Can the environment in Beijing profit from the Olympic Games?

UNEP environment report gives its assessment / Öko-Institut expert Christian Hochfeld is one of the authors

UNEP environment report gives its assessment / Öko-Institut expert Christian Hochfeld is one of the authors.


How green were the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing? Can the environment profit from them in the long term? What lessons can be learnt for future sporting events? These are the questions addressed in the independent environmental assessment of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, published yesterday by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Five international experts, including Christian Hochfeld from the Öko-Institut, looked at the environmental effects in areas such as air quality, transport, energy, water, waste and climate protection. They concluded that many environmental measures had been implemented successfully and had led to substantial improvements for the Chinese capital, which is one of the cities in the world with the greatest environmental problems. The air quality in particular has since improved substantially. Now the real challenge is to consolidate the achievements in the long term as a “green legacy” and to continue to improve the environmental situation.

Download the report free here >> (7MB).

What improvements for the environment have come out of the Olympic Games? A selection of the achievements:

  • Air quality has been improved substantially through a combination of measures in relation to energy, industry and transport during the Games. To maintain this in the long term more far-reaching measures are necessary.
  • 15,000 coal stoves were replaced by natural gas and district heating.
  • Local public transport improved considerably: four new Metro lines were built. In addition the 10,000 vehicles in the bus fleet were upgraded and 4000 gas-powered buses brought into service.
  • The capacity of sewage treatment plants more than doubled, so that more than 90 percent of Beijing’s effluent can now be treated.
  • To “green up” Beijing, 8800 hectares of additional green space and woodland areas were created in the city area.

Detailed information can be found in the UNEP environment report “Independent Environmental Assessment - Beijing 2008 Olympic Games”


Christian Hochfeld
Member of the Board of Directors and scientist in the Institute’s Infrastructure & Enterprises Division
Öko-Institut e.V., Berlin Office
E-mail contact

Further information


Beijing Olympics Get Big Green Tick UNEP Report
Spotlights Achievements and Highlights Some Shortcomings of 2008 Games
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) press release 18 February 2009