When it comes to the Olympics, we think about the hours and years spent training, we think about honoring one’s country, and we think about late nights huddled around the United States’ next big athlete, but we don’t often think about the environment. Fortunately for us, London is thinking about it, and they’re making some big changes.
In 2005, part of London’s bid for the 2012 included the promise of the greenest Olympics to date, and many argue that’s how they won out over New York City, Madrid, Paris, and Moscow. With the start of London 2012 this Friday, environmentalists everywhere are waiting to see if they can upstage Vancouver’s efforts and keep the atmosphere clean.
As we all sit with bated breath awaiting this Friday’s opening ceremony, London is still working hard to make record-breaking strides in Olympic sustainability. What started as a plan to go carbon neutral has slowly but surely turned into a low-carbon alternative. There were plenty of big plans for the 2012 Olympics, and critics have been watching closely ever since they made their bid sound greener than life. We’ve got a few short days left before the opening ceremony, and everyone wants to know where London succeeded in reaching carbon neutrality, and where they fell short.
For starters, they initially estimated the cost of a carbon-neutral Olympics Games at $3.5 billion, but later had to adjust it to a whopping $14 billion. Instead of reaching carbon neutrality, they’re settling for reduced carbon emissions, which is still an admirable plan. Those figures show us that they weren’t fully prepared for the required changes to create a carbon-neutral Games, and with just a few short days before the Opening Ceremony, critics are having a field day.
Even with these shortcomings, London says its still on track for the greenest Olympics since the chariots brought competitors to the stadiums.
In addition to adding bike paths and pedestrian paths for Londoners after The Games, London will successfully deliver on its commitment of public transport to and from the Games. That means the 9 million spectators will have the ability to use eco-friendly public transit, significantly reducing the unbelievable levels of carbon and pollution that often surrounds large sporting events. The Active Travel was launched in late 2011 to encourage locals and visitors to pursue more active methods of traveling to and from the Games, using a series of uncomplicated bike and pedestrian pathways.
Sustainable Building Efforts
Many complaints of unused buildings and facilities circle the globe a few years after a city’s Games. High-tech buildings are constructed for practice, training, and competing facilities, and then their use is merely left to the city’s discretion. Unfortunately, with the Games already checked off their bucket list, many buildings are rarely given a useful purpose, and simply collect dust and attract tourists. Well, not this time around. All of the buildings for the 2012 Olympics already have plans for all of the erected buildings.
This year’s Olympic Park is clearly the greenest to date. The highest sustainability goals were set, and these remarkable standards were met. They’ve incorporated flood alleviation, river clean up methods, and a mature landscape to help provide a new wildlife habitat. These lasting benefits provide hope that the 2012 Olympics’ buildings will find uses for many generations to come.
Waste and Water
Eliminating waste is never easy, but this year, London is committed to reusing 90% of materials from demolished buildings, and almost all of the materials used in the construction of the stadiums and parks are on their second life cycle. While they fell short of 100% renewable and sustainable energy sources, the overall outcome of waste reduction is considered very successful. In all new construction, London set a lofty goal to use rainwater so often that they could reduce the use of new water by 20%.
For the first time in the history of the Games, the food provided will be required to follow strict sustainable guidelines. All caterers are signed up to the Food Vision standards, and are prepared to serve 14 million sustainably sourced meals.
While many critics are disappointed in the scratched wind turbine, the failed attempts to be energy-sufficient, and the not-so carbon neutral torch, London 2012 has set the stage for future sustainability goals and solutions. Be prepared for big changes in the way major sporting events think about the environment.