Every couple of years, billions of dollars flow into an Olympic host city and its environs for the construction of enormous stadiums, guest hotels, and athlete accommodations.
In the past decade, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has emphasized the measures taken to make these projects—and the Games themselves—sustainable.
But in a world where reducing carbon emissions is an overriding priority, is there still room for the Olympics?
Staging the Olympics comes with a huge environmental footprint. Flying an estimated 28,500 athletes and staff to Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio generated more than 2,000 kilotonnes (kt) of greenhouse gases (GHG)—not to mention the 2,500 kt of GHGs associated with bringing in about half a million spectators.
What’s worse is that the investments made for the Olympics often end up being wasted. After the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, training fields and pools, a beach volleyball court, and a hockey stadium were all left to rot, and the Rio facilities look to be on the same track.