London 2012’s sustainability legacy lives on

One year on from the London 2012 Olympic Games, the sustainability benefits of the event are still being felt.

Sustainability was a key consideration across all of the London 2012 Organising Committee’s (LOCOG’s) activities, from the moment London won the bid to host the 2012 Games in July 2005, with organisers successfully embedding sustainability principles and objectives in all areas of Games planning.

One of London 2012’s most visible achievements was the creation of the Olympic Park on once-contaminated industrial land, which became the largest new urban parkland in Europe for 150 years. The Olympic venues themselves also boasted impressive sustainability credentials, with the Olympic Stadium, for example, using surplus gas supply pipes to construct the ‘top ring’ of the venue.

Recycled rainwater and "zero waste"

The Velodrome, meanwhile, was built with 100% sustainably-sourced timber, while the Copper Box was covered with recycled copper and helped reduce water use by 40% by recycling rainwater.

London 2012 was also the first Olympic Games to measure its carbon footprint over the entire project term and was the first Games to commit to – and achieve – a ‘zero waste’ to landfill target through the strategic Zero Waste Games Vision. In total, Games organisers saved the equivalent of 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide thanks to their sustainable practices, while 100% of Games operations waste was diverted from landfill, with 62% of that waste being reused, recycled or composted. Additionally, 99% of the waste from installing and decommissioning the Games venues was reused or recycled.

The Olympic Park’s Energy Centre was also constructed with sustainability in mind, employing innovative biomass boilers that burn woodchips and other sustainable fuels to supply heating and cooling to buildings throughout the Olympic Park. It will continue to serve the community now the Games are over.

London 2012 was also the inspiration for the development of a sustainability management system standard for events, which was introduced in 2007 as BS 8901. This was updated in 2009 and subsequently became superseded by its international standard equivalent, ISO 20121, which has rapidly become the international standard of choice for the global event sector in how events are delivered, marking another significant legacy of the Games.

"Ambitious sustainability commitments honoured"

“The London 2012 Olympic Games were an enormous success on numerous fronts and that is testimony to the hard work and excellence of so many people involved in the project,” explained Paul Deighton, London 2012 Chief Executive in December 2012. “I am also hugely proud that we honoured our ambitious sustainability commitments and succeeded in raising the bar and setting new standards in so many areas. This wasn’t something extra; it was an integral part of what we did and helped us deliver such great Games.”

Several environmental projects in East London also benefitted from funding as part of the sustainability legacy of London 2012, with government grants awarded to civil society and local community groups to provide practical information, help and advice about sustainable living. All of the projects encouraged people to adopt more sustainable lifestyles, from growing food to reducing energy to becoming more active by walking and cycling more.

“The Inspiring Sustainable Living projects will help to ensure the legacy of the Olympic Games extends beyond 2012,” explains Lord de Mauley, the UK’s Resource Management Minister. “They have supported people in learning more about the environment, and given local communities in East London the information to help them reduce their energy, recycle more, grow food in an urban environment and promote cycling and walking.”

Gold for London 2012

In recognition of its achievements, London 2012 won gold in the Environmental and Sustainability category of the 6th International Sports Event Management awards. “We set out with a huge promise to the world: to deliver the most sustainable Olympic Games of modern times,” says David Stubbs, London 2012’s Head of Sustainability. “Seven years, nine million visitors and 2,484 medals later, that’s exactly what we achieved.”


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