2012 London Olympics the most sustainable yet

The 2012 London Olympics skip the gold and go straight for the ‘green’

London boasts the most energy efficient Olympic arena to date


The summer Olympics are upon us and that means that millions of people will travel to London to attend the games. And while this ritual takes place every four years, there is something different about the games in London. For the first time, the Olympics are taking the ‘green’ initiative head on and aiming to make this years London games the most sustainable yet, according to the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), the organization responsible for constructing London’s Olympic venues.

In the past, the Olympics have taken a huge toll on the city in which they occur, and mostly at the expense of the environment. Often seeing a significant spike in energy usage and constructing huge sports arenas leaving a carbon footprint that takes years, decades even, to erase. The push for the first sustainable Olympics is no small feat, and London has set the bar high for the future of  Olympic games. To clearly explain just how impressive the sustainable initiatives put into place for London’s 2012 games are, I referenced Earth 911, and listed them below:

-The 80,000-capacity stadium was constructed with less new material than any other Olympic stadium by using unwanted pipelines, recycled granite and concrete, and other reclaimed materials. The venue is the lightest Olympic Stadium ever built – minimizing the use of steel and reducing carbon footprint. To make the stadium easier to reuse after the games have come and gone, designers also incorporated easily-deconstructable components. The permanent lower tier, with a capacity of 25,000, can be utilized for future events in London, while a temporary steel and concrete upper tier, which holds a further 55,000 spectators, can be dismantled after the games.

-Five soil washing machines from Belgium were installed for the construction of Olympic Park, which will contain the athletes’ Olympic Village and several of the sporting venues including the Olympic Stadium and Aquatics Centre. By cleaning the soil on site, 95% of it has been reused, transport costs have been cut and less material has been dumped.

-The ODA reclaimed 99% of waste generated from the construction of the Olympic Park – beating its already lofty goal of 90%. To top it off, 98% of demolition waste was also diverted from landfills. The ODA further lightened the footprint of construction by opting for sustainable timber, recycled-content concrete and other eco-friendly and upcycled materials.

-The London 2012 Olympics aims to be the first zero-to-waste landfill games ever. The 2010 winter games in Vancouver also committed to zero-waste but fell slightly short of their goal – diverting 77% of waste from landfills. To help event-goers understand proper disposal, the ODA instituted a color-coding system for event waste – with colors and icons representing recyclables, food and compostable packaging, and non-recyclable waste.

The Velodrome in Olympic Park

-The Velodrome is not only the most iconic venues for 2012, but also one of the most sustainable. The bicycle-racing arena incorporates a 100% naturally-ventilated system that eliminates the need for air conditioning. The structure also lets in an abundance of natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting. Overall, the Velodrome is more than 30% more energy-efficient than similar buildings constructed to current regulations, the ODA said. The arena also boasts rainwater harvesting systems on its roof, which reduces fresh water consumption by 70%.

-In addition to over 300,000 wetland plants, organizers have planted more than 4,000 trees and 130,000 plants and bulbs in East London 500-acre Olympic Park. The ODA’s Biodiversity Action Plan includes a commitment to create new habitats for otters, amphibians, invertebrates and other rare wildlife, and construct a total of 525 bird boxes and 150 bat boxes in venues, buildings and bridges.

-London will be the first true “public transport games,” meaning the ODA has committed to enabling all ticketed spectators to travel to venues by walking, biking or using public transportation. All ticket-holders will be given a Games Travelcard to use on London’s public transport on game-day. Discounted fares have also been negotiated with train and coach operators from all over the U.K.

-Adding to the sustainable spectacle at the London Olympics, a walkway leading to the Olympic Park will be lit round-the-clock by the footsteps of spectators. The 12 energy-harvesting floor tiles along a walkway are expected to receive more than 12 million impressions, generating 72 million joules of energy – enough to charge 10,000 mobile phones for an hour, the ODA said. Power will be used to illuminate the walkway for 8 hours at full power at night, along with 16 hours at half-power during the day. The walkway will also produce an energy surplus of about 35%, which is stored in on-board batteries within the units.

The walkway leading into Olympic Park that's lit using energy from spectators footsteps

The 2012 London games have implemented some of the most remarkable and cutting edge ‘green’ technology in an effort to strive to be the most sustainable Olympics ever.  And while the verdict is yet to be seen, organizers of London’s games have most certainly set a precedent for future eco-friendly games that is sure to effect the world of professional sports as a whole.


Photos courtesy of Olympic Delivery Authority and Earth 911

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *