Olympic Winter Games in Beijing: Particularly Sustainable or Just a Facade?

As of: 12/30/2021 8:01 am

The Olympic Games in Beijing are slated to begin in five weeks. According to the organizers, the Winter Games will be particularly sustainable and environmentally friendly. Experts doubt it.

By Benjamin Eyssel, ARD-Studio Beijing

The newly built cable car takes you up to the mountain. Here in Yanqing, around 70 kilometers north of the city center, the Olympic alpine skiing competitions are to be held in February. On an organized tour for journalists, the Chinese organizers show what has been created here over the past few years. An icy wind blows at minus 15 degrees.

Benjamin Eyssel
ARD-Studio Peking

A gigantic ski slope has been built into the mountain here. The slopes are covered in white artificial snow. All the mountains around are brown. The reason: the winters here are cold, but also extremely dry. In order to meet the enormous water demand for snow production, water is pumped from the valley through a huge network of pipes up the mountain to the 180 snow cannons.

“We only use green electricity”

Everything is sustainable, explains Li Xin, who is responsible for snow production: “We only use green electricity from wind and solar energy. And the water comes from rivers, lakes and reservoirs. We do not use groundwater. This enables us to ensure that it is environmentally friendly Olympic Games will be. “

And when the artificial snow melts, all the water is caught again. Nobody in China can independently verify these statements. What is clear, however, is that the Chinese capital Beijing, with around 20 million inhabitants, generally has an enormous water problem.

Only 170 cubic meters of water per person per year

The Chinese water expert Zhang Junfeng calculates: “If there is less than 1000 cubic meters of water per person per year in an area, then one speaks of water scarcity internationally. Under 300 of extreme water scarcity. In the capital region there are only 170 cubic meters of water per person If you include the people who are not registered here, it is even less than 100 cubic meters. “

In order to counter this extreme scarcity, huge amounts of water have been transported from the south to the dry north of the country in China for years – via a gigantic network of canals and pipes that is constantly being expanded. But even this does little to change the water shortage in the Chinese capital, according to the expert. It is all the more surprising that Zhang Junfeng nevertheless declares that there is enough water for snow production at the Olympic Games.

“The Most Unsustainable Games Ever”

Doubts about the sustainability of the Olympic Games or general criticism of the mega-event can hardly be heard in the authoritarian-ruled People’s Republic. Expressing opinions that deviate from the state line can be dangerous.

But the criticism outside of China is all the louder. It comes from, among others, Carmen de Jong – Professor of Geography at the University of Strasbourg in France. China could not keep the promise that the games would be sustainable, green and clean, she said in November Deutschlandfunk: “I think that’s pretty unrealistic. These Winter Games are going to be the most unsustainable games of all time. There’s just too much going on in terms of water, soil loss, CO2 emissions and so on.”

In addition to the venues for the Winter Games, China has built highways, hotels and high-speed rail lines. According to the geologist, Chinese society can benefit from these enormous investments in infrastructure. “Of course, that will only appeal to a certain social level, because skiing is not very cheap – all the equipment and you have to get there. I don’t think that local farmers can afford that now. That is more likely to be the upper class Be Beijing and from the area. “

Olympic Winter Games: environmentally friendly and sustainable?

Benjamin Eyssel, ARD Beijing, 30.12.2021 · 07:28


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