Environmental Impact of the Olympics

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As the Olympics have just ended, we have celebrated the wonder of sports and their power to spread joy. The Olympics are an awesome event that brings together people and countries in unparalleled ways.

But one thing that shouldn’t get lost in this process is that preparing for the Olympics often involves large construction jobs and cut corners that can lead to environmental harm suffered by individuals and properties. New facilities are built, sometimes without regard to previous customs and law, and so we often see a violent reshaping of landscapes.

As an example, for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, in constructing the Olympic downhill tract in Jeongseon, tens of thousands of trees had to cut down. These trees included Wangasre birches that had been there for 500+ years and served as a refuge for protected animal species. Organizers ended up destroying a portion of Mount Gariwang, the location of the 500-year-old forest. It had been designated a national protected forest in 2008, but that designation was lifted in 2013 for the Olympics construction.

The International Olympics Committee has nominally announced a strong concern for the environment. Ever since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, the IOC has held that sport can play a positive role in promoting sustainability. That is what forms the foundation for the incorporation of environmental responsibility into the Olympics. However, that hasn’t always addressed the ultimate issues, with recent Olympics plagued by excessive smog (Beijing 2008), rubble accumulation (Sochi 2014), and pathogenic water (Rio 2016).

Large construction projects similar to the ones described above are often allowed without enough attention given to the negative environmental consequences of the projects and the harms that result therefore. But fortunately, there are still laws that affected individuals can take advantage of to hold companies responsible. If you or someone you know has been harmed by negligent or reckless act toward the environment, you should contact a lawyer to determine if there are any remedies.

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