Should environmentally conscious olympians protest at the Rio summer games?

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For decades, environmental issues have supposedly been a large focus surrounding the Olympic games. In fact, they are part of the deciding factor when choosing the city for the games to be held in. However, in past years the environmental impact resulting from preparation and hosting of the Olympic games has been anything but good.

In 2012, Sochi claimed they would be holding a “zero waste” games that followed certain green standards that would be in “harmony with nature.” They failed all of them. Construction processes turned out to be immensely damaging to the region, and harmful to migration patterns of certain animals around the area, such as the brown bear. There was also increased limited access to drinking water, and also overall lower quality of life for natives. National parks were even destroyed. Some green Olympics, huh?

How is Rio going to improve their impact on this disaster to our environment with so many people coming to one spot? It’s actually going to be extremely difficult. Building an Olympic park to hold the games at is tolling anywhere it is attempted. The amount of energy, resources and work involved in building such a large system of buildings and transportation systems is absurd. It seems almost impossible to do this in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way, right?

Rio says it’s possible. Their Sustainability Management Plan claims that they have a nine-point environmental agenda for the games that includes water treatment and conservation, environmental awareness, use and management of renewable energy, games neutral in carbon, air quality and transport, protection of soils and ecosystems, sustainable design and construction, reforestation, biodiversity and culture, shopping and ecological certification and solid waste management. They are also making strides to reduce, reuse and recycle materials during the construction process to cut down on waste and resources used. This all sounds great, but what about their existing environmental conditions around the city?

The current environmental state of Rio is extremely concerning. In particular, some of their water systems have been polluted so heavily by sewage that they are toxic. Rounds of testing conducted by The Associated Press shows the city’s water systems are just as contaminated close to shore as they are far from it. Currently, not all of the sewage pumped into water ways is treated, allowing infectious diseases to be easily transmitted to anyone (olympians) who enters the water. The water is actually 1.7 million times what would be considered alarming in the U.S., and if it were tested in the U.S., officials would probably close down the beaches. Gross.

Diseased waters aren’t the only problem facing the hundreds of thousands of visitors making the trip to Rio. Pollution from trash is building up in their water systems like never before, and it will likely get in the way of athletes who are competing in these systems. Rio has implemented temporary “eco barriers” to attempt to hold trash and pollution out of bay areas for the games, but only so much can really be done.

If you consider yourself an environmentally conscious person, Rio probably sounds like a complete disaster. The existing pollution and environmental disruption being caused by this large city will only get worse with their hosting of the Olympic games, and that is terrifying. Coming together united as people in the world, no matter race, sexual orientation, gender or any other perceived difference shouldn’t have to cost our earth.

Lauren is a part-time editorial and graphic contributor at 301 Digital Media who has a strange obsession with cats and a love for Drake that will never be reciprocated. Follow her on Instagram: @lpetermeyer

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