China Integrating "Green" Concepts into Olympic Venues

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As Beijing moves forward with construction for the 2008 Summer Olympics, project developers are embracing state-of-the-art energy technologies as well as measures to save water and protect sensitive ecosystems.

In mid-April, Beijing’s National Olympic Stadium signed a 10 million RMB (US$1.25 million) contract with domestic solar company Suntech Power to install a 130-kilowatt photovoltaic system at 12 stadium entrances. The installation will supplement the venue’s conventional power supply and make the stadium—also known as the “Bird’s Nest” because of its appearance—the world’s most environmentally friendly sporting arena. “The Bird’s Nest Stadium solar energy project demonstrates China’s commitment to clean, renewable energy and a green Olympics,” said Zhengrong Shi, Suntech’s chairman and CEO.

A world-class solar system has also been installed in Beijing’s Olympic Village to power streetlights and provide hot water for athletes. The “Olympic Building Solar Heating System Project,” directed by the Sino-Italian “Green Olympics” Cooperation Program for Environmental Protection, was completed in April, according to the Beijing Olympics organizing committee. Through the use of advanced solar direct-current pipes on the Olympic Building’s 150-square-meter roof, the thermal collection system can provide hot water to 200 people a day, at an average volume of 50 liters per person.

As part of its commitment to a “green” Olympics, Beijing will pursue water-saving initiatives as well. Central treatment systems and rain harvesting technologies are being installed in Olympic Park and surrounding areas, and should ease city fears of water shortages. In addition to tackling tight water supplies, officials are concentrating on drainage and wastewater disposal. By 2007, Beijing is expected to set up 14 major wastewater treatment plants, increase the city’s treating capacity to 90 percent of the total wastewater produced.

Olympic planners have struggled between the high costs of this infrastructure development and the desire to meet long-term environmental goals. Ultimately, however, officials are taking the long view, advising project developers to focus not just on the economic benefits, but also the social and environmental benefits to future generations.