The London 2012 Olympic Games. Sustainable or not?

by Derek Linsell on 21/04/2012

Every four years, the best athletes in the world come together to compete in one the biggest sporting events on the planet – the Olympic Games.

And the upcoming edition could very well be the best yet.

The London 2012 Olympic Games is in the final stages of a seven-year strategy for this event.

London won the rights for the Olympics back in 2005. Since then, the organising committee has done everything in its power to ensure the July event will be the best the world will ever see.

But so much more planning goes into events like these than what we actually see on the surface.

Many folk around the world will sit in front of their televisions at home and watch the 16 days of competition. Others will gather in their thousands and witness the splendour live at Olympic venues.

However the majority of us will forget the impact the Olympics will have, not only on London, but on the entire country, in terms of sustainability and accountability towards Corporate Social Responsibility.

For an event to be sustainable it is not the easiest of tasks as for example, a building, which can be deemed as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

The Olympics will therefore have to operate differently, but still as effectively.

London 2012 has a sustainability plan, which can be viewed on its website. It has endeavoured to do a lot for the footprint it may, or may not, leave behind.

London’s bid for the Games seven years ago showed the country’s commitment to sustainability, highlighted by:

  • Using venues which already exist in the UK, where possible.
  • Only making permanent structures that will have long-term use after the games are complete.
  • Building temporary structures for everything else.

London 2012 has even used the phrase “a catalyst for change”, emphasising this will be “the first sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games”.

The sustainability plan, also documents the potential challenges the organising committee may face. However it stresses that it is prepared for anything and transparent in the awareness of these issues. For example, the treatment of waste during and after the Games depends on the “provision of facilities and technologies that are not yet in place”.

It is hard not to look back at previous Olympic Games and contemplate the promises that were made but never upheld.

The 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing were by far the most expensive ever held, with an estimated $40 billion spent in running costs and losses. This left many people homeless without compensation.

The 2004 Athens Olympics weren’t much better. The remaining buildings used during the event are now derelict and abandoned, with much of a cost to Greece.

If anything, London should have learnt a lot from the past experiences of other countries.

Yet there is little to be discouraged from the work London 2012 has done already across the country.

Of course the real test will be during and after the Games.

To keep London 2012 on target, Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 has been created to monitor and report all of the work to the public.

All eyes will be on London over the coming months, not only for the Olympics itself, but also for what could be seen as the ‘aftermath’ of what remains.

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