheres of recent times with heightened concerns about security. The organizers have taken this issue seriously to ensure a safe and secure Olympics. But this has probably come at a price and other considerations, including parts of their environmental programme, may alas have fallen short of their initial aspirations,” he added.

“We hope to be closely involved in evaluating the environmental legacy of the Athens Games. We hope to make these findings and our environmental knowledge, gained not only through Athens but from our involvement in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Torino, available to others including those cities bidding for the 2012 Olympics,” said Mr. Toepfer.

The agreement with Athens was signed by Eric Falt, Director of UNEP’s Division of Communications and Public Information and Yannis Pyrgiotis, the Executive Director of ATHOC, in the presence of the media and representatives of non-governmental organizations.

One key clause of the MOU calls for ATHOC to develop a compilation of ‘Environmental Challenges and Achievements’ of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. This will offer a detailed account of the environmental perspective concerning all aspects of the Games – including a specific assessment concerning the venues.

UNEP and ATHOC will also develop and implement jointly two public awareness and educational campaigns, one on waste management and anti-littering and the other on water conservation.

The two organizations will also co-sign brochures developed specifically for 9 different venues and dealing with their environmental profile and management. One additional brochure will be disseminated at all venues, and will promote an environment-friendly ‘Code of Conduct’ for all visitors. In addition, the scoreboards and video boards at Olympic venues will carry environment-related messages.

In a letter to Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, Mr. Toepfer however recognized that much more needed to be done to ensure that the environment is even more central in future Olympic Games.

He wrote: “I would like to inform you that I have written letters to the five short listed candidates offering UNEP’s assistance in refining the environment component of their bids”.

In Mr. Toepfer’s letter to the five cities, which are London, Madrid, Moscow, New York and Paris, he says: “ Your bid explicitly recognizes the importance of incorporating environmental responsibility into the planning and staging of the Olympic Games. In this regard, I would like to formally offer the assistance of UNEP in helping you to strengthen the environmental component of your bid”.

Meanwhile, UNEP has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Turin 2006 Olympic Winter Games Organizers (TOROC).

The agreement, made on 4 June 2003, involves UNEP and TOROC working together to promote environmental issues during the planning and staging of these Games.

As a result of the agreement, TOROC has subscribed to the International Cleaner Production Declaration and has already incorporated clean production mechanisms in its activities and green procurement in its purchases. UNEP and TOROC also plan to implement public awareness campaigns on the environment prior to and during the Games.

A key challenge of future Olympics is also related to the involvement of civil society. “One of the lessons from Athens is that governments and organizing committees must better involve civil society organizations and other non-State actors in the implementation of their environmental agenda”, said Mr Falt.

He noted as very positive the decision of ATHOC to celebrate World Environment 2004 on 5 June in close collaboration with the Athens Environmental Foundation (AEF). As part of the event, hundreds of divers led by Jean-Michel Cousteau and AEF Executive Director Tony Diamantidis will carry out an underwater clean-up at sites on the Greek coast including the Port of Athens.

The involvement of young people is also crucial to the implementation of a green agenda for future Games. In this context, UNEP is devoting four pages of its institutional magazine for youth, Tunza Magazine, to the environmental dimension of the Athens Games.

The June issue of Tunza Magazine, focused exclusively on the Sport and the Environment and features current and former Olympic athletes – Kipchoge Keino, Frankie Fredericks and Manuela di Centa. “We have to look after the environment” says Frankie Fredericks, Olympic sprinter “If we keep destroying it, it will be difficult for future generations to have clean air”

“I have chosen to dedicate my life to sport, and in particular cross-country skiing, because I feel at ease in the environment in which I move, suffer and live. It was also love for nature, the desire to feel closer to nature through physical hardship, that led me to discover extreme and unique environment,” says Manuela di Centa, Olympic Gold Medallist.

Notes to Editors

UNEP has developed an active Sport and Environment Programme since 1994 to promote environmental considerations in sport events worldwide and raise environmental awareness through sport. In February 2003, the UNEP Governing Council adopted a long-term strategy on Sport and Environment, which seeks to further promote the linkages between sport and environment among the public, particularly young people and to promote environmental awareness and action by the public through sports events. The strategy also seeks to develop partnership with sports organizations, federations and specifically requests UNEP to initiate cooperation with Olympic host cities.

UNEP and the IOC signed a Cooperative Agreement in 1994. A Sport and Environment Commission was established by the IOC to advise the Executive Board on environmental issues and the Olympic Games. UNEP is represented in the Commission by its Special Representative on Sport and the Environment, Mr. Tore Brevik. The environment has become a key element in the consideration of bids to host Olympic Games. UNEP also supports the organization of the biennial IOC World Conference on Sport and Environment and regional seminars on sport and the environment. These activities have ensured that environmental issues are regularly reviewed by members of the Olympic Movement.

Tunza Magazine can be viewed at www.ourplanet.com

For More Information Please Contact Eric Falt Spokesperson/Director of UNEP’s Division of Communications and Public Information, Tel: +254 20 623292, Mobile: +254 (0) 733 682656, Email: eric.falt@unep.org or Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media, Tel: +254 20 623084, Mobile: +254 733 632755, E-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org





Further Resources

Organizing Committee for the Athens 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games (ATHOC)

UNEP's website on Sport and Environment

TUNZA, UNEP's magazine for youth
Special issue on Sport & The Environment


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