Magazine article Newsweek

A Green Medal for the Sydney Games?

Magazine article Newsweek

A Green Medal for the Sydney Games?

Article excerpt

Ten years ago HomeBush Bay in Sydney, Australia, was an abandoned, noxious marsh. The site, 1,900 square acres only nine miles west of downtown, was once home to chemical companies like Union Carbide, which discarded their toxic byproducts in rusting drums near the harbor. Today Homebush Bay looks a lot different. Cranes lift steel trusses onto the skeleton of a brand-new sports stadium. A modern ferry wharf, raft-way station and main boulevard are near completion. The area has been reclaimed, and come September 2000 it will play host to the XXVII Summer Olympics.

The rehabilitation of Homebush Bay is an example of "sustainable development"--economic growth that preserves the environment for future generations. Since 1902, when 100 world leaders gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the Earth Summit, sustainable development has ostensibly been a planetwide goal. But a lack of progress, especially in the developing world, has disappointed environmentalists. The Sydney Games, however, may provide a new spark. The city and its Olympic committee, along with environmentalist organizations like Greenpeace, are aiming to make the Games a living laboratory for sustainable-development techniques. Says William Browning of the Colorado-based Green Development Services, "Sydney could be our big breakthrough, and a very visible one."

The Green movement needs it. Last June world leaders met in New York to evaluate their progress five years after the Earth Summit, and gave themselves a failing grade. Since 1992 industrial countries have failed to fork over a promised $125 million in new, annual aid to guide eco-friendly growth in developing countries. Meanwhile, deforestation, species extinction and the use of industrial pollutants continue to climb.

The millennial Games, their planners hope, will get sustainable development back on track by boosting public awareness. …

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