The final chapter on a sustainable London 2012

Sunday, 23 December 2012
By Tom Degun

Cable car London 2012The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games have already been hailed at the most sustainable in history but it was only this month that we essentially received the official confirmation.

That confirmation came as London 2012 published their Post-Games Sustainability Report.

The report, titled A legacy of change, presents key results and highlights the major learnings from integrating a sustainability programme in the world's largest event.

In basic terms, it details exactly how the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) staged the most sustainable Games in history.

London 2012 say the report is intended as a resource and knowledge transfer tool to help future Olympic and Paralympic Games and global event organisers embed sustainability into event planning.

More likely, it will become a blueprint to which every major event Organising Committee will now turn, hoping to replicate London 2012's stunning sustainability feat.

Perhaps the key advice the report offers is to plan early.

Sustainability was a core part of the London 2012 bid from the outset and it remained so when the London 2012 Organising Committee and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) were set up.

Get ahead of the Games London 2012London 2012's"Get ahead of the Games" campign explained to commuters how transport networks will operate during the London 2012 Games

From those early beginning, London 2012 set ambitious sustainability targets.

These included measuring the carbon footprint over the entire project term, implementing a waste strategy to achieve zero Games-time waste to landfill, delivering a public transport Games and committing to a food vision to specify stringent sustainability requirements.

Another ambitious sustainability target was setting new standards by contributing to the development of the international sustainable event management system standard ISO 20121 – which is set to be part of a very influential global legacy.

The Post-Games report provides the final results of the sustainability programme and reviews how and whether targets were met.

The report itself is long and detailed, 68 pages in all, but it is certainly worth highlighting some of the key results and learnings that are truly ground-breaking.

As London 2012 was the first Games to use carbon footprinting as a tool to inform decisions to minimise environmental impacts, the sustainability measure influenced venue design, materials, equipment selection, procurement strategies and operational interventions during the Games. The design and materials of London's iconic stadium wrap system, provided by Dow, accounted for less than half of one percent (<0.5 per cent) of the stadium's total carbon footprint, making it a low-carbon solution for enclosing and decorating the structure.

In total, 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent were saved against reference footprint, construction carbon footprint was 15 per cent lower than reference footprint and Games operations carbon footprint was 28 per cent lower than reference footprint.

In addition, 86 per cent of venue overlay materials were hired (64 per cent carbon saving), 34 per cent reduction in venue energy were used to save 31,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent and the London 2012 Transport Plan achieved a 30 per cent carbon reduction for domestic spectator travel. Venues such as the Olympic and Paralympic Village included ROOFMATE™ SL-A STYROFOAM™ insulation from Dow, which helped support energy efficiency as well as offering lifetime durability.

London 2012 Olympic ParkA total of 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent were saved against reference footprint

In terms of becoming a zero waste Games; London 2012 was the first Organising Committee to publish an all-embracing Zero Waste Games Vision.

The key achievement of this included 100 per cent of event operations waste being diverted from landfill during the Olympic and Paralympic Games period from July to October this year.

A total of 10,173 tonnes of operational waste was recorded and by conventional measures 82 per cent of operational waste was reused, recycled or composted whereas the true figure was 62 per cent, taking into account waste stream contamination and processing efficiencies.

There was also a boost from the public as 73 per cent of spectators surveyed during the Games said that the waste stream logos on packaging made it clear in which bin to put their waste. Dow resins were used in the design and production of the more than 3,600 litter and recycling bins used throughout Olympic venues in London. The Dow resins helped meet LOCOG standards for strong, durable plastics needed to withstand heavy usage and exposure to sunlight during the Games and LOCOG's legacy requirements for future reuse across the United Kingdom. The black, orange and green bin hoods made it easier for the general public to identify each category of recyclables.

Sustainable transport is the next big highlight because in addition to meeting the Games-time transport challenge, the aim was to maximise the long-term transport legacy benefits for London and the UK as a whole.

The report shows public transport, walking and cycling were key parts of the success of the Olympics and Paralympics. It says that the principles of inspiring more active forms of travel through the staging of a major event and promoting as many travel options as possible, both for those travelling to the event and those that are temporarily impacted, can be applied easily elsewhere.

London Cycle Hire bicycle scheme London 2012London Cycle Hire bicycle scheme was launched to make transport in the city greener ahead of this summer Games

But perhaps one of the more noteworthy findings of the report highlights the economic benefits of sustainability.

More than 70 per cent of London 2012's individual suppliers were micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, providing 26 per cent by value of the programme.

