Citation: Sharon Beder, '. . . And what the tourists will not see', Sunday Age, 18 June 2000, p. 8.

This is a final version submitted for publication. Minor editorial changes may have subsequently been made.

Sharon Beder's Other Publications

Kronos Hill

This scenic hill is in reality a huge mound of toxic waste including heavy metals, lead, hydrocarbons, asbestos, pesticides, dioxins and putrescible wastes dumped on what was once mangrove woodlands.

Visitors on tour buses were able to watch the hill of waste grow another 9 metres to a height of 20 metres during Olympic preparations as contaminated soils and wastes were cleared from other part's of the site to make way for Olympic facilities.

Workers shifting the wastes had to wear full-body suits and respirators and visitors wanting to leave the buses to take photos were told they could not go within 10 metres of the mound without being similarly apparelled themselves.

Elevated levels of chlorobenzenes, chloromethanes and chloroethylenes have been found leaking into the groundwater here. Rainwater seeps into Kronos and percolates down through the wastes picking up a cocktail of toxic contaminants on the way to the groundwater.

Olympic authorities have installed drains around the perimeter to catch some of this toxic flow before it reaches the Creek. What is captured is taken to the nearby liquid waste plant for treatment. The rest continues to seep down into the groundwater. This is the "leaky" landfill approach preferred by the Olympic organisers over the more expensive sealed "bank-vault" method.

Bicentennial Park

The "leaky" landfill approach was also used to create the Bicentennial Park in the 1980s from an old waste dump which had also been subject to the "Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act" and "Unhealthy Building Land" regulations.

Green Games Watch recently discovered that the supposedly 'clean' soil used to cover the dioxin-laced waste material turned out to be itself contaminated with toxic chemicals including carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Stadium Australia

The Olympic Stadium breaches the environmental guidelines, drawn up by environmentalists before the bid was won. These guidelines require the use of recyclable and recycled building materials, the use of plantation timber as opposed to forest timber and no ozone depleting chemicals in Olympic facilities. The stadium and other facilities have been built with ozone depleting air conditioning chemicals. Greenpeace unsuccessfully took them to court over this in 1998.

Golf Driving Range

It would be dangerous to have holes too deep in this beautifully landscaped golf driving range made up of contaminated material containing arsenic, lead, cadmium, asbestos, pesticides, dioxins and dibenzofurans.

The area has been classified under the "Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act" as well as the "Unhealthy Building Land" regulations.

The creek that once flowed through this area has been moved because it was thought that digging trenches to put drains into that area to catch the chlorobenzenes, organochlorines and cyanide leaching out of the waste could have endangered the lives of the workers.

Another major concern was that the acidic leachate was threatening to corrode pipelines buried under the western portion of the site including oil and gas lines and high tension underground electricity lines.

This creek has now been diverted away from the most contaminated part of the site and drains have been installed along its edge.

What happens to the rest of the leaking wastes that do not conveniently flow towards these drains is not known. This is the same "leaky" landfill approach used at Kronos Hill.

New heart of Sydney

Whilst promoters call Homebush Bay the "new heart of Sydney" environmentalists call it the "dioxin capital of the world". Olympic authorities long argued that there were no "established records of dioxin disposal" here until Green Games Watch uncovered the maps in 1997. Colin Grant, OCA's executive director of planning, environment and policy, publicly stated that the site did not contain any 2,3,7,8 TCDD (the most toxic form of dioxin).

After this statement was proven false, the OCA was forced to "unreservedly" apologise for the "mistake".

Industrial Liquid Waste Plant

The Olympic mapmakers have not shown the Lidcombe Waste Treatment Plant on this map. Thousands of tonnes of industrial liquid waste are transported from all over Sydney to this plant.

Nearby residents have long complained about the noxious odours and emissions. Greenpeace has lobbied government for the plant to be phased out because of "health and safety issues" associated with "a facility that emits toxic, carcinogenic, persistent and bioaccumulative compounds to the environment, particularly within 250 metres of residential housing."

Government authorities seem to be more concerned about how it will look during the Games: "[A]ppearance will be particularly important during the Games because there will be an enormous amount of public and media attention".

Like the OCA they have turned to landscaping to maintain the right aspect. There have also been proposals to close the plant for the duration of the Games.

Olympic Village

The central exhibit of the 'green' Olympics is the $470 million village where the athletes will be housed. In the early 90s Greenpeace was swept up by the promise that the village would be a showcase for green development.

Its endorsement of the Sydney bid stemmed from its involvement in a winning design for the village. The IOC was also impressed. In its report on Sydney's bid it "noted with much satisfaction the great emphasis being placed on environmental protection in all aspects of the bidding process and the attention being paid to working closely with environmental protection groups such as Greenpeace".

Having won the bid the Australian Olympic Coordinating Authority (OCA) quickly discarded the Greenpeace endorsed village design. The proposed Olympic Pavilion and Visitors centre, which was to be made of mud brick and recycled slag paving blocks, followed shortly after. It was "quietly shelved", as being an unnecessary expense.

Organisers chose a consortium of developers (Lend Lease and Mirvac with CSR and James Hardie--manufacturer of PVC, a product the original village design avoided), to design and build the village. After the Games, half the village will be dismantled and the rest will become part of the new suburb of Newington.

Haslam's Creek/Homebush Bay

Haslam's Creek runs through the Olympic Park and into Homebush Bay. Some of the water is diverted to make a pretty waterway in front of the Newington apartments. Advertisements for the apartments invited purchasers to "Dive into it!" showing an artistic impression of a diver plunging into the sparkling waters in front of the apartments.

Before dredging, the Creek itself had "scattered hotspots" of dieldrin and DDT. Homebush Bay is still so contaminated with dioxin, DDT, phthalates and heavy metals that fishing is banned. A 1991 study of aquatic sediments and fauna in Homebush Bay carried out by US EPA scientists found very high concentrations of a number of chemicals including dioxin. The scientists claimed that they were "not aware of any sites in the US with sediment concentrations of TCDD [dioxin] this high". A 1992 government investigation of the bay was kept confidential, a leaked memo revealed, for fear "that any action on the matter may jeopardise the Olympic bid."

The toxic contamination of the bay prevented the authorities going ahead with plans for a ferry terminal that would have made the Bay a major entry point to the Olympics.