For 500 years, South Korea’s Mount Gariwang knew neither saw nor axe. Long considered sacred—the mountain was the royal family’s private ginseng garden in the 15th century—the South Korean government declared it a protected area back in 2009.
But Gariwang is one of the only mountains in the country that fits the International Olympic Committee’s criteria for alpine skiing. So in 2013, the government removed the mountain’s protection and blazed 56 acres of ski trails to prepare for the 2018 winter games.
Getting ready for the games always means meeting tight deadlines and high demands, and this isn’t the first time a host country’s Olympic ambitions have bulldozed nature in the service of “building a better world through sport.” Greece has torn up 2,000-year-old ruins, London reneged on its carbon goals, and Russia trashed an entire village.
In 1994, the International Olympic Committee signed an agenda for Sport and Environment, which has had some successes: Vancouver, Sydney, and Salt Lake City were notable. But as this year’s South Korean controversy attests, not every Olympics wins a gold medal in environmental stewardship.Go Back to Top. Skip To: Start of Article.