The Sustainable Olympics?
So, all those years ago when London first won the bid for the 2012 Olympics, we were promised the first truly sustainable Olympics. Challenges included creating a low carbon Olympic Park, planning strategies for waste management and food supply, and of course creating the first Public Transport Games. An ambitious target we all agreed, but did London deliver? Was it as truly sustainable as it had promised to be? Well, whilst we are waiting for the official reports and figures, let’s look back at some of the promises and what has been delivered.
One of the biggest commitments to sustainability was the thought of London 2012 being the Public Transport Games. What was predicted? Travel chaos. What was delivered? To everyone’s surprise, the system actually worked. Inevitably, there were some broken down tubes and endless traffic jams that allowed the pessimists to say ‘I told you so’, but with everyones co-operation, travel was spread out throughout the day allowing people to get where they needed to go without too much inconvenience – that to me counts as a success. Of the 4000 cars that were allowed to be used to get VIPs and athletes to the venues, 200 of these were electric and the others had to meet the 120 grams of CO2 per kilometre standard.
The London Olympics was the first to set up a Legacy Development Corporation from the start of the planning. The commitment to sustainability in buildings, business and transport was a large part of this. A low-carbon Olympic Park could not have been achieved without the technology and innovation behind the building of the Olympic venues. To minimise the damage of large construction works, sustainable building materials and techniques were used including many recycled materials. Where possible, the use of temporary arenas reduced the carbon footprint of heavy construction. Amazingly, there has been mention of parts of the removable venues being used for the next Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. In the permanent venues, features cropped up to reduce the demand for energy and unsustainable resources. For example, the roof of the Copper Box has 88 light pipes that allow natural light into the venue and water use at the venue will be reduced by up to 40% due to rainwater harvesting from the roof.
Now the spectators have disappeared, it is obvious to see how the Olympic Venues have just played a small part in the regeneration of East London. The area around Stratford, was once littered with derelict factories and polluted ground. Now we have a world-class sporting arena surrounded by rare wet woodland and the largest wildflower meadows in Britain. The cleaning up and re-profiling of the River Lea has created the perfect habitat for birds, small mammals, bats and butterflies.
In my opinion, London delivered. Yes, there were things that could have been done better, I haven’t even mentioned the failed plans for renewable energy usage, but despite the doubt and pessimism, the Olympic Games 2012 was a success. And now, it’s back to routine and normal television schedules.