Tuesday, August 24, 1999

Olympic green will be concern

Bidders must have environmental plan

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        If Cincinnati is the host of the 2012 Olympic Games, there will be a green tint on everything from the opening ceremonies to the extinguishing of the torch.

        That's because the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are, for the first time, requiring cities to lay out a plan that ensures the games do no environmental harm.

        That includes the years of preparation and construction leading to the Olympics, as well as the two weeks of athletic competition.

        Mike Moran, spokesman for the USOC, said Olympic cities have addressed environmental concerns in previous years. But this is the first time the USOC has required those issues to be addressed in the bid.

        “The reasons are twofold: First, the environment is a serious issue with almost every country in the world now,” Mr. Moran said. “Second, environmental watchdog groups can torpedo a bid if the city is not adequately sensitive to the issues.

        “I've seen it during stages of bidding and after a city has received the games.”

        Cincinnati's environmental record is spotty, at best.

        The city is one of the worst polluters along the Ohio River. Mill Creek is so polluted by industrial waste and residential development that contact with water in the Mill Creek can make people sick. And the Environmental Protection Agency's new ozone standards were violated at least 10 times this summer.

        But those problems won't necessarily spell failure for the Olympic bid.

        Among the environmental issues the USOC is concerned with:

        • Local efforts aimed at protecting and enhancing the natural environment and cultural heritage during preparations for the games.

        • Protection for wildlife.

        • Environmental impact statements on all sites and facilities.

        • Plans to minimize air and noise pollution from transportation, or infrastructure programs such as road expansion.

        • Plans for sewage treatment and energy management, and how that will affect the region in the future.

        The USOC also asks that bidding cities describe experimental projects or new technology that will help protect the environment, along with statistics on air quality, temperature, humidity and drinking water quality. Cincinnati 2012 Inc., the bid committee, has asked one of its 11 bid development groups to work exclusively on environmental concerns.

        Dennis Murphy, director of Cincinnati's Office of Environmental Management and one of 20 members of the group studying environmental is sues for the Olympic bid, said restoration of the Mill Creek watershed likely will be used as an example of the region's effort to protect habitat and wildlife.

        There are about a dozen agencies — from the Army Corps of Engineers to the grass-roots Mill Creek Watershed Council — working to clean up the 28-mile creek.

        “The creek cuts across political jurisdictions, and it is an area that has received a lot of attention with a lot of different kinds of projects,” Mr. Murphy said.

        Another example could be transportation.

        The city has a fleet of vehicles that run on alternative fuels, such as compressed natural gas and ethanol, which reduce pollution.

        Using cars and buses that are powered by alternative fuels is a way to show that vehicles used to transport athletes and officials wouldn't contribute to air pollution.

        “I think we've come to the point where bidding communities must have a baseline sensitivity to environmental issues,” Mr. Murphy said.

        In three years, the USOC will pick one of eight American cities as a finalist to compete internationally for the summer games in 2012.

        Cincinnati is competing with Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, New York, Washington/Baltimore and Tampa.

        “There are many (environmental) issues to be addressed, and it's difficult to predict what the world will be like 13 years from now,” said Nick Vehr, director of Cincinnati 2012 Inc. “But this provides a great opportunity to use the Olympics to address issues of concern to a community.”


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