A Sporting Chance: London’s 2012 sustainable Olympics

If the world consumed natural resources at the same rate as the UK, it would take three planets with the same resources as the earth to sustain such a lifestyle. The WWF has initiated the One Planet Living® program which would realise the dream of living sustainably. Sustainable living requires the inhabitants of the earth to use only the amount of resources that one planet can provide and to rehabilitate damaged environments. Sustainability is the balancing of environmental concerns with socio-economic factors. The program has a ten pronged approach that addresses everything from sustainable water resources to renewable energies. It is this approach that inspired the ambitions of the Olympic committee. John Armitt, ODA Chairman, said: ‘From the outset of the project, the Olympic Park has set new standards in sustainability, including the delivery of lightweight venues, the recycling or reuse of waste materials, using concrete with a high recycled content, and delivering materials by rail or water. We have achieved new standards for a project of this size and scale and have raised the bar for the industry.’

The London Olympic Games strives to achieve groundbreaking results in sustainability; even the Olympic flame will be carbon free. This kind of commitment comes at a cost. The initial estimates of a $3.5 billion price tag for a zero carbon or carbon-neutral Games has been adjust to a coronary-inducing $14 billion dollars and an Olympics that is not so much carbon-neutral as it is carbon-reduced. The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has changed its rhetoric from ‘zero-carbon’ to ‘reduced carbon’ but the full impact of the Committee’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions must not go unnoticed.

The Committee has used existing buildings for as much of the games as possible. New structures will be built in an environmentally friendly manner and will be utilized for other purposes once the games are over. This will eliminate the wasteful monoliths that litter the landscapes of preceding Olympic sites. Temporary structures will also be used where possible. Water used for the construction of new and temporary buildings has been reduced by 40% through the collection of rainwater. 90% of construction waste is being reused or recycled.

The games has also achieved a 50% reduction in its carbon footprint, saving over 100 000 tonnes of carbon emissions to date. These savings can be attributed to the use of public transportation, shipping construction materials via rail and sea and the use of renewable energy sources (20% of energy used during the Games will be generated by renewable sources on site and an additional 20% will be sourced from local renewable distributors.) No waste generated during the Games will find a home in landfills. 70% percent of waste will be reused, recycled or composted while the remaining 30% will be sent to new waste processing plants being built in East London.

Biodiversity in the region has not been neglected. Special care is being taken to protect natural biodiversity and sensitive species in areas where Olympic events are to be held. A number of educational and practical projects will be launched to educate youth about the biodiversity of sensitive habitats as well as efforts to restore such environments.

Further Reading

Olympic Committee
Government Paper on the Games
One Planet Living

Topics

Green Building

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