By Tom Degun

London-2012-Olympic-GamesIt has long been clear that the measures taken by London 2012 were going to make these the most sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games in history by quite some distance.

For such an achievement, London 2012 has been widely praised from all areas for the various strategies it has implemented from the outset of its bid for the Games to ensure it hit its challenging sustainability goals.

However, praise in this particular area rarely comes from an authority as high as Germany's Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Acting on the nomination of then UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, the UN General Assembly in 2006 unanimously elected Steiner, one of the world's leading experts in environmental politics, into the prestigious UNEP executive director role for a four-year term. It made him the fifth executive director in UNEP's history and at its 83rd plenary meeting in 2010, the UN General Assembly, on the proposal of the new secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, re-elected Steiner for another four-year term.

UNEP itself has a long-standing association with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and since 1994, the two organisations have worked together to incorporate environmental issues into the Olympic Games. UNEP is also represented on the Sport and Environment Commission, which advises the IOC Executive Board on environmental matters relating to the Olympics.

It was therefore a rather important moment indeed as Steiner visited the Olympic Park in Stratford in April this year, in a move that coincided with the launch of London 2012's pre-Games sustainability report.

Achim Steiner_20-09-12Achim Steiner's inspection of the Olympic Park delivered a significant boost to London 2012's environmental credentials

Steiner, who is also the UN under-secretary general and chair of the UN's Environmental Management Group (EMG), visited the Olympic Park to witness the showcase of sustainable development and regeneration of the East London site.

His tour was led by London 2012 head of sustainability David Stubbs and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) director of venues and infrastructure Simon Wright.

Following the inspection, the German's words were arguably the biggest boost so far to London 2012's sustainability commitments.

"I witnessed the thoughtful approach to bringing sustainability issues into the planning and development of a mass scale event," said Steiner.

"Efforts such as the greening of the supply chain, regeneration of an inner city area and bringing energy efficiency measures to local homes, can build the confidence to wider society that sustainability is not theory but infinitely do-able with the policies and technologies available today not tomorrow.

"Once the Games are over, I look forward to analysing the achievements and lessons learned."

The German admitted he was particularly impressed with the pre-Games sustainability report and the attention to detail it included.

london 2012_olympic_park_02-04-121In creating the Olympic Park, London 2012 completely regenerated an inner city area and brought energy efficiency measures to local homes

"As inevitable challenges have arisen during the planning and implementation, solutions and compensatory measures have been found – these are important lessons that can be handed on to future mass spectator events," he said.

"It puts London 2012 within the tide of positive case studies from major sporting events that are shining pathways towards a sustainable century and a transition to a Green Economy."

It was clearly important for London 2012 to have the UNEP executive director visit as their pre-Games sustainability report was launched as it detailed their huge commitment to the cause.

After all, sustainability has been a basis for all London 2012 activities since winning the bid in July 2005 and in 2007, then Prime Minister Tony Blair said the London 2012 Games could become a "cutting edge example of sustainability".

London 2012 needed the report to show Blair's comment to be fact and therefore the detailed 338-page document covered London 2012's sustainable delivery of the entire Olympic and Paralympic programme from the beginning.

The report was prepared using the new Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G3.1 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines and Event Organisers Sector Supplement, which was developed by GRI in partnership with London 2012, the IOC and other stakeholders. It is understood that London 2012 is the first organisation to use the new guidelines, declare an Application Level A (the highest disclosure level), and have the report checked by GRI.

Although each one of the 338 pages is of huge importance in explaining London 2012's sustainability commitment, it is Organising Committee chairman Sebastian Coe who summarises the issue best in his introduction for the report.

"London 2012 has a unique opportunity to showcase sustainability on an unprecedented scale," explains Coe.

