London Olympics Clears Sustainability Hurdles

London Olympic Stadium
Olympic Stadium, the Orbit sculpture and wildflowers in Olympic Park (Photo courtesy UK Government)


LONDON, UK, July 31, 2012 (ENS) – The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games has met the vast majority of its sustainability targets, says the United Nations official in charge of helping Olympic Games host cities produce events that protect the environment and make smart use of their resources.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, UNEP, said, “Every Olympic Games represents unique challenges and opportunities in terms of raising the bar of the third pillar of Olympism – namely the environment – and London is no exception.”

LOCOG is committed to the use of public transport, with a target of one million extra walking and cycling journeys in London during the Games.

London Olympic Stadium
Olympic Stadium, the Orbit sculpture and wildflowers in Olympic Park (Photo courtesy UK Government)


The organizers have employed a sustainability assessment guide developed in part by UNEP.

UNEP has been cooperating with the International Olympic Committee since the mid-1990s, helping to green the Games in Athens in 2004, Torino 2006, Beijing in 2008 and Vancouver in 2010.

UNEP has provided a set of recommendations to the Organizing Committee of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games in Russia to provide guidance on the integration of environmental considerations in the preparation and staging of the Winter Games.

Rio de Janeiro has invited UNEP to assist in its preparations for the 2016 Summer Games.

Some of the measures LOCOG has taken to make the London Olympics sustainable include the creation of the Olympic Park on once-contaminated industrial land in east London’s Lea Valley, the recycling of over 98 percent of waste during construction and the commitment to do the same in the demolition phase.

Steiner listed LOCOG’s accomplishments on a walk through Olympic Park.

“London’s clean-up of an old industrial site; the restoration of flows and habitat on the River Lea; the greening of supply chains; the low energy linked with the design and construction of the stadium, including utilizing old gas pipes for the facility’s Olympic ring; and the use of temporary structures to reduce emissions are among the actions that can assist in inspiring the organizers of the Rio 2016 games and beyond,” he said.

This is the first time that a host city has committed to measure its carbon footprint over the entire term of the Olympic Games from construction to the finish line.

UK Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs Caroline Spelman said, “We are committed to building a future for everyone where the natural environment is not just protected, but valued as a national asset.”

“We are delighted to have set new standards in sustainable development, and to showcase the expertise and ingenuity of British companies in delivering a green Olympics so warmly welcomed by Mr. Steiner,” she said.

One of the “secret jewels of the London 2012 Games,” said Spelman, is the One Planet Centre in the Olympic Athletes’ Village. Here the athletes can find out how the Olympic site was built using sustainable techniques.

The interactive One Planet hub is filled with events and competitions such as swapping of pins, sharing of stories and use of social media that the athletes can use to find out more about protecting the environment.

Spelman says the One Planet Centre encourages the athletes to use their role-model leadership to inform their fans about how everyone can take positive steps to help build a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future.

The One Planet Centre is the result of collaboration between LOCOG, the UK government, charity and business. Developed by London 2012 in partnership with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the project is supported by Coca Cola and managed by the charity group BioRegional.

BioRegional has been working with London 2012 since 2004, when the group co-authored the sustainability strategy for London’s winning Olympic bid entitled, “Towards a One Planet Olympics.”

Sue Riddlestone, BioRegional’s executive director, said, “For some athletes the One Planet Centre will be the first time they are asked to think about sustainability. I am excited that we have been given this unique opportunity to create a centre which will educate athletes about living sustainably and inspire them to become ambassadors for helping to create a better tomorrow.”

British Olympian Ben Hunt-Davis said the special energy created inside the Athletes Village would be a powerful force to help drive change. Hunt-Davis won a gold medal in coxed eights at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney as a member of the only British rowing team to have won this event since 1912.

“This project is an ideal way to capture the one planet spirit you find in the athletes village during the Games,” he said. “Engaging athletes in sending out a positive message from London about how we can all build a better world ensures the village spirit is carried to every corner of the globe.”

In addition to the One Planet Centre there is a photo competition and a number of Sustainability Circles designed by the Royal College of Art that tell stories of living sustainably and create a treasure hunt competition for athletes.

Athletes who want to find out more about the transformation of the Olympic Park, can take a walk through the park led by someone from the London 2012 team.

David Stubbs, LOCOG’s head of sustainability said, “Our vision was to use the power of the Games to influence lasting sustainable change. The athletes and sport are at the heart of the Games, and the One Planet Centre on the Olympic Village is the perfect place to positively engage with them.”

Facts and Figures on Sustainability at the London Olympics:

  • In reclaiming the industrial area for Olympic Park, 98 percent of material from  the demolition work was reused or recycled – exceeding a target of 90 percent.
  • Two million tonnes of soil were cleansed of pollutants and more than 80 percent of soil was reused on site in the UK’s largest ever clean-up of contaminated land
  • Temporary structures that can be dismantled and re-used after the Games are in place throughout the site, in particular, the Basketball arena, one of the biggest temporary venues ever built for an Olympic Games.
  • 4,000 color-coded recycling bins and composting bins are placed through venues and Olympic Park, in an effort to achieve 70 percent re-use, recycling or composting during the Games.
  • The unique design of the Olympic Stadium enabled it to be created with just 10,000 tonnes of steel – the lightest ever.
  • The Velodrome was built with 100 percent sustainably sourced timber, and features unique meshing that holds roof in place with a third less steel.
  • The 88 ‘light pipes’ in the Copper Box let natural light into the venue, achieving annual energy savings of up to 40 percent.
  • The rainwater harvesting system in the Copper Box and a filter backwash at the Aquatics Centre are reducing water consumption by 40 percent
  • At least 64 percent of all construction materials were transported to the Olympic site by rail or water, reducing the project’s carbon footprint.
  • Ecological aims have been incorporated into the design of venues such as the Main Press Centre, which has a ‘brown roof,’ that uses seeds and logs reclaimed from the Olympic Park construction site to create new wildlife habitats
  • London 2012 is the first genuine public transport Games and includes an Active Travel Programme to get tens of thousands of people cycling and walking to venues
  • Centralized procurement, early supply chain integration and extensive trials and testing of various sustainable concrete mixes were key to reducing the overall environmental impact of concrete on the site.
  • LOCOG is providing 14 million sustainably sourced meals during the Games, showcasing the best of British food. The meals are Red Tractor Farm Assured to production standards developed by   experts on safety, hygiene, animal welfare and the environment; the fish is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and the produce is certified Fairtrade.
  • Carving out a new ecology of wildlife, plants and woodlands, the 250 acres of parkland is  the biggest urban park to be built in Europe for 150 years with 45 hectares of new wildlife habitat.
  • The park  has been designed to mitigate the effects of climate change and increased rainfall by acting as a sponge to help manage  water flow to the Thames River.
  • More than 4,000 trees, 300,000 wetland plants and over eight kilometres of waterway for local residents and visitors to enjoy. There are more than 650 bird and bat boxes installed across the Olympic Park.

Volunteers of all ages donated over thousands of hours of their time to clean up the Thames River and London’s other waterways. They removed over 950 black sacks of litter and large expanses of the damaging invasive weed Himalayan Balsam.

Volunteers planted 12 wildflower meadows and 80 trees along river and canal banks in an effort to ensure the spaces that surround and intersect the Olympic Host Boroughs are clean, accessible and ecologically improved.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said, “It’s fantastic that so many volunteers have pulled together to help make our rivers and canals sparkle for London’s summer like no other. The eyes of the world will be on the capital during the Games and thanks to this hard work, millions of people will be able to see our wonderful waterways at their best.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.

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