Over 95 per cent of London 2012's total spend was within the UK and contracts were awarded to businesses in all nations and regions of the country.

More than £9 million ($14.5 million/€11.2 million) of savings - representing between 25 and 55 per cent - were realised in power and fuel use for the Games and there was a 40 per cent saving of water use.

At the peak of the Games workforce, 39 per cent of staff directly employed by London 2012 had been unemployed prior to their recruitment and 34 per cent of contractors newly employed for the Games were unemployed prior to their recruitment.

Exactly 23.5 per cent of staff directly employed by London 2012 and 21 per cent of contractors employed for Games-time roles were resident in one of the six Host Boroughs. Meanwhile nearly £8 million ($13 million/€10 million) worth of Games equipment and materials have been sold for reuse. Wood, plasterboard, lighting and doors have all been redeployed at local charities, building projects and community programmes while some of the equipment was given to local charities, schools in the Get Set network and to sport National Governing Bodies. 

Additionally, the centrepiece of the London Olympic Games, the innovative and iconic Stadium wrap provided by Dow, will also be recycled following the Games. Dow has been working with leading UK building and development charity Article 25 and recycling company Axion Recycling to repurpose the entire stadium wrap. The textile wrap panels are slated for recycling and reuse projects in the UK, and shelter solutions for at-risk children in Uganda and the site of the 2016 Olympic Games, Rio.

London 2012 Olympic stadium Dow wrapThe innovative and iconic Stadium wrap provided by Dow will be recycled

There are undoubtedly numerous people who deserve credit for helping deliver the unprecedented sustainability drive for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, but perhaps none more than David Stubbs.

Stubbs was the London 2012 head of sustainability, a role he held since joining the London 2012 bid team in November 2003. He joined London 2012 as an internationally renowned specialist in the field of sport and the environment. During the 1990s he was director of the European Golf Association Ecology Unit where established the first pan-European environmental management programme for golf courses. He also began advising the British Olympic Association (BOA) on environmental matters in 1998 and in 2000 he worked with the Environment Team Sydney 2000.

But London 2012 is perhaps his greatest accomplishment and completing the Post-Games Sustainability Report was essentially his final act in the role as he left the Organising Committee shortly after it was published. But departing after nearly a decade working on the Games, Stubbs is quick to praise all those who helped London 2012 deliver their sustainability commitments and is hopeful the report will be of huge benefit to future host cities.

"This work could not have been achieved without the collaboration from so many of our stakeholders," said Stubbs.

"We are strongly convinced that the embedding of sustainability on this scale can only be supported through constructive dialogue and a partnership approach. We are proud of our achievements but this is just the beginning; we hope that tools such as the standard ISO 20121 and the published learnings from the London 2012 Games will present a significant step change in the way future events are managed."

London 2012 stewardsExactly 23.5 per cent of staff directly employed by London 2012 and 21 per cent of contractors employed for Games-time roles were resident in one of the six Host Boroughs

Fortunately for the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, Stubbs' involvement with the Games has not yet ended. He will in fact be part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission for the 2020 Candidate Cities next year. The Commission will be visiting three cities of Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo and impressing Stubbs with their various commitments to sustainability will do their chances of winning the 2020 Olympic and Paralympics Games no harm at all.

Another who deserves a mention is Jonathon Porritt, a leading British environmentalist and the lead London 2012 Sustainability Ambassador. Porritt is perhaps best known for his championing of Green issues and his advocacy of the Green Party of England and Wales. And like Stubbs, he has hailed the Post-Games Sustainability Report.

"This report represents a 'first cut' on the final story, with a particular focus on those issues which were seen by stakeholders as being of particular importance," said Porritt.

"There is so much that will contribute to the legacy of the 2012 Games, and the sustainability story is right up there as one of the most important aspects."

Perhaps a final mention should go to Sir Tim Smit, the chief executive and co-founder of the Eden Project as well as a London 2012 Sustainability Ambassador.

The Eden Project that was created by the Dutch-born British businessman is a visitor attraction in Cornwall in the United Kingdom. Inside the artificial biomes are plants that are collected from all around the world.

Smit was therefore an unsurprising choice as a London 2012 Sustainability Ambassador.

And his words sum-up the London 2012's phenomenal sustainability drive perfectly as he says: "The London 2012 sustainability team have done London, the Olympic Movement and event management a colossal service in creating the first really meaningful template

for measuring environmental impacts of an event."

Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames.biz

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