In the mid-1990s, I attended the first world conference for sport and the environment in Lausanne, which opened my eyes to the potential for major events to not only include an environmental strategy, but also act as a vehicle for promoting a better understanding of environmental and wider sustainability issues. In 1998, the British Olympic Association asked me to join a working group for scoping out an environmental strategy for a potential London Olympic and Paralympic Games bid, and so I joined the London bid team in 2003.
We started with a blank sheet of paper, but also the knowledge that sustainability was beginning to be taken more seriously and that it would be a good differentiator for the London bid over its rivals. Our first start up was to involve stakeholders to see how collectively we could build a coherent plan. Amongst the earliest partners were WWF and BioRegional, a sustainability charity based in South London. Together the two organisations had developed ‘One Planet Living’ – a vision for a more sustainable world, in which people can enjoy happy, healthy lives within the natural limits of the planet along with wildlife and areas of wilderness. Their framework had five key themes, which could be incorporated into a strategy for the sustainability of the London 2012 Games:
1 Climate change – to deliver a low-carbon games and showcase how we are adapting to a world increasingly affected by climate change
2 Waste – to deliver a zero waste games, demonstrate exemplary resource management practices and promote long-term behavioural change
3 Biodiversity – to conserve biodiversity, create new urban green spaces and bring people closer to nature through sport and culture
4 Inclusion – to host the most inclusive games to date by promoting access, celebrating diversity and facilitating the physical, economic and social regeneration of the Lower Lea Valley and surrounding communities
5 Healthy living – to inspire people across the country to take up sport and develop active, healthy and sustainable lifestyles
We took a holistic approach to sustainability. For us it was about making positive and lasting changes in the way we use natural and human resources and to improve quality of life now and in the future. In terms of events, this means ensuring that we provide an accessible and inclusive setting for all; a safe and secure atmosphere; have minimal negative impacts on the environment; encourage healthy living; promote responsible sourcing; deliver excellent customer experience; encourage more sustainable behaviour and leave a positive legacy.
This strategy was not just for the bid or the games themselves. It had to be incorporated into the planning and works leading up to the games – the construction, procurement, sourcing and then the staging of the games, as well as part of the long term legacy planning and the legacy development corporation in the future.
There have been challenges but the highlights have been great too and below are just some examples of what we have achieved. Then there will be the games themselves and their legacy, such as the Olympic Park, which holds the most sustainable Olympic Stadium ever built with the largest new urban parkland in Europe for 150 years. The park is already developing into a mature landscape, and the cleaner and reprofiled river valley is providing both new habitats for wildlife and significant flood alleviation – just one example of the lasting benefits of the London 2012 Olympics.
It is impossible to please everyone but the majority of stakeholders and those involved have been inspired by the benefits to people and environment alike. So much so, that it has led to the creation of the London 2012 Inspire Programme which aims to support special projects that have been inspired by the London 2012 Games in the areas of sustainability, education, volunteering, business, sport or culture.
Examples of some of the achievements so far:
• London 2012 is the first summer Olympic and Paralympic Games to measure its carbon footprint over the entire project term. We used the carbon footprint to help us identify the main areas of potential impact so we could prioritise our efforts to avoid and reduce these carbon emissions. Design, procurement and material selection strategies were the main methods used to lower our carbon footprint
• We aimed to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2013, and the 2011 estimate predicts we will beat our target with a 58 per cent reduction
• All permanent venues are on track to be 15 per cent more efficient than an equivalent structure built in 2006
• The concrete mix used for the Olympic Park and Village has achieved carbon savings of more than 40 per cent compared with standard specifications
• More than 90 per cent of cooling supplied to permanent
venues will be hydrofluorocarbon-free after the Games
• The Olympic Village is being designed to be highly water efficient through use of water saving devices and appliances. Water consumption per person per day will be 105 litres against a standard of 160 litres
• A significantly reduced risk of flooding will benefit over 4,000 properties as a result of the Park’s designs
• The Olympic Park has the country’s largest plant treating raw sewage to provide non-potable water for use as irrigation water across the site and for supplying the on-site Energy Centre
• The Energy Centre uses new technologies including biomass boilers to provide low carbon cooling, heating and power for the site and is 30 per cent more efficient than standard energy generation
• When plans for a 2MW wind turbine for the site had to be abandoned, the Olympic Delivery Authority identified that the budget would go much further if invested in energy efficiency measures in the local community. It has therefore funded a project which involves retrofitting around 2,800 domestic properties and 12 schools in the Host Boroughs connected to the Olympic Park. Measures include improving heating controls; draught proofing; insulation; smart meters and water efficiency fittings
• 98.5 per cent of demolition waste and 99 per cent of construction waste from the Park has been recycled and in some cases reused
• A total of eight buildings have been reused off-site
• More than 80 per cent of soil has been cleaned in-situ and reused on the Olympic Park
• Concrete with more than 30 per cent of recycled materials was used for the foundations for the Aquatics Centre, Handball Arena and Olympic Stadium
• The Zero Waste Games Vision sets out the strategy for delivering the games-time target of sending no operational waste to landfill and reusing, recycling or composting at least 70 per cent of materials
• The Olympic Park Masterplan will create 45 hectares of new habitat and 102 hectares of open space
• More than 15,000xm2 of living roof were included in designs for the Olympic Village, Aquatics Centre, Eton Manor and Main Press Centre
• 5km of waterway improvement works have been completed within the Olympic Park site including taking rubbish out of waterways, dredging and fixing river walls
• 300,000 wetland plants and 2,000 semi-mature trees have been planted in the Park
• London 2012 will be the first true ‘public transport games’. Ticket holders will be given a Games Travelcard to use on London’s public transport
• The ‘Active Travel’ programme will encourage more walking and cycling in the lead- up to, during and after the Games and includes 75 kilometres of walking and cycling routes to the Olympic Park
• The 4,000 official Games Family vehicles supplied by BMW will be well within the fleet-wide average emissions target of 120gCO2/km. Over two-thirds of the fleet will also be compliant with the forthcoming Euro 6 standards for nitrogen oxides emissions
• Significant investment has been made to improve the public transport infrastructure in and around London, which is already delivering an early legacy benefit
• The innovative London 2012 Food Vision has provided the basis for 14 million sustainably sourced meals to be served during the Games
• Particulate filters have been retrofitted to 27 prime running diesel generators providing temporary power to Games venues. These cut harmful emissions by 80 per cent
AS told to Emilia Hungerford, who received a first-class honours degree in Biochemistry from Edinburgh University, studied Medicine at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry before becoming a freelance journalist and environmentalist. After working for Vanity Fair, the Evening Standard and on a number of environmental documentaries, she started to conduct research in the environmental sector.