Earth Games: The 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympic Games, or the Failure of the Ecological Project

Popa, Stefan Cristian (2019). Earth Games: The 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympic Games, or the Failure of the Ecological Project. PhD thesis The Open University.



The 1994 Winter Olympic Games, organised and held in Lillehammer, Norway, are often treated as a reference point for the commitment of the International Olympic Committee to sustainable development. Commentators recognised the embodiment of ecological concerns and aspirations in a unique staging of the Olympic ideal.

Through an architectural analysis of Winter Olympic Games, particularly the Lillehammer edition, this thesis argues that the event did not reflect concerns for the environment. It also did not relate to material ecology as defined and debated over previous decades in the United Nations.

Instead, the XVII Winter Olympics seem to have employed the environmental rhetoric of a Norwegian affiliation to Nature to affirm and re-establish the moral ideal of the Olympic Movement, which was damaged in 1992 when the Games in Albertville, France, were criticised as an ecological failure. Moreover, the event in Norway served to introduce the 1987 UN Report on sustainable development, Our Common Future, despite the geopolitical role of Norway as a leading agent in the international fossil fuel trade.

This research tackles problems associated with natural resource exploitation and how architecture is instrumental in legitimising environmental destruction. It foregrounds the disjunction between action and intention, architecture and politics, which can be read between the lines of political and design agendas. The lack of intersectional points between these categories is symptomatic of the absence of critical engagement of design practices with the fundamental issues associated with sustainable development: exiling architects to the role of spectators, heavily influenced by overwhelming political and economic constraints.

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