London 2012_was_the_first_Olympic_and_Paralympic_Games_to_be_recognised_for_meeting_the_sustainable_event_management_standard_BS_8901London 2012 was the first Olympic and Paralympic Games to be recognised for meeting the sustainable event management standard BS 8901

"This is a unique and precious opportunity to demonstrate our leadership on sustainability. It's a platform for us to inspire billions around the world, brought together under the banner of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, regardless of nationality or cultures. What we've achieved to date proves that we can harness the Olympic spirit and drive sustainability forward with people who wouldn't otherwise be involved. London 2012's relentless pursuit of sustainability has been part of every bold and challenging decision we have made, in the development of the Olympic Park and the staging of the Games. This year we're proud to be the first Olympic and Paralympic Games to be recognised for meeting the sustainable event management standard BS 8901.

"In 2012 as we wrap up construction, preparation and planning and move into staging the Games, London 2012 is setting new standards. We're establishing world records right now that will raise sustainability standards and benefit entire industries from construction to event management.

"Tens of thousands of people have already helped to deliver a more sustainable Games. The coming months will be critical to realising our ambition to host the world's first truly sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games. During 2012 we will look to everyone to deliver our vision to use the power of the Games to inspire change and secure a lasting legacy that thrives well beyond the Games."

Olympic-bus-The Active Travel Programme aimed to achieve one million extra walking and cycling journeys in London every day of the Games

In detailing the drive for sustainability, the report boasts some clear highlights:

•         The Olympic Park: The largest new urban parkland in Europe for 150 years. The cleaned up and reprofiled river valley is providing both new wildlife habitats and significant food alleviation.

•         The Olympic Stadium: The most sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Stadium in history has been completed on time, to budget and to high sustainability and performance standards. The venue utilized Dow insulation, which can cope with repeated freezing and thawing cycles, to increase the structure's durability and protect waterproofing layers from extreme changes in weather.

•         The Carbon Management: The first Olympic and Paralympic Games to measure its carbon footprint over the entire project term. A 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions for the built in environment has been exceeded.

•         The Waste: The first Olympic and Paralympic Games to commit to a Zero Waste to landfill target through the strategic Zero Waste Games Vision. The Olympic Park construction waste has achieved 99 per cent rates of reusing and recycling of materials and demolition and construction. More than 30 Olympic venues throughout London featured recycling bins made with Dow resins and supported by Coca-Cola. Dow's technology helped meet standards for strong, durable plastics that can withstand heavy usage and exposure to sunlight during the Games.

•         The Sourcing: The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has gained a "world first" for securing FSC and PEFC project certification on the Olympic Park site, with 100 per cent of wood products supplied certified as "legal and sustainable".

•         The Transport: The commitment to delivering a public transport Games means nine million spectators will experience sustainable events like never before. The Active Travel Programme, launched in October 2011, aims to achieve one million extra walking and cycling journeys in London every day of the Games.

•         The Food Vision: The first Olympic and Paralympic Games to specify stringent sustainability requirements for its catering operations. All caterers are signed up to meeting the Food Vision standards, ready to serve 14 million sustainably sourced meals.

•         The Standards: In 2011, London 2012 became the first Games Organising Committee to be independently certified to the British Standard 8901: Specification for a Sustainability Management System for Events. The London Games has also contributed to the development of ISO 20121 the international standard on sustainability in event management, which will supersede BS 8901 and be part of a potentially very influential global legacy.

466682Jonathon Porritt (third from right) and five other London 2012 Sustainability Ambassadors visit the Olympic Park in November 2011

"The complexities of trying to address sustainability in areas that have never been considered before was a constant challenge but we are thrilled with the outcome of our programme," said Stubbs as he discussed the report.

"Achieving the BS 8901 Standard and an 'A rating' for our report are real demonstrations of our commitment and success in delivering sustainability across all the areas that matter to our stakeholders."

But perhaps the most fitting words came from Jonathon Porritt, the chair of the London 2012 Sustainability Ambassadors.

"The scale of ambition involved in what will undoubtedly be the world's most sustainable Games to date is gob-smacking," said Porritt.

"It's such a good story that emerges, as this report spells out with as much detail as any stakeholder might reasonably require."

Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames. To follow him on Twitter click here.

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