Sustainability in London 2012

For the very first time in the Olympic Games history, this term, that refears to an environmentally friendly policy towards the construction of infrastructures, appears in scene. By Jorge Moro Deiguesca.

Olympic Park Construction

The previous Olympic Games of 2008 in Beijing, were the very first inflection point that would change the policy towards environment to determinate the requirements for the International Olympic Committee. Nowadays, the cities that are interested on holding the Games have to develop their facilities in terms of sustainability.

Concerns about climate change in relation to environment are not the same now than two years ago. The Chinese government didn’t have a problem to considerate using silver to bomb clouds for not producing rain during the opening celebration, and half of the cars in the city of Beijing had to stay at home to avoid the high rates of pollution. This time, the IOC is not looking for the new Olympic cities to have an environmentally friendly policy during the games, but also before, during and after its construction.

For more info about Chinese restrictions in transport click here

The Olympic Celebration in the UK

This is one of the reasons why the capital of Great Britain is going to celebrate the next Games. For the organizers, sustainability has been one of the central exes. This is why they have developed the concept “Towards a
One Planet 2012”, which also its part of the concept developed by the organizations World Wide Life and Bio Regional “One Living Planet”. This concept shows the most important world challenges that humanity has to face in terms of environment. The United Kingdom is the 11th biggest generator of electrical energy, which means that if the entire planet would need the same amount of energy, three planets would be needed, according
to the statistics of the organization Earth Report.

Fact Box by Central Intelligence Agency. The United Kindgom appears in 12th position because the European Union is also including in this box.

This fact constitutes the base of the sustainability plans developed in the UK, and even more, the way that the Olympic Games can help to face negative global impacts such as Climate Change.

The organizers of London 2012 and all actors involved share the compromise of maximizing sustainability in the different stages of the games, during the construction of infrastructures denominated “Getting Ready”, during the Games “Games Time”, and after “Legacy”, once the Olympics have left the city.

This is why the Organization has focused its activities under five mayor points of action: Facing climate change, reduce waste, improve biodiversity, help inclusion, and promote healthy life style. This is why the different organizations taking part of the process have created the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012. The goal is to make the population know about this new actions and policies, at the same time that the Commission controls all procedures from an independent position.

Facing Climate Change

To reduce green-house gas emissions associated to the Olympic Park and the headquarters of the different sport disciplines, buildings are designed under a lower energy consumption concept. The usage of alternative energetic sources low in carbon, and the selection of materials that require less energy for its production are also included.

The transport for half of the materials that are going to be needed for the construction of the headquarters will consist on train and navigation. In this way, track transportation, which involves more polluting methods, will be partially avoided. These measures are allowing reductions superior to 15% of the energetic demand in comparison to the ones expected on 2006 through Construction Regulations.

To reduce the green-house gases emissions during the celebration of the Games, tickets for the usage of public transportation will be facilitated to spectators, workers and transportation by foot or bicycle will be promoted. The same way, train trips will be sponsored to avoid planes as the main source of transportation for citizens from other cities.

Renewable energy sources also take place. 20% of the electricity needed for the Games development will come from this new kind of alternative local energy, that includes the construction of a wind turbine that will produce around 4 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per annum, the energy equivalent to supplying 1,000 homes over an average year. The director of Infraestructure, Simon Wright reminds that this project will not only help to reach the ambicious 20% during the games, “but also the lasting regeneration of the area for many years to come”.

As a legacy, the organizations has proposed that all these new constructions will be able to be used in the future, and the population that lives closest to the Olympic Park could take advantage of this new kind of renewable energies and new technologies low in carbon after the games. Dependency on cars is expected to be highly cut by public transportation connections to approximate locations of the Olympic area.

Reduction of Waste

During the previous stages of the games, the reduction of waste is one of the other main priorities. At least 20% of the demolition materials used in the permanent headquarters will be reused or recycled in the same or other locations. Nowadays, the goal of 90% of the demolition materials for its reusing or recycling has been overtaken.

During the Games the storage of waste will try to be avoided by reuse as a source of energy. Temporary facilities are guaranteed to be designed in a way that they can be replaced and reused as well, and a new system of waste management has been created to assure that is going to take part on the creation of new products. This new projects intend to improve the development of new commodities for waste treatment in the East-Side London area. But in the other hand, Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, has published in the last month its Waste Report, and Commission chair Shaun McCarthy voiced concerns assuring: “There needs to be consistently high standard, which means more collaboration between stakeholders and organisers. Our concerns are that while all this good work is going on inside the venues, waste in the areas immediately surrounding the venues could be forgotten about”.

Improve Biodiversity

The Olympic Park is being built on an area that has been historically degraded by industrial pollution. But the area also holds natural habitats that will be conserved and connected through ecological pathways, and will be part of the future Olympic Park. ‘One Planet’ is the name of the new educational environment program for London 2012. 102 hectares of open space will be created, becoming the Olympic Park the biggest green area of Europe, using vegetable species originally from East London to help the area face the consequences of Climate Change in the region.

Social Inclusion and Healthy Life Style



East London. Heckney

To help social inclusion, The Organization Committee wants the closest communities to the Olympic area to benefit and participate on the development of the previous stages. Since 2008, 24% of the construction workers came from the different five districts of the city that are closer to the Park, which 9% had no previous employment. All these concepts are also planned to take part on the development of the Paralympics scenario.

To assure all this legacy, the United Kingdom Government and the municipal institutions have designed in 2007 ‘Our promise for 2012’, which describes with detail the actions that will be taken during the following years. This includes integration plans for different communities such Lower Lea Valley, creating social protection housing.

For more information about ‘Our promise for 2012’ click here.

London 2012, the Olympic Games with more attendance in history

Almost 32 million tourists will visit London during the year 2012, which includes two million more tickets sold in comparison to the Olympic Games in Sydney. This is a new challenge, not only for the city, but also to the sustainability projects, that were not as much as included in previous games.



Fact Box Attendance Estimation

Sustainability, one more requirement for IOC

The ambitious design of all these new projects has been taken in consideration for the IOC to designate the new Olympic cities in the future. The candidacy of Madrid 2012 took part of the sustainable process of the city with 320.000 Euros investment to the Sustainability Olympic Program, which has been one of the exes of the city’s transformation in this field. Towards 2016, Rio de Janeiro has been chosen. The biologist Emily Brennan, which is also one of the members of Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, addresses as a ‘Key Factor’ the social policies and their interaction to environmentally friendly projects towards the present and future.

Olympic Park map here


About jorgedeiguesca