March 1, 2006

Urban Winter Olympics could protect environment: UN

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) - Future Winter Olympic organizers should
follow Turin's example and stage as many events as possible in
cities to help protect the environment in mountain areas, a
U.N. agency said on Wednesday.

The U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) also urged better
recycling of sports venues, suggesting that the 2010 Games in
Canada's Vancouver could re-use a bobsleigh run built for the
1988 Olympics in Calgary, about 670 km (415 miles) to the east.

"Contrary to some suggestions that the Winter Olympics were
held too far from the mountains, Turin may in fact have shown
the way toward even more environmentally friendly Winter
Olympics," UNEP said.

UNEP chief Klaus Toepfer said Turin organizers had raised
chances that venues would be used again by staging figure
skating and ice hockey in the city and by having urban
accommodation for athletes and the media.

"During the two weeks of competition this is likely to have
increased commuting and transportation between the urban areas
and the events staged in more rural, mountainous locations," he
said in a statement.

"But over the longer term, the environmental impacts are
likely to be positive," he said. organizers often build sports
venues to showcase picturesque areas, hoping to draw tourists
and to limit a sprawl of the Games.

UNEP praised Turin's efforts to curb the environmental
impact of the Games but expressed concern about the 70 million
euro ($83.61 million) bobsleigh run, which uses 48 tons of
toxic ammonia as a coolant.

"Constructing, operating and maintaining what is
effectively a huge fridge in the mountains raises many
fundamental questions of sustainability," Toepfer said.

"Future organizing committees might consider re-using and
upgrading existing tracks and stadia rather than building new
ones if such facilities are convenient or nearby," the report