Are the Paris 2024 Olympics Saying Au Revoir to Environmental Neglect? Details on the Olympic Village

According to the official Earth Day site, the "expected carbon budget" for the 2024 Paris Olympics is 1.58 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.


May 13 2024, Updated 4:06 p.m. ET

French decathlon Olympian Kevin Mayer at the Olympic torch relay ceremony in May 2024
Source: Getty Images

The Olympic Games have always represented the nations of the world coming together in camaraderie and competition to celebrate athletic achievement. As wonderful as that is, the Olympics create a significant environmental impact every time it comes to pass.

Article continues below advertisement

Between travel and construction, food and fuel, lodging and litter, the Olympics are not exactly an eco-friendly undertaking. That said, the 2020 Olympic Games (which took place in 2021) made a number of attempts to reduce their negative environmental impact. And in the case of the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games, which will take place from July 26 to August 11, efforts were made to ensure the Olympic Village in the Seine-Saint-Denis area is an eco-conscious project with a purpose.

Image of the Paris 2024 Olympic Village during a February 2024 press tour
Source: Getty Images

Paris 2024 Olympic Village

Article continues below advertisement

What are the negative environmental impacts of the Olympics?

Typically, the environmental footprint of the Olympics is pretty high. In some cases, host cities have had to completely overhaul their infrastructure to support the influx of thousands of athletes and millions of spectators.

The combination of added energy, construction, air travel, food, and resources arguably transform the Games into environmental disasters in their own right. According to Impactscool, the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics are a prime example of the Games’ inherently unsustainable nature, specifically in relation to construction, illegal dumping, habitat destruction, and industrial waste spillage.

Article continues below advertisement

So, despite the fact that the Games have often been a boon for human rights, globalization, cooperation, and peace, they're not considered a paragon of environmentalism.

Article continues below advertisement

The Olympic Games of the 2020s: Examining eco-conscious efforts.

The 2021 Olympics featured the slogan “Be better, together, for the people and the planet.” According to the official Tokyo Olympics website, this so-called Sustainability Concept is loosely based on the UN’s sustainable development goals, which focus on recycling and resource management, human rights, fair trade and labor, environmental stability, biodiversity, and minimizing the overall environmental footprint of the Games themselves.

As noted by NPR, making Olympic medals from precious metals culled from recycled electronics, building the Olympic torch out of aluminum rescued from the temporary housing shell used following the Fukushima disaster, and having athletes sleep on cardboard beds feels a bit like greenwashing.

Still, the fact that a reported 99 percent of non-food/non-drink items at the Games were either reused or recycled is a step in the right direction.

Article continues below advertisement

A 2021 study published in the journal Nature Sustainability relayed that the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo fell somewhere in the “medium” category in terms of sustainability. And according to Edie, a post-events sustainability report reveals that carbon reduction actions, the elimination of domestic spectators, and carbon offsetting practices made the Tokyo Olympics a carbon-negative event.

After this Olympics milestone, the International Olympic Committee announced that all Olympic Games must be certified as carbon-neutral or carbon-negative starting in 2030.

Article continues below advertisement

And though the Paris Olympic Games will commence well before 2030, the Paris Olympic Organizing Committee has been making strides to build a sustainably-minded 50-plus-acre Olympic Village, which is being deemed an "eco-neighborhood."

"We're using new technologies of construction. That reduces the amount of carbon that they emit," Georgina Grenon, the Olympics director of Environmental Excellence, told KSBW.

The Olympic Village includes 3,000 apartments, which don't feature air conditioning.

"The air can go through the apartment so that if in summer it's hot, you can create air circulation," Julia Watson, the Olympic Athletes Village assistant director, explained.

Article continues below advertisement

As per the official Olympics website, the the village uses 100 percent renewable energy, features photovoltaic roofing panels, unused walls will be repurposed for other projects, and is being constructed with sustainable and natural materials — not to mention upcycled materials, as noted by KSBW. And yes, those meme-worthy recyclable cardboard beds and recycled fishing net mattresses will be making a comeback.

After the Games, the village will provide workplaces for 6,000 individuals, and apartments for 6,000 more low-income individuals.

Article continues below advertisement

The official Earth Day site is not letting anyone fall for greenwashing nonsense, however, clarifying that the "expected carbon budget" for the 2024 Paris Olympics is 1.58 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. While this is less than previous years, it's still, like, a big number.

Utilizing existing sporting facilities, banishing single-use plastics, and approaching the gargantuan international event with carbon costs beforehand (rather than a carbon assessment afterwards) is great. But perhaps it isn't enough. Perhaps bigger eco-strides should be taken moving forward.

Additional reporting by Bianca Piazza.

This article, originally published on Aug. 5, 2021, has been updated to include information about the 2024 Olympic Village in Paris.

More from Green Lovers

Latest Sustainable Development News and Updates

    © Copyright 2024 Green Lovers. Green Lovers is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.