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Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Sustainability: How Eco-Friendly Are the Games?

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics is making sustainability a priority. Here are four eco-friendly changes being made this year.

Written by
Angelica Pizza

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, may just be the greenest Olympic Games yet. Three weeks before the Olympics are set to begin, a Pre-Game Sustainability Report was released detailing how the Olympics are prioritizing the planet.

The Olympics, though exciting to watch, are typically associated with increased carbon emissions, deforestation, and energy usage. But with the recent sustainability report, this year's Olympics—both winter and summer—aim to be more environmentally conscious. Plus, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has developed a sustainability plan for future Olympic Games across the globe.

The Beijing 2022 report offers plans to reduce emissions, protect ecosystems, and promote new developments. Here's a snapshot of how green this year's Winter Olympics will be.

How the 2022 Winter Olympics Will Be More Sustainable

1. Low-Carbon Games

According to the pre-games report, Beijing 2022 has established a low-carbon management plan. The Games have "taken measures such as carbon emissions reduction and carbon offsets." To achieve this goal, there are plans to establish low-carbon energy, transportation, and venues. And according to a revised 2021 event preparation plan, Beijing 2022 is estimated to release 1.306 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent gases. The official carbon emissions will be calculated after the Games.

This year's Olympic Games, including all venues, will be powered by renewable energy. The ice venues will also use low-emission carbon dioxide refrigeration systems. And in 2021, the four ice venues were predicted to cut 900 tons of CO2 emissions.

For transportation, the Games aim to use clean energy vehicles. Specifically, there are over 800 hydrogen-fueled vehicles, 370 pure electric vehicles, nearly 500 natural gas-fueled vehicles, 1,807 hybrid vehicles, and over 600 conventional energy vehicles. Beijing 2022 will also utilize high-speed railway transportation for spectators.

2. Ecosystem Protection and Restoration

Beijing 2022 is also prioritizing plant and wildlife conservation. Because there are protected wild animals near the competition zone, the Games have made efforts to minimize the impacts on surrounding animals and habitats. Nighttime construction was controlled to decrease light pollution, over 600 artificial nests were set up for birds, and tree removal was limited.

Additionally, developers used fine meshes to preserve over 100 native trees, and many tree diseases were treated. Although some trees needed to be removed, they were moved to an off-site location.

In June 2021, the IOC also announced its Olympic Forest project that aims to plant over 350,000 native trees in Mali and Senegal—the host of the Youth Olympic Games Dakar 2026. Not only will the forest offset carbon emissions and create new ecosystems, but it will also benefit local communities and provide food sources.

3. New Regional Development

Beijing 2022's competition zones—Beijing, Yanqing, and Zhangjiakou—have experienced a boost in the local economy. Thus, the inequalities between local communities are decreasing. Specifically, the Games have contributed to an improvement in high-speed railway systems, the development of new roads, and even a hydrogen industry park.

The area will now be more accommodating to tourism, offering fishing, rock climbing, camping, hiking, and other cultural activities year-round.

4. Water Conservation

Another component of Beijing 2022's sustainability report is to implement a water resources management system. The goal is to have a secure water supply, recycle nonconventional water resources, and control flooding. The Games use surface water for snow and ice-making. And the report concludes that the Games will not affect regional water usage.

Additionally, two of the three zones have "integrated the conservation of the water environment into the venue planning, design, constructions, and operations." The two zones have treated domestic sewage and improved water quality. This water can now be used for road watering, green space, and snow-making. More information on water consumption will be released after the Games.

How to Watch the 2022 Winter Olympics

Ready to watch this year's Olympic Games and see what it's like with these new sustainability initiatives in place? NBC will begin covering the Games on Feb. 3 at 8pm EST. You can watch it on cable or stream it on NBCOlymplics.com. The Games will take place from Feb. 4-20, so be sure to tune in to all your favorite winter sports.

Following the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, look out for the post-games sustainability report to see how the Games achieved its goals.