This past summer brought us hazy heat waves and numerous Olympic gold medals with it. If you watched the 2012 Olympic Games, you may have seen helicopter views of the London Olympic Park; however, you probably didn’t notice just how many sustainable elements there were within it.
According to London2012.com, when initial planning began, London set out to host the greenest Olympic Games in modern history, and put architect John Hopkins on the job. In 2005, London won the bid to host this year’s Olympics, and shortly thereafter chose a neglected 500-acre industrial site in East London to house the events. Some 200 buildings were demolished across the Olympic Park area, while 98 percent of that material was reused for building the new stadiums and structures. Hopkins also took on another lengthy job of cleaning 1.3 tons of filth and debris from River Lea, London’s second largest river, which happens to run alongside the Olympic Park.
When planning the structures that would fill the Olympic Park, Hopkins considered not only the 2012 games, but also how these stadiums could be utilized in years to come. Permanent buildings, such as the Olympic Stadium, the Velodrome and the Aquatics Centre, were constructed only because future plans existed for them. Hopkins also chose to create multiple temporary stadiums, such as the basketball stadium, which could be dismantled and reused in other ways after the games.
As if Hopkins didn’t put enough sustainable thought into his clean up and planning, he portrayed his environmental consideration clearly during the Olympic Park construction. London2012.com explained that more than 4,000 trees and 370,000 plants were strategically placed around the park to absorb pollutants, provide shade for buildings and shelter for wildlife. Seven wind turbines were installed there to provide renewable energy, reducing the overall carbon footprint of the Olympic Games. To sustain its natural wildlife, bird and bat boxes were mounted on trees around the park and scientists repopulated the area with lizards and toads.
The Olympic Stadium was built with only 10,000 tons of steel, making it the lightest one to date, and the Velodrome was built using 100 percent sustainably sourced timber. In order to avoid the use of toxic chemicals and ensure future sustainability, the woodwork in the Velodrome was not coated or painted. The structures were designed for natural ventilation with only 14 percent containing air conditioning units, which cut energy use significantly.
In efforts to encourage spectators to adopt the same environmentally friendly attitude, 4,000 color-coded recycling and composting bins were placed around the park. Additionally, the only transportation options in and out of the games were public transportation or bike paths. There were 14 million eco-friendly meals served over the course of the games from organic and local resources.
Hopefully, through the ecological example that was set, London has set a precedent for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia and future games as well. Addressing sustainability in Olympic planning and resourcing is not only a responsible option, but also now a worldwide expectation.