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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Norway Strives to Turn Winter Games Green

LILLEHAMMER, Norway -- Although they were late converts to environmentalism, the organizers of the Lillehammer Games now say that all future Olympics should be "green."


Environmental concerns guided the design of arenas for the 1994 Winter Games -- including a speed-skating stadium which looks like an upturned Viking longship and an underground ice-hockey hall -- but only after clashes with conservation groups.


"Preparations for the Lillehammer Olympics have added a third dimension to the Olympic movement," said Gerhard Heiberg, president of the organizing committee.


"Not only sport and culture will be highlighted, but the environment too."


Lillehammer wants the International Olympic Committee formally to make the environment a third pillar of the Olympics when choosing future hosts. A key element of Sydney's successful bid to stage the 2000 Summer Games was to enlist the support of environmental protection groups and promise a "green" event.


To avoid plastic, arenas around Lillehammer, a small lakeside town of 24,000, are built largely of traditional pine wood and stone.


Children are planting "Olympic Forests" throughout Norway, more than making up for the 10,000 trees hacked down for the Games.


Many trees were felled to clear a downhill piste through the forests at Kvitfjell. The course, including a huge jump of about 60 meters and a drop of 64 degrees, is rated among the most challenging in the world.


Winners will stand on victory podiums made of blocks of 500-year-old ice cut from a Norwegian glacier to receive medals made from a local grey stone colored with gold, silver or bronze.


Spectators will eat from disposable plates made of potato starch -- easily recycled to make plant fertilizer.


Yet Lillehammer has no separate budget for environmental measures and only one person in the 500-strong organizing committee works exclusively on green issues.


"This will not be an environmentally friendly Olympics but will be less harmful for nature than those in the past," says Sigmund Haugsjaa, an assistant director and environmental coordinator.


"From an environmental point of view, it would be better not to have the Games at all," he noted.


New roads and stadiums will bring pollution the region could well do without -- and may well be under-used after the Games end.


The Lillehammer team, which calls itself the first organizing committee to set itself environmental goals, says it has already been contacted by prospective Olympic hosts including Istanbul, Salt Lake City and Ostersund in Sweden.


Among other environmental measures:


?Organizers managed to hide the bob and luge track in a forest outside Lillehammer by putting ribbons on trees near the track and threatening to fine contractors up to 50,000 crowns ($6,650) for each tree wrongly felled.


?Bullets shot during the biathlon in forests east of Lillehammer will rebound into a new steel collector, preventing about 500 kilograms of poisonous lead from seeping into the ground.


?The siting and design of the Viking Ship stadium at Hamar, 50 kilometers south of Lillehammer on the site of an ancient boatyard, were changed so it would not disturb wetlands and a bird sanctuary. The ice inside is slick -- three world records were set in December 1993.


?An ice-hockey stadium at Gjoevik, the "Mountain Hall," was blasted into a mountainside, avoiding an eyesore above the lakeside town south of Lillehammer. Deep in a hillside, the hall should last with minimal maintenance for 250,000 years.


?All indoor stadiums recycle heat and have met a target of using 30 percent less energy than the Norwegian standard.


?Seventy percent of the 20,000 signs used during the Games will be made of recycled cardboard rather than metal or plastic.


Some environmental measures have backfired or seem contradictory.


Schoolchildren cleared away rare flowers from the site of the ski jump. But an earth mover later dug up the re-sited plants by accident.