Faster, higher, stronger...greener

FOR once, environmental activists and members of the International Olympic Committee are not at loggerheads. Norwegian conservation groups that were worried about the prospect of the 1994 Winter Olympics being held at Lillehammer have been promised that environment will carry equal priority with sports and culture at the Games.

Said Kare Olerud of the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature, "No Olympics can ever be good for the environment, because they are too big and use too many resources. But when we lost the battle to stop the Games, we decided to cooperate to limit the damage."

So, at the Games, plates and other utensils being used are made of potato and corn starch so that they can later be ground into animal fodder. Of the anticipated 200 tonnes of waste generated by food and drink, a significant amount will be transformed into earth within three weeks. Also, all billboards, signs and posters will be recycled into cardboard.

That's not all. Bob-sled and luge tracks were routed so that they were more in harmony with the contour of the forest. Ice machines are powered by batteries, which are non-polluting, cheaper and safer than propane gas. After the competitions, part of the Games village will be converted into a home for the elderly and a hotel will be moved from Lillehammer to avoid overdevelopment.

Perhaps the most heartening development is the changing attitude of the business community. "The contractors and the builders were pleasantly surprised to find that strict standards to protect the environment actually helped them to create new products that will be very profitable exports," project manager Olav Myrholt said in a report published in the International Herald Tribune. For example, Lyckeby Biopac, which made 900,000 biodegradable plates for the Games, now expects to find a whole new market abroad for disposable tableware. Said Sigmund Haugsja, the Games' environmental coordinator, "This is a good example of what we wanted to achieve."