Thursday, 15 October 2009

A sustainable 2012 Games?

Recently I took part in a sustainability tour of the 2012 Olympic Park as part of Greengaged Week. The tour was led by Dan Epstein who is the Head of Sustainability at the Olympic Delivery Authority. We all hopped on a special Olympic bus which carts various groups around the park to view it at various stages of development. We were interested in the sustainable features and materials that were used as part of this epic build. And epic it is when you see for yourself the stadiums and buildings slowly emerging on the landscape.

As the bus wound its way around the East London site, Dan not only gave us a fantastic update on the progress that was being made by the ODA but also pointed out some impressive eco-credentials that had been put in place. Everyone involved in the project has to commit to creating a sustainable games. It’s a pretty ambitious aim when you think about all the suppliers involved. But Dan is confident that the contractors he works with see the benefits of using sustainable materials and thinking about the lifecycle of buildings. In fact, many of the big contractors have used the opportunity to introduce sustainable practices within their businesses using the 18 KPIs that Dan has set for them.

The most impressive aspect of the tour was understanding how materials have been recycled or used in a way that takes a long view. The ODA scrutinises every material used in the Park through monitoring contractor invoices and carrying out site inspections. It’s tough love that’s for sure. But it’s something that the legacy of the Games can use in the future and be proud of. I liked the fact that buildings could be deconstructed after the games and used elsewhere - like the main stadium. The buildings and open spaces will be part of the community’s future too. Sounds good, no?

The ODA will finish their work in the Park in a year’s time. The buildings will have been built and the green spaces laid out. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games will take the reigns to organise an event to hopefully remember. But what will visitors remember? My guess is that it will be a plethora of things: travelling to London, travelling around London, seeing some world-class sport, medals, buildings, people etc. A general buzz will keep people interested and inspired, no matter how far they’ve travelled. When you watch any Olympic Games on the TV, I think viewers should really get a sense of the atmosphere and hum-drum – if they don’t, it has failed.

So how will London inspire people? I think green issues will play a big role in promoting this aspirational, future-thinking event. For the first time, if the Games can’t show the world how to live and work sustainably, they never will. So I’m keeping a close eye on how things unfold until 2012 asking difficult questions and hoping that the Games will deliver on all fronts: entertainment, opportunities to learn and, most importantly, hope for the future.

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