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Canada's Olympic Games to Deliver Sustainability

The 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games to he held in British Columbia will strongly focus on sustainability, including environmental technologies.

Location Canada 2009
Next year millions of the planet's eyes will focus on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (for athletes with a disability) to be held in British Columbia, Canada. In addition to displays of outstanding athletic achievements, the events and legacies strongly focus on sustainability, including environmental technologies at unsurpassed levels. What follows is a preview of some of those components sure to set the "green dimension" higher for Olympic and Paralympic organizing committees.

Games Drive Bell's Telecom Advances
Bell is Canada's largest communications company, providing consumers with telephone services and other cutting-edge communications products/services. Media relations spokesperson Allison Johnson says Bell has made a $200 million commitment to Vancouver 2010 in its role as a "premier national partner" and the exclusive "telecommunications partner" to the 2010 Winter Games. That includes a $90 million financial contribution, plus $60 million for technology, $25 million for marketing, $15 million for athlete funding, and $10 million for support of community investment initiatives.

"The [Games] are enabling Bell to drive technological innovation farther and faster," notes Johnson. To achieve this, Bell built a 285km fiberoptic network in Vancouver and Whistler (the main venues) for use before, during, and after the Games. It will provide all voice, data, and broadcast services for "fans, media, athletes and officials from around the world," explains Johnson, "and will be the backbone that enables all Olympic and Paralympic connectivity."

Specifically, the network will support 400,000 private radio calls, 10,416 hours of dedicated TV broadcast coverage to an audience of more than three billion viewers, millions of data transfers, and much more. Bell also will be delivering the first all-IP (Internet Protocol) Olympic Games consisting of approximately 15,000 VoIP connections, says Johnson, "with instant recognition of users' requirements, no matter which venues they happen to be at" - a feat alleviating the need for technicians and wires.

"Every image people see, every news story filed to the world, and every real-time score transmitted will be delivered over our technology," Johnson points out. 

Another example: Bell has begun its design and build of the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Center expansion project, future home of the International Broadcast Centre for 2010. The company will inject new technology into the venue "with every beam and every wall constructed," notes Johnson. "The end result will be delivery of the most technologically advanced convention center in the world."

"Hydrogen Highway" Fueling Innovations
Since Canada is a large-volume producer and industrial user of hydrogen, it's no surprise that it's also one of the world's strongest advocates for the development of clean hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

The NRC Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation (NRC-IFCI) in Vancouver, British Columbia (BC) is Canada's premier applied research organization. It exists to support the nation's fuel cell and hydrogen industry in diverse ways, including becoming a catalyst for industry and community partners to unite. The institute has developed close relationships with most of the British Columbian fuel cell firms supporting early R&D and pre-commercialization of fuel cell products.

British Columbia's "Hydrogen Highway" is a melding of two ideas: First, it's a metaphor describing Canada's pathway to the more widespread, daily use of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, part of Canada's goal of a sustainable future. More concretely, it refers to real industry-government partnerships that demonstrate these technologies and help to accelerate their commercialization.

The "Highway" can be visualized as linking seven "node" locations, which together form the growing provincial hydrogen cluster. It begins at its most southern point at Victoria; travels northeast through Surrey, the Vancouver Airport, and North Vancouver; and ends finally at Whistler, the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics. NRC-IFCI plans on helping each node by providing technical support and facilities for accelerated production of hydrogen and fuel cell products.

John Tak is president/CEO of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association based in Vancouver ( - the result of the January 2009 merger of the Canadian Hydrogen Association and Hydrogen & Fuel Cells Canada. Most of the organization's nearly 100 members are small- to medium-sized companies.

"They're very innovative in the development of fuel cell products and systems and ways to make, purify, distribute, or store hydrogen," Tak says. The new association encourages commercialization and adoption of hydrogen and fuel cells in Canada, most notably via BC's Hydrogen Highway, Toronto's Hydrogen Village, and the Vancouver Fuel Cell Vehicle Program.

At the Winter Games hydrogen technology will be front and center in transportation. BC Transit has purchased 20 hybrid fuel cell buses to operate in Whistler to replace diesel fuel buses, says Tak. (BC Transit is the provincial crown agency charged with coordinating delivery of public transportation throughout British Columbia outside metro Vancouver.)

