Let the Olympic Games inspire a recommitment to preserving nature – UN

“Respect for nature was a feature of ancient Greek civilization,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said of the return of the Games to the country where they originated more than 2,500 years ago. The modern Olympics began in 1896 in Athens. “In those early Games victors were crowned with an olive wreath. The olive wreath remains as an Olympic symbol to this day, a reminder of the precious link between humankind and the natural environment that we must learn to better preserve and cherish,” he added. As part of its Sport and the Environment Programme, UNEP signed a memorandum of understanding with the Athens 2004 Olympic Organizing Committee (ATHOC) in June to implement a series of public awareness activities. An anti-littering campaign, co-signed by UNEP and ATHOC, is currently being broadcast on Greek television and will continue in various forms throughout the Games. Brochures will be distributed at all venues to underline the connection between sport and the environment. ATHOC has also agreed to prepare a compilation of “Environmental Challenges and Achievements” of the 2004 Olympic Games. This will offer a detailed account of the environmental perspective of all aspects of the Games – including specific assessments for the various venues. In recent years the environment has gained increased prominence within the Olympic Movement and is officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the third dimension of Olympism, alongside sport and culture. Environmental issues are now an important part of the review process of Olympic bids. “It is important that the 2004 Games set the stage for a wider discussion on the comprehensive integration of environmental considerations in future Games,” Mr. Toepfer said. “It is my hope that these assessments will be a valuable tool for other host cities of the Olympic Games. The Games in Athens should spur efforts by other countries to do more to ensure that their Games are organized in an environmentally friendly way so that the environment is indeed seen as the third pillar of Olympism.”

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