Early in the process, the London 2012 management team made a number of promises to the International Olympic Committee about the Sustainability of the 2012 Olympics. The organizing committee worked with BioRegional and the World Wildlife Fund to develop Towards a One Planet 2012 – a sustainable Games vision.
The Olympic Venues were chosen or built with sustainable practices in mind. Whenever possible, existing venues such as Wimbledon (see blog on Wimbledon Supply Chain Challenges), Lords (the home of English cricket will host archery) and Earls Court (Volleyball) are being used.
Next, temporary venues are leveraged, such as Hyde Park (home for Triathlon and Marathon Swimming) and Horse Guards Parade (home, but perhaps not the obvious choice, for Beach Volleyball). A great example of a design for sustainability is the basketball venue which is covered in 20,000 square meters of a recyclable white PVC fabric, and will be dismantled and reused after the Olympics are finished.
When “legacy” venues were required, they were built with minimal environmental impact and reuse in mind. Each new venue was required to achieve a minimum 15 percent improvement against Building Regulations. The “green medal” for designed energy efficiency goes to the Velodrome with an efficiency improvement of 31 percent over building regulations. The design brief for the Olympic Stadium called for a centerpiece 80,000-seat stadium for use during the Games, which could later be converted to a more economically sustainable permanent 25,000-seat facility (this means there are 55,000 temporary seats in the Olympic Stadium). In fact, the Olympic Stadium has been constructed using one tenth of the steel required to build Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest”.
Suppliers to the Olympics have had to consider the packaging, transportation costs, emissions and returns/waste attributes of their products. For example, a food vision has been introduced for suppliers that focus around five key principles:
- Food safety and hygiene – Safe, traceable and from resilient supply chains.
- Choice and balance – Catered for diverse dietary requirements with quality, choice and value. This includes free drinking water and healthy and nutritious options.
- Food sourcing and supply chains –Minimal environmental impact, meeting high ethical and defined product standards.
- Environmental management, resource efficiency and waste – Encompassing efficient use of equipment, reduced packaging, and leveraging reusable materials to minimizing waste and promote recycling.
- Skills and education – Supporting improved skill levels, training and diversity in the work force.
McDonald’s, who have secured the food franchise for the Games, committed to make their food supply chain more transparent through their Open Farms program. They committed to all of the Olympic sustainability policies, including reductions in packaging and waste, which they have been trialing in their restaurants in the UK over the last 12 months.
Coca-Cola expect to serve more than 20 million bottles of Coca-Cola products over the course of the Games, and every plastic bottle is fully recyclable and contain 25% recycled material and also renewable materials, using the companies new PlantBottle technology. Every plastic bottle disposed of will be brought to a recycling factory in Lincolnshire, which is primed to receive as much as one fifth of the consumer waste produced at the Olympic Park.
In fact, all food vendors in the main Olympic Park will use compostable packaging made mainly from starch and cellulose-based bio-plastics. That means that all the wrappers and boxes will not be sitting in a landfill when the next Olympics come to London.
Adidas has committed to all their London 2012 products having specific sustainable content by Games-time through their Better Place initiative in which 100% of their athletic footwear products will have sustainable content.
Grant Barnett & Co have changed their umbrellas (an item that could be in big demand given the unreliability of the British summer) from PVC to polyester in order to meet London 2012’s requirements and are the first umbrella company to develop a recycled polyester fabric.
Over three million official Games programs are to be printed on FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper, which is an innovation at the forefront within the publishing industry.
Check out Sustainably Sourced for more examples.
London’s famous transportation systems, including Double Deckers (Bus), Tube (Underground) and Taxis will be tested with an additional 10 million spectators expected on top of the already bustling summer crowds. It will be a logistical challenge to get everyone to their venues on time. During the games a fleet of BMWs will transport VIPs around London during the games. The majority of the cars will run on clean diesel, and 200 of them will be new varieties of BMW’s electric-only cars.
In an effort to encourage social sustainability, the organizers have initiated an Active Travel (a fancy way of saying use your own power to get around) and there have been £10 million in improvements to over 75km of key walking and cycling routes leading to London 2012. There is even the Barclay’s Cycle Hire system (affectionately known as Boris’ bikes after the Mayor of London), a pickup/drop-off bike rental service with stations around the city (watch the video).
And those traveling by foot could be creating their own lighting through a walkway leading to the Olympic Park that will be lit powered by twelve energy harvesting floor tiles. They have been placed along a walkway connecting the West Ham Tube Station to the Olympic Park. The tiles are expected to receive more than 12 million impressions, and generate 72 million joules of energy (enough to power an electric BMW Mini E for about 400 laps of the Olympic athletics track).
By creating a positive experience for people walking and cycling to the Games, London 2012 and Transport for London hope to build a sustainable legacy and that people will continue to choose to walk and cycle in the future.
The London 2012 organizers have made a great effort to drive sustainability throughout the multiyear process of delivering the London 2012 Olympics. Here is to successful and sustainable games that are eventful for all the right reasons.
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