An event the size of a world cup soccer tournament or Olypmic Games comes under a great deal of scrutiny from a number of sources. Are such events worth the tax spend? Do they create enough work? Will there be a sustained tourism boost after the event? In recent years organisers of these events have also had to consider carbon emissions.
It is not hard to understand why sustainability and environmental issues need to be addressed. A sporting event which sees athletes, coaches, medical staff, administrators, supporters and the obligatory political entourage fly from all over the globe is hardly eco-friendly. Add to the mix the extra water and energy that will be used along with waste produced; and you have an event that leaves a legacy of environmental damage.
According to a report released by the Foreign Commonwealth Office, London is the first host city to include sustainability in its planning from the very start. They envisaged that the Games would be a catalyst for change and would encourage greener living throughout the UK. The plan has largely been based on World Wildlife Fund’s “One Planet” concept.
The concept seeks to get populations to be less wasteful and consume fewer resources. Currently, the UK uses three planet’s worth of natural resources. The London 2012 Games has a sustainability plan that has five key focus areas, namely addressing climate change by minimising greenhouse gas emissions; minimising waste; minimising the impact of the Games on habitats near venues and therefore ensuring biodiversity; promoting access and including UK citizens of all cultures in the Games; and inspiring people to make healthy, sustainable lifestyles changes.
The plan is noble with goals that, if achieved, would undoubtedly set the bar for future sporting events. While it is easy to get swayed by rhetoric and promises the City of London does have some practical ways in which it plans to achieve these goals. Plans are afoot to cut emissions to 50% by generating energy on the site and using renewable energy. They aim to reuse or recycle roughly 90% of demolition materials. Many of the materials used in construction were carried to the Olympic Park via rail and water. Visitors to London will be encouraged to use public transport, walk or cycle to the events (cycle paths and walkways have been built or improved upon). The Velodrome uses rain water collected from the roof for flushing toilets and irrigation. The Olympic Stadium’s roof was made out of unwanted gas pipelines. Many of the venues have incorporated green habitat spaces into walls and roofs.
Organisers are confident that despite the high cost of the Games, the long term benefits will outstrip the expenditure.