"Operating in regular transit use before, during, and after the Olympics, the hydrogen fuel cell bus fleet will be the largest in the world," Tak says. All the buses will come back to a central depot taking advantage of the largest-capacity hydrogen refueling station. Tak emphasizes that this hydrogen fuel cell bus fleet "is not a science project," as they incorporate sixth-generation Canadian fuel cell bus technology, and "more than a million kilometers" of test data have already been accumulated in previous generations.

Instead of emitting toxic carbon dioxide, the bus tailpipes will produce "zero greenhouse gas emissions" - namely, just water vapor and heat. The first bus was delivered in late 2008, and the balance of the buses will be in operation by late 2009.

Today the major car manufacturers are working on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. However, Tak says governments need to develop policies that facilitate the implementation of the necessary "hydrogen refueling infrastructure" to support this new transportation mode. "Internal combustible engines have been around for 100 years; we're just at the beginning of what we can do with fuel cell technology," he notes.

The good news is that some fuel cell applications are enjoying early commercial sales today. For example, distribution companies are starting to use industrial fuel cells to power electric forklift trucks in their warehouses, Tak notes. And telecommunications companies are buying fuel cell back-up power systems because they are "dependable, competitively priced," and "run for days, not hours."

Vancouver will be in the industry spotlight this spring when it hosts the biennial Hydrogen and Fuel Cells 2009 Conference and Trade Fair from May 31 to June 3 ( In 2007, the conference drew 1,000 delegates from 20-some nations.

Sustainability Platform Supports Winter Olympics
Not unlike other parts of the country, Western Canada is blessed with plenty of jaw-dropping natural beauty and resources. Therefore, it's natural for its people "to hold (or carry) a strong environmental ethos," says Ann Duffy, corporate sustainability officer for the VANOC (the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games).

VANOC wants to stage great Games and, at the same time, drive innovations like designing spectacular Games venues and services that also reduce energy consumption and emissions. "By making sustainability a commitment right from the beginning, we can work together with all kinds of partners to make better choices in large and small ways," Duffy says. "Ultimately, these choices are designed to support hosting great Games and leaving legacies that make a positive contribution to the communities we touch."

VANOC's Sustainability Management and Reporting System actively engages its work force, contractors, and suppliers to manage implementation of its sustainability activities. Many of the activities are environmentally focused. For example, the sports venues (new or refurbished) will be energy-efficient, "smart design" structures incorporating Canadian green building guidelines at a minimum silver level certification on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Scale (LEED®). Waste heat will warm athlete housing and sporting venues. Stormwater captured from rooftops will be used in low-flush toilets.

Over at Whistler Olympic/Paralympic Park, Duffy says the original footprint of the cross-country facility was shrunk by 30 percent after rethinking its orientation. At the Whistler Sliding Centre, energy-saving initiatives include tree retention throughout the site, track shading, a weather protection system, and painting the track white to minimize heat absorption. And at the Richmond Olympic Oval, the roof is composed of salvaged pine beetle wood, making it the largest surface ever covered by the once-discarded wood.

VANOC's many social and economic legacies are bound to be long-lasting, valued assets, too. Just look at the RONA Vancouver 2010 Fabrication Shop, which includes a carpentry-training program designed to prepare inner-city residents, Aboriginal peoples, and others for entry-level construction jobs at Games sites. Then there's the sustainable buying program, requiring vendors to use "ethical sourcing policies" (e.g., no use of sweatshop labor, endangered materials, or environmentally unfriendly manufacturing).

The 2010 Aboriginal Pavilion, an 8,000-square-foot structure to be built using the latest technology, will showcase the diversity of Aboriginal art, music, and culture in Canada. It also will be a place where people can develop skills in fields as varied as technical communications, retail, media relations, event planning, and culinary art.

"We're the first Winter Olympic Games to deliver the Games on a sustainability platform," confirms Duffy. Apparently, they won't be the last. Each month, VANOC's sustainability team "shares notes" by phone with the organizers of London's 2012 Summer Olympics, she says.

Thanks to VANOC, a snowball effect is under way destined to impact the environmental, social, and economic performance of future Olympics for the betterment of generations to come. (Visit

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