London Olympics 2012 could flunk golden chance to be green
Article taken from the Guardian. To view the article, click here.
Organisers of the London 2012 Olympics risk missing a golden opportunity to inspire a step change towards a low-carbon economy, the green watchdog for the games has warned.
The Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 released its annual review on how the games' sustainable vision is taking shape. The UK's green promises were key reasons why Seb Coe and his team won the bid in Singapore in 2005.
Although the report said that the Olympic Delivery Authority, which has responsibility for construction and design of the venues and infrastructure, had maintained a high standard of sustainable design, the benefits to the UK's wider green economy could be lost before the games even begin unless "the knowledge in people's heads is captured before they leave".
With just over two years to go until the games begin, planning has now reached a critical stage as the ODA scales back in anticipation of the completion of venues next year.
The Local Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, responsible for running the event, will take on an increasingly greater role in delivering the sustainable targets for London 2012.
The report, Raising the Bar, says: "Our main area of concern lies in the wider commitments that were made during the bid or just afterwards. Broad promises have been made in official documents: 'to make the Olympic Park a blueprint for sustainable living' and 'to be a catalyst for new waste management infrastructure in east London'.
"With the exception of a few worthy initiatives, there is no comprehensive plan to make this happen. Furthermore, it is not clear what definitions lie behind these expressions or who is responsible for making them happen".
"With just over two years to go before the 'inspirational power of the Games' moves to Rio, never to return to London, these issues need to be resolved".
Shaun McCarthy, head of the commission, said: "Having an Olympics is an inherently unsustainable thing to do. To build all this stuff to watch some people run around - what's sustainable about that?"
"We have to ask ourselves is it good enough just to have some great sustainable venues and put on a sustainable games which we are increasingly confident about, or will the Olympics really make a difference?"
"Is this going to be something in isolation so we have one great big sustainable Olympics and then go back to business as usual?"
"Or will the games actually change things? Because that was the promise that was made when we won the bid".
"A lot of carbon has been saved by comparison with business as usual construction techniques. If we can transfer that knowledge to the wider industry, we can save a lot more carbon than will be emitted in the whole of the Olympic Games".
"How can we use the magic of the Olympic Games to make that happen?"
McCarthy cited lower-carbon cement, low-toxin plastics and a zero landfill waste target as some of the achievements so far.
The stadium is the lightest Olympic stadium, using a quarter of the concrete used for the Beijing games, and features a lighting system suspended from a compression wheel made from re-purposed gas pipes left over from a different construction project.
McCarthy singled out the velodrome as an especially good example of sustainable design, with its ultra-lightweight roof and natural lighting and ventilation.
But he admitted that results have been mixed on the Olympic park. Zaha Hadid's feted aquatic centre, with a roof made from 3,000 tonnes of steel, was a "sharp lesson" in sustainable construction.
"That is a lot of steel just to cover a swimming pool and it is not necessary to have that much," McCarthy said, adding that the architect had simply been asked to design "a beautiful building" before the bid gained momentum".
But he said he was "very disappointed" that the energy centre in the Olympic park would run on gas, not biogas from onsite waste.
He also said he had concerns about London mayor Boris Johnson's approval of the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower in the park.
"It's very early days for the Orbit tower. Yes, I am concerned that it is a lot of steel. We are asking the Greater London Authority questions about it but we haven't yet had a satisfactory response".
"We would expect the mayor's office and the GLA to work to at least the same high standards of sustainability as the ODA".
An ODA spokesperson said: "We welcome the scrutiny of the commission and will continue to work with them to address any concerns they may have".
"The report states that the commission is pleased with our progress and they believe we are on track to meet challenging and extensive sustainability targets that have never been achieved before on a project of this size and scale".
"Our sustainability strategy was embedded into our processes at the start of the project and is already being delivered onsite".
"We are currently pulling together the best practice and lessons that have been learnt from the project so that they can be used by the industry for future projects".
To watch the video of Shaun McCarthy, Chair for a Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, in an interview at the Olympic Park, click here.
To download the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 Annual Report 2009, click here.
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