The 2012 London Olympic Games made claims that it would be ‘the world’s first truly sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games, leaving a legacy far beyond the departure of the Olympic Flame.’ So with a day to go before the opening ceremony, I thought I’d find out a bit more about what that means and whether these aspirations have been achieved.
The original sustainability strategy was developed in partnership with BioRegional and WWF-UK in 2005.
A report was released this month by the sustainability partners, concluded that:
‘London 2012 has succeeded in being the most sustainable Games yet, but that failures have occurred in some significant areas, such as the failure to build a significant and visible energy source‘.
Despite this, the report’s authors stated:
‘London 2012 is the Olympics that sets a new sustainability standard for future Games; we just wish London 2012 had been able to push sustainability a little faster, a bit higher and with an even strong focus on changes beyond the Olympic Park.’
A fuller review of London 2012’s sustainability performance will be published once the Games are over.
So here is my brief summary of the highs and lows.
The Olympic Delivery Agency and the London Development Agency made a commitment to achieving long term sustainable regeneration of the Lower Lea area (an area with high levels of social and economic deprivation) and its communities through a number of initiatives. Sustainability was achieved through:
Creating new venues where there is a legacy need. These venues include the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre and Velodrome.
Where there is no need for building, temporary venues have been erected (Greenwich, Hyde Park and Horse Guards Parade).
The block housing for the construction offices has been taken over by games administration. Following the games, this will become commercial facilities.
The games village will become sustainable housing with a 20 year programme to deliver new homes and development to the precinct.
Degraded industrial sites in the Lower Lea River Valley have been turned into parkland, with an emphasis on encouraging biodiversity.
More than 650 bird and bat boxes were installed across the Olympic Park, including within bridge structures and on the ‘brown roof’ of the Main Press Centre.
On the community side, the olympics has been used as a catalyst in schools to get increasingly overweight and inactive school kids to participate in physical activity and sport.
The London 2012 website says ‘we have worked with the food industry to bring ethically and sustainably sourced food‘. Contractors are required to serve food in compostable packaging and source food in a way that has as low an environmental impact as possible. This has lead many producers to make use of Red Tractor accredited suppliers (a ‘guarantee’ the food is produced from strict standards in traceability, animal welfare and environmental protection, from farm to pack).
One thing that caught my eye was the aim of making London the world’s first Sustainable Fish City. With an estimated 82 tonnes of fish being served during the games in the Olympic and Paralympic village alone, that’s a hell of a lot of sustainable fish to find.
The Games has introduced a system where no waste is sent to landfill during games-time.
All food and drink packaging will feature a green (recyclable), orange (compostable) or black (non recyclable, to be combusted in waste to energy plants) symbol which should be placed in the matching colour bin.
$10million has been invested in making improvements to over 75km of key walking and cycling routes leading to London 2012 venues inside and outside London.
Significant achievements in the reuse of materials throughout the construction period, including the park’s own combined heat and power plant.
63% by weight of construction materials were transported to the Olympic Park by rail or water.
98% of material from Olympic Park demolition work was reclaimed for reuse and recycling.
Recycled or FSC certified building materials were used where possible.
Recycled waste water from communities in north London will be used on the Park for toilet flushing, irrigation and cooling water in the Energy Centre. Creating a saving of 37% on potable water.
Here are some of the green initiatives that did not quite made it.
The renewable energy target of 20% will not be met. Plans to build a wind turbine were dropped and the energy centre in the Olympic Park is set to run on gas, rather than biogas from onsite waste.
Alas vehicles used to transport officials and dignitaries and officials in the ‘games lanes’ will not be electric. With 4,000 mostly fossil fuelled BMWs being chosen for this task.
Dow chemicals (who took over Union Carbide responsible for the 1984 Bhopal tragedy) is the chosen sponsor for the Olympic games. Survivors of the Indian disaster (where at least 15,000 people were killed) have organised a ‘Special Olympics’ to protest against the sponsor.
Over 10,500 athletes and over 500,000 spectators are expected to attend the Games. All in all the Games looks set to be an incredible event, and something Londoners will be proud of. I can’t wait to see the opening ceremony – lots of references to England as a ‘green and pleasant land’, and I heard a rumour Mary Poppins was set to drift down from the sky. That has got to be worth seeing.