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OLYMPIC HISTORY: The Green ring of the Olympics

April 17, 2014
By SUSANNA FOUT , Lake Placid News

In honor of the upcoming celebration of Earth Day, an annual international event which promotes environmental responsibility, staff at the museum decided to jump on the green band wagon and raise awareness for the role sustainable development plays in the Olympic movement.

Along with sport and culture, the International Olympic Committee considers the environment to be an integral aspect of Olympism. Officially adding an environmental clause to the Olympic Charter in 1996, the IOC is dedicated to leaving a positive Olympic legacy on the host city, its region and its country, not only for the present but also for the future.

The impact of hosting a global event the size of the Olympics has long been a concern for host countries. Lake Placid, nestled in the heart of the Adirondack State Park, a 6-million-acre publicly protected National Historic Landmark, has always been aware of this issue.

Article Photos

1980 Olympic Village in Ray Brook, which is now a federal prison (Photo provided)

During preparations for the III Olympic Winter Games, many New York state residents were concerned with the construction of a bobsled run on state land which had been declared "forever wild." This led to a lawsuit and several bobrun designs in different locations. In 1972, citizens of Colorado stunned the world by rejecting to host the 1976 Olympic Winter Games, which had previously been awarded to Denver, due to concerns over the impact on local environment.

Host cities have often been scrutinized for the vast amount of resources required to put on the Olympic Games. As such, the IOC makes it their priority to raise awareness and educate people on environmental matters in sport. Lillehammer (Winter, 1994) and Sydney (Summer, 2000) were pioneers in the field of environmental protection and made their Games a showcase for environmental policies in the areas of energy, water conservation, waste minimization and pollution avoidance.

Even prior to these Games, Lake Placid was determined to host an "Olympics in perspective." Considered the last of the small town Olympics, Lake Placid had the job of building state-of-the-art facilities within the confines of a protected state park. Working closely with the Adirondack Park Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, every precaution was taken to reduce the environmental impact on the surrounding region. Air quality, waste systems, soil erosion and wildlife habitats were protected.

From renting a stadium for the opening ceremonies to rehabilitating the Olympic Village for use as a correctional facility, every venue was built with the forethought of after use.

In more recent years, host cities have taken even broader steps towards sustainability. In 2002, Salt Lake City pushed a "Plant It Green" campaign where over 100,000 trees were planted throughout Utah and millions more were planted throughout the world. Using environmentally friendly and energy-saving building materials in the construction of Olympic venues has been a priority for many cities. For instance, Vancouver (2010) used wood that had been infested by pine beetles in the construction of the Richmond Olympic Oval speed skating rink, meaning that no trees had to be cut. Rainwater collected from the Oval's roof was used to flush toilets and after the Games, the Oval was converted into a multi-purpose community center. Sochi (2014), which boasted the largest Winter Games to date, efficiently integrated sustainable development principles into all aspects of Game preparations. Olympic planners worked closely with organizations such as World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace to ensure the protection and/or restoration of the complicated ecosystems disrupted by construction on such a grand scale. Like Lake Placid, Olympic venues in Sochi were built for after use so that the Games would have a lasting value for the city, the region and the country.

In 2014, Sochi hosted 88 nations and 2,873 athletes competing in 98 events, almost rippling the size of 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid. It is hard to imagine Lake Placid and the surrounding region sustaining an event of such magnitude knowing the environmental impact it could have on the Adirondack Park. Here is where we ask you one of the most commonly asked questions at the museum: "Will Lake Placid host another Olympics?"

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Ironman Sunday. For more information about the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, see our Facebook page at:

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