London 2012 was most sustainable games

16th November 2012

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The events industry has been urged to 'pick up the sustainability baton' after the delivery of this year's Olympic and Paralympic games is hailed a success

The Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 confirms in a new report it believes that the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were the most sustainable in history.

The report examines how well the games’ sustainability aims were met during the event and concludes they were broadly achieved. It praises the organisation committee (LOCOG) in particular for its systematic approach to waste and transport.

“I have no hesitation in confirming that London 2012 has delivered the most sustainable games ever,” said Shaun McCarthy, chair of the commission, “but we mustn’t rest on our laurels – more could be achieved if London’s lessons, both the good and the challenging, are heeded by others.

“London 2012 has raised the bar on sustainability, not just for future Olympic and Paralympic games but for industry, and for the organisers of major events the world over – from music festivals to football World Cups. By being open to learning from these successes as well as the missed opportunities, future major projects could even out-perform London 2012’s sustainability achievements.”

“LOCOG’s integration of waste, materials, food and packaging policies demonstrates the benefits that can be gained by a systems-based approach,” finds the report, which also states that the stronger the connection between these policies, “the greater the likelihood of minimising residual waste”.

While final data with regards waste levels are yet to be confirmed, the commission says it is confident the games will have met its zero-waste to landfill target, with 70% re-used, recycled or composted – typical events achieve just 15%. It highlights the success of demanding that packaging used on site was recyclable and compostable, and the coloured bins used to help visitors segregate their waste. However, it also reveals that where such bins were not always successful and that if LOCOG’s waste contractor had not applied additional waste separation, the targets would not have been met.

According to the commission’s observations during the games, the target to cut energy consumption by 20% will also be exceeded. It praised the London 2012 cauldron in particular for demonstrating that it is possible to design such features using only a fraction of the energy consumption previously used.

Nonetheless, the commission remains critical of the length of time it took for LOCOG to design an energy conservation plan, and revealing that the plan was not fully implemented at 40% of the venues it visited and that energy was visibly being wasted at 80% of the sites it examined.

“Having been provided with excellent energy infrastructure and efficient buildings, LOCOG’s energy conservation plan was disappointing. LOCOG was very late in developing an energy conservation plan and in recruiting people with responsibility for this during the games.

“There is no doubt the people eventually recruited made a difference and the target 20% energy-efficiency improvements are very likely to be exceeded. However, so much more could have been done had planning started earlier and staff had the opportunity to build relationships with venue teams and influence their plans,” the report concludes.

The commission recommends that in future an energy conservation plan is created in parallel with the games planning and an energy management team is deployed earlier.

Other successes highlighted by the commission include LOCOG’s “food vision” for only healthy, affordable and sustainably sourced food – a first for major event catering.

The report finds that the vision was achieved at most venues, and applauds the tracking system employed for environmentally sensitive materials, which was the first of its kind for an Olympic and Paralympic games.


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