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The most Sustainable Summer Olympics of Modern Times.

Monday 23 July 2012
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With the Olympic Games opening this week in London, these articles look at how sustainability has been a key element involved in the planning and preparation.

Photo credit: Sum_of_Marc. CC Finder.

“An extraordinary quality of leadership”: Porritt on the Games

Jonathon Porritt, Chair of the London 2012 Sustainability Ambassadors Group, explains what the ambition for London to have organised “the most sustainable summer Olympics of modern times” actually means.

What does it mean for London to have organised "the most sustainable summer Olympics of modern times"? It's a claim, incidentally, with which our small group of Sustainability Ambassadors for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games feels entirely comfortable. But for all those who still remain sceptical about the idea of the Games and sustainability being brought together in the same sentence, here's how I see the nature of the challenge.

Invite thousands of the world's finest athletes to compete together, watched by nine million spectators globally in the presence of the world's most demanding media. Locate the whole show (well, much of it) in one of the most deprived areas of your capital city, on some of the most contaminated and derelict land it's possible to find. Undertake to make all the buildings and infrastructure required, and all the services provided to stage such a jamboree, meet the highest possible sustainability standards. Give yourselves just seven years to marshal all the money needed, employ the best possible staff, procure billions of pounds' worth of goods and services, and mobilise tens of thousands of volunteers – with sustainability at the heart of the entire operation – and that's the London 2012 Games!


An extraordinary quality of leadership

Back in 2005, I was part of the team that presented the sustainability case for London to the International Olympic Committee, based on WWF and BioRegional's Vision of a
One Planet Olympics (I was a Trustee of WWF-UK at the time). Eight years on, as the Olympic Park takes shape and some of the venues are put to serious use for the very first time, and I think people are, at last, starting to understand what's really entailed in hosting the Games.

There has been lots of recent coverage in the media about the ancient Olympics, and how "pure" and "uncluttered" everything was in those distant days. No sponsors required then! And there is, inevitably, something about the scale, cost and commercialisation of the modern Olympics that is difficult to deal with, raising inevitable sustainability dilemmas and trade-offs.
But one thing is not in doubt. The progress made in delivering these