Green games may be the way forward

BEIJING - Beijing's so-called "Green Olympics" will not solve China's environmental problems but they could point the way to a more sustainable future, according to officials and experts.

BEIJING - Beijing's so-called "Green Olympics" will not solve China's environmental problems but they could point the way to a more sustainable future, according to officials and experts.

As part of its efforts to make next month's Games environmentally friendly, more than a quarter of the energy used at Olympic venues will come from renewable sources.

That means hot water from solar power for athletes' showers, rain water for plumbing systems, and street lighting from green energy photovoltaic panels on stadium walls and roofs.

Rates of up to 50 percent energy savings in many green Olympic buildings will be achieved through state-of-the- art technology, while wind turbines have been built out of town to help supply energy to the venues.

Sceptics say all that amounts to a drop in the bucket in terms of Beijing's overall energy use, which itself is only three percent or less of China's total consumption - especially as coal use continues to soar across the country.

Meanwhile, the number of cars going on to Beijing's roads climbs by 1000 a day, deepening the city's carbon footprint further.

"But that's not the point," said Rory McGowan, director of the Beijing operations for engineers Arup, which helped design the main Olympic Stadium known as the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube.

"China sees the writing on the wall with its energy costs rising and energy sources dwindling. So it is looking for a sustainable future and using the Olympics as a guide."

For decades China has been hell-bent on growth at any cost, resulting in massive damage to the environment. Last year premier Wen Jiabao said reducing energy consumption and pollution were "critically important tasks".

But little has changed and China has since climbed up alongside the United States as the world's top producer of greenhouse gases.

The green Olympics may help change people's attitudes and reverse that trend, said Ding Jianming, deputy chief engineer of the city government's office in charge of Olympic construction.

"They will set standards for future building projects in Beijing and elsewhere. And that will be one of the major legacies of the Beijing Olympics."

Liu Yingling, China programme manager for the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute said China's conversion to sustainable energy may be late but it was genuine. - Sapa-AFP

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