This week marks the opening of the 30th Summer Olympiad. While seasoned athletes and new Olympians from all over the world have descended upon London to compete, there’s something else that should also be getting some attention: London’s sustainability efforts.
By transforming a run-down and neglected part of east London into a bustling hub of green activity, London’s organizers have outdone themselves. It’s being hailed as the first sustainable Olympics, and at the heart of their efforts is an initiative called “Towards a One Planet 2012.” Developed through a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and BioRegional, this initiative was designed to ensure the Olympics are “guided by the principle that the world should live within its means.”
More than just a talking point designed to increase publicity, sustainability has been baked into the framework of the 2012 games. (In fact, the organizers’ push for sustainability was one of the factors that led to London being chosen to host the games.)
“If you can put sustainability at the heart of a project which is the largest logistical exercise in peace time – across 26 different sports, with thousands of people attending and millions watching – then you can do it anywhere,” said David Stubbs, the head of sustainability for the London 2012 Games.
As the games kick-off, green-minded individuals and marketers should get excited. With an estimated four billion people around the world expected to tune in for the opening ceremonies, and many millions continuing to watch during the subsequent two weeks of competition, London’s sustainability efforts will undoubtedly be a hot topic of conversation.
Here are some of the green points that Olympic viewers and visitors can expect to see and experience over the coming weeks:
- More than 60% of Olympic Park’s construction materials were brought to the site by alternative methods, including rail and river. No small feat, considering it’s the largest new urban park built in Europe in over 150 years.
- More than 4,000 trees, 74,000 plants and 300,000 wetland plants have been used at Olympic Park’s 500-acre site.
- Many of Olympic Park’s bridges have been constructed using gabion walls, which are made of steel mesh filled with stones and rubble collected from demolished buildings in the area.
- The velodrome, where cyclists will compete indoors, has both an exterior and track constructed of sustainably sourced Siberian pine.
- The 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium was constructed using one-tenth of the steel required to build Beijing’s stadium for the 2008 games. Much of the stadium’s roof was built using surplus gas pipelines, and the entire stadium – the lightest Olympic stadium ever built – weighs in at around 4,500 tons.
The Olympic games provide the world with two weeks of inspiring stories, athletic achievement and camaraderie. Thanks to the efforts of London’s planners, we can also expect many sustainability-related stories to reach the far corners of the world. At the very least, the planners deserve a gold medal for their efforts.