By Edith Hannigan
One thing I didn’t realize before visiting an Olympic city is that it truly becomes The Olympic City. It’s no longer Vancouver – it’s the Olympics. Everything in the city becomes dedicated to the Olympics; concerts, random rock structures in shape of the 2010 Olympic logo, and even spotlights over the Frasier River occur simply because the Olympics are here. Let’s not even talk about street closures. Streets were not only closed near Olympic venues, but also in popular bar-and-club filled sections of downtown, because the sheer number of people out and about wouldn’t fit on the sidewalks.
This year’s Olympics made a great effort to be as “green” as possible. There was no spectator-parking at any venue, so there was no choice but to utilize public transit. Everything was primarily off the light rail lines, but the bus system in Vancouver is also pretty extensive/generally fabulous (and I have tough criteria for bus systems). On the day you held an Olympic ticket, transit was free, and there was great signage directing you to the venue from the transit stop. There were also tons of volunteers walking around making sure you knew where you were going and standing in the right line, etc.
The Vancouver Olympic Committee was also acutely aware that Olympic venues don’t disappear after the Olympics – they have to be sustainable, and leave a positive legacy for Vancouverites and Canadians. I attended a curling event at The Vancouver Olympic Center, which replaced an old community center and it will also be the new home of the Vancouver Curling Club.
The official descriptions from the Vancouver Olympics’ website probably can explain the other green details better than I can:
Smart Site Selection — The new curling facility will replace an aging, existing community complex located at Hillcrest/Nat Bailey Stadium Park. The new complex is sited primarily on a former gravel parking area
Waste Heat Reuse — Waste heat from this venue’s refrigeration plant is captured and reused to heat other building spaces, the adjacent aquatics centre, and domestic hot water for the facility. Waste heat from the swimming pool area is also recovered through the aquatic centre’s ventilation system.
Rainwater Reuse — Rainwater will be collected and reused for flushing water-efficient toilets and urinals, reducing the amount of potable water used at this venue.
Green Buildings —The City of Vancouver is targeting LEED “Gold” green building certification for this facility, post-Games, once the conversion to legacy mode has been completed.
Accessibility — This complex is accessible to persons with a disability. For example, the change rooms for the swimming pool at this venue (in post-Games legacy mode) will consist of moving screen walls rather than doors, making entry more accessible to all users, including persons who use a wheelchair.
Net-Zero Green Space Loss — Net-zero green space loss has been targeted in the development of this venue. During the construction phase, trees within the venue construction area were salvaged and relocated to other sites within the park. In the post-Games period, when the venue is being converted to its legacy mode, demolished sites will be revegetated. As well, the existing community centre and pool will be demolished, salvageable materials recycled and the site remediated back to park space.
You can read about all the sustainability efforts that went into planning the Olympic venues at http://www.vancouver2010.com/venues/.
Edith Hannigan is a second year Master of Planning student at SPPD and holds a geography and history degree from Rutgers University. Her degree concentration is in Sustainable Land Use, and she interns at the City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department and the USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning Office. Edith is interested in environmental planning, disaster mitigation, and climate change issues, and hopes to find a job next year using sustainable urban planning to reduce urban disaster risk and build community resilience.