Tokyo Olympics to go green, help other cities strike gold

This article elaborates more on the example raised by Professor McMorran in class regarding Japan’s efforts in moving towards a green Olympics. The article highlights the efforts put in by the Japanese government in the upcoming Olympics. The article suggest that the efforts put into making this Olympics sustainable can be transferred to other cities and enable them to combat the harmful impacts of climate change thus enabling them to ‘strike gold’. Japan is also portrayed as a leader and a pioneer in leading the efforts towards creating a sustainable Olympics as seen from how the innovation here could ideally be transferred to other cities to become the main tool in combating the impacts of climate change.


Green efforts by the Japanese government are summarized in the table below.

Olympic Torch 30% of the metal used is recycled aluminum salvaged from houses destroyed in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake
Medals Sourced from public donation of old mobile phones and small electronic appliances
Companies have set up donation stations to facilitate this process
Podiums Will be made from recycle plastic that is sourced from ocean waste and from public donation
Uniforms Made from recycled plastics
Venues Maximize use of existing buildings
Ensure that new buildings will benefit the local communities
Wood used in new construction are sourced from sustainable sources of timber
After the Olympics, wood will also be reused into public benched and as building materials
Electricity Attained from renewable sources
Specific cool zones to be built to reduce the need for electric based cooling facilities
Special roads that either reflect heat or absorb water have been built to reduce ambient temperatures


There are some improvements in this Olympics when compared to the Olympics of the past. The use of renewable sources of energy for the Olympics for one, is a laudable effort by the Japanese government. In addition, the reusing of pre-existing venues as well as the foresight put into ensuring that new building benefit the local communities for example are important improvements that would improve the overall long term impact of the Olympics.

(For those interested, you can find out and see the state of buildings that were built just for the Olympics and subsequently abandoned here.)

While all the efforts listed above are beneficial and helpful to the environment and the efforts towards sustainability, I am reminded of the lessons we learnt about the use of the term sustainability. If we adopt a more critical lens in considering what kind of efforts are put in and what areas these efforts are targeting, it is obvious that these efforts do not result in a significant change in human behavior. If we consider the use of old electrical appliances and recycled plastics sourced from public donations and ocean waste for example, these are not changing the fundamental human-nature relationship. Instead, these efforts only help to reduce or mitigate the impacts brought about our current lifestyles. Thus, it is difficult to say that we are moving towards a sustainable lifestyle since there is no change in the current consumption patterns. Instead this would be what Kirby would consider to be sustainability used as a guise for development or economic benefits.

This article helps to exemplify how the term sustainability can be misused as Kirby said in order to make development more palatable to the general public. Furthermore, this article helps to serve as a reminder that we should always maintain a critical stance when looking at information presented to us and not be misguided or mislead by the clever use of words and generally accepted terms like sustainability. We should take it a step further and consider the actual impacts as well as the nature of the change brought about by these policies and efforts. In this case, given the lack of fundamental change in consumption patterns, I would argue that these efforts seem more like an attempt at redemption, to mitigate some of the harmful impacts of the current consumption patterns in order to justify and preserve the current consumption patterns that drive development.


Word Count: 652

By: Lee Chun Yuen

Access the full article here.



Chandran, R. (2019, October 22). Tokyo Olympics to go green, help other cities strike gold. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from

Höglind, K. (2020, February 26). Tokyo turning eco: Japan is fully embracing sustainability for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from