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Vancouver hosted greenest Games ever, says VANOC

The Vancouver Olympics failed to meet some of their environmental targets but can still be considered the greenest Games yet, organizers said Friday.

A final report on the 2010 Games' sustainability measures found that they generated more greenhouse gas emissions than forecast and were not carbon neutral in the end.

Nor did organizers manage to divert as much waste as they'd hoped during both the Olympic and Paralympic events.

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But the lengths to which the committee went to enshrine sustainable practices into their overall plan has set a new standard, said Ann Duffy, the former vice-president of sustainability for the organizing committee, known as VANOC.

"Is there room to improve? Hell yeah," said Ms. Duffy in an interview.

She said future committees need to make better use of new technologies, green construction methods and even social media to host more inclusive, environmentally-friendly Games.

In measuring their environmental footprint, VANOC didn't just include the days of the Games' themselves, but all seven years of planning.

They also factored in the effect of air travel and the impact of the massive, cross-country torch relay.

Overall, the Games generated 277,677 tonnes of carbon dioxide, up from their forecast of 268,000.

The increase was pegged on more air trips, the use of cruise ships for accommodation and overall waste.

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While a carbon offsetter sponsor helped render athlete activity and the torch relay carbon neutral, overall neutrality was impossible to achieve because the myriad sponsors and suppliers themselves were not neutral, the report said.

A target of diverting 85 per cent of the waste generated by the Games wasn't met in part because of confusing signage.

"For many, multiple bins for multiple materials caused some confusion," said the report.

The sustainability report, the final of five produced by the organizing committee, also examined areas like aboriginal participation, social inclusion and financial impact.

In the end, organizers said, they spent over $5-million on goods and services from inner-city businesses, and over $59-million on goods and services from Aboriginal businesses.

They distributed around 60,000 free tickets to Olympic and Paralympic events, and donated thousands of unclaimed lost and found items to a community not-for-profit to use or sell.

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VANOC was criticized throughout the lead-up to the Games for failing to connect meaningfully with Vancouver's inner-city communities.

While the committee had signed onto a 37-point agreement on how it would interact with the city at large, the two sides never saw eye to eye on whether those promises were being kept.

For example, critics said the Games' development was having a massively adverse affect on the city's low-income housing stock and that residents of some hotels would be pushed out by Games' tourism.

VANOC contributed $200,000 to ensure there were additional shelter beds available in the months leading up to the Games, but in their report said there was no demand for them.

"Sustainability or great Games mean different things for different people," said Ms. Duffy.

"You've got to find the middle channel that you can still deliver a great event but that is going to be realistic in terms of what an organizing committee can generate."

While VANOC's sustainability report was conducted in-house, an independent impact study is also being conducted by the University of British Columbia.

The next instalment of that study is expected early in 2011.

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