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September 13, 2000
Sydney gets bronze for environmentMichael Perry
Sydney's failure to clean up half a million tonnes of toxic waste in Homebush Bay and land adjacent to the main Olympic site meant it won only qualified approval from environmentalists on Wednesday.
"While the wins are impressive, the losses show that Sydney could have done more to give the planet a sporting chance," said Greenpeace in its final report on the Sydney Games.
"We have awarded Sydney a bronze in its bid to stage the Green Games," said Greenpeace International Olympic campaigner Blair Palese who released the report alongside the organisation's Rainbow Warrior ship berthed in Sydney.
Palese said that if Sydney had cleaned up Homebush Bay and the adjacent Rhodes Peninsula, an area regarded as one of the world's worst dioxin hotspots, it would have won gold.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) welcomed the bronze medal, saying Sydney would be the first truly Green Summer Games and that future host cities would need to better its benchmark.
Chairman of the IOC environment commission Pal Schmitt said the IOC would review Green guidelines shortly after Sydney and bid cities could expect more sophisticated standards.
"These guidelines were prepared six or seven years ago. That means we have to update them. Hopefully, we will have them in place by 2008," he said. "Sydney now is a standard. We are very happy with the bronze medal."
Schmitt said older cities such as Athens, which will hold the 2004 Games and is plagued with air and transport problems, may find it tough to meet the new Green guidelines.
Greenpeace said future Green guidelines should be made law by host cities to ensure they are non-negotiable and that host cities should be independently audited on environmental action.
Greenpeace conceded it was ambitious of Sydney to stage the Olympics on an old industrial site which contained millions of tonnes of waste, including cancer-causing dioxin and heavy metals.
It said nine million cubic metres of waste were dumped at Homebush between the 1930s and 1980, filling more than 160 hectares of wetlands and waterways.
Greenpeace said the 400 tonnes of dioxin buried in special bunkers on the main Olympic site had made it safer in the short-term, but questioned whether safety would be maintained to prevent leaching when it became a new suburb after the Games.
"It will be safe for the Games but there is a longer legacy that we still need to be assured of," said Greenpeace toxic waste campaigner Daryl Luscombe.
"Despite government promises there has been no clean-up of Homebush Bay and the Rhodes Peninsula just off-site. Half a million tonnes of untreated dioxin-contaminated waste remain in the muds of Homebush Bay and on land just 2.5 kms off the Olympic site," said the Greenpeace report.
"The toxic chemicals in Homebush Bay are spread dangerously throughout the environment and cast a dark shadow on Sydney's reputation as host of the first ever Green Olympic Games," said Greenpeace.
But Greenpeace overall praised Sydney's Green Games and called on cities bidding for the 2008 Olympics, such as Beijing and Paris, to learn from Sydney's successes and failures.
It praised Sydney for the use of solar power, with all competition venues and the 665-house Athletes Village using solar energy -- the world's largest solar-powered suburb.
But Greenpeace was critical that none of the 3,000-plus VIP cars to chauffeur the Olympic family are powered by alternative fuels such as liquid petroleum gas as originally promised.
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