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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - February 15, 2002: Olympics Doing Harm in Salt Lake? - 2002-02-15

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Officials at the Olympic Games taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah, say they have met their environmental goals. Their environmental program helped Salt Lake City win the right to hold the Games this year.

However, environmental groups in Utah say efforts by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee have not been successful. They say developers are doing permanent harm to the area.

The Olympic goal of protecting the environment began in Nineteen-Ninety-Four with the Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Norway recognized that major sport events like the Olympics could have a harmful effect on the surrounding environment.

Protection of the environment is now officially one of the three goals of the Olympic movement. The other goals are sports and culture. Today, many cities seeking to hold the Olympic Games promise to offer greater protection for the environment.

Organizers in Utah say they worked with many organizations for years to develop environmental programs in preparation for the Games. Some of these projects include a forestry program. It is expected to result in eighteen-million trees being planted around the world. Organizers also promised other efforts to make the air cleaner and to improve the way waste is removed.

However, an environmental group called Save Our Canyons says the Salt Lake Olympic Committee made promises that it has not kept. For example, activists criticized ski jumps that were built into the sides of mountains. They also criticized officials for permitting trees to be cut down and new roads built for the Olympic Games. They said better public transportation is needed to help decrease pollution during the Games. And they said not enough is being done to reduce energy use.Lawyers for Save Our Canyons say the Olympics are being used as an excuse to permit development that normally would be unacceptable under current environmental laws.

However, Olympic organizers say the group’s findings contained many mistakes and failed to recognize other environmental programs.

The director of Save Our Canyons says the group is not against the Olympics. She says the group wants to pass on what it has learned to other cities considering holding the Olympic Games in the future.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.