The Most Sustainable Olympics Ever

The city of London, England emphasized sustainability in its bid to earn the responsibility of hosting the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Sustainable construction, food, transportation, and zero waste was examined and programs were devised in an effort to make the 2012 Summer Olympics the most sustainable games to date.

The implementation began in East London, an industrial area just less than 100 square miles in perimeter, which consisted of contaminated soil and rundown warehouses. The area was cleaned up and renovated to create the Olympic Park, a large park with green spaces and newly constructed buildings that will later downsize to enable continued use after the games.

Olympic parkland
The planting of 4000, 20-year-old saplings and the transferring of more than 380,000 wetland plants to the park, created a permeable wetland that will reduce urban heat and pollution long after the games

Since stadiums of the magnitude necessary for the Olympic Games would not be needed after all of the medals were awarded, the newly constructed buildings in the park have removable sections, so that capacity can be reduced after the Olympics. The Olympic stadium, for instance, was created with a permanent, lower bowl that seats 25,000 people and a 55,000 capacity seating level above, which will be removed after the games. The Aquatic Center has a similar design concept as the sides of the building hold an extra 15,000 seats which, when removed, amount to a building with a 2,500 seating capacity.

Attention was devoted to reducing impact of the games from beginning to end. As such, 98% of the demolition waste was reused and 63% of construction materials arrived via rail or water. In an effort to use fewer resources, the roof of the Olympic Stadium was constructed using surplus pipes from a gas mains project and the Velodrome’s roof was constructed using steel cables and netting rather than steel beams and concrete. The soil that the park rests upon was not excluded from the goal of minimized impact: two million tons of East London’s contaminated soil, which was filled with heavy metals, arsenic, lead and zinc, along with other pollutants, was decontaminated and reused, rather than being sent to a landfill.

 The planting of 4000, 20-year-old saplings and the transferring of more than 380,000 wetland plants to the park, created a permeable wetland that will reduce urban heat and pollution long after the games, it will also with provide London residents and visitors with a great place for outdoor activities. The new park will also move rain-water more easily to the River Thames and reduce the possibility of flooding.

Olympic Velodrome
The Velodrome’s roof was constructed using steel cables and netting rather than steel beams and concrete to reduce the amount of materials used in construction

To ensure that the legacy of the 2012 London Summer Olympics is a long-lasting and sustainable one the ISO 20121:2012 was used during the planning phase. The ISO 20121:2012 is a newly created guideline for considering sustainability while planning and hosting events which was written by a group of experts from 30 different countries. According to a press release on the London 2012 website, David Stubbs, Head of Sustainability at London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, said: “London 2012 is proud to have been the catalyst for ISO 20121. This is a piece of legacy with the potential to transform how events around the world consider their economic, environmental and social impacts."

 One of the resulting measures of the ISO 20121 is the zero-waste policy at the games. A public waste disposal system was developed with packaging that has colored dots which correspond to the proper waste receptacle, colored to signify whether it holds compostable, recyclable or waste material. In addition, the food at the Olympic Games honors and exceeds the guidelines set up in the ISO 20121. The food for the Olympics is geared towards health and diversity of choice, and attention was rightfully given to sourcing and supply chain practices to ensure that the food at the Olympics is as sustainable as possible.

The LOCOG infused the Olympics with sustainability at almost every possible point, living up to its commitment to host the most sustainable games to date. Obstacles were encountered, an experience generally associated with pioneering, but enough sustainable initiatives were addressed that the legacy created by the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, if nothing else, has a social impact of encouraging those in the city and who watch the Olympics to consider some of the implications of acting and living more sustainably. The tag line adopted by the London Olympics concerning sustainability was Towards a One Planet Olympics, it holds the ideal that global consumption should be modified to better sustain the globe that we live on, rather than depleting it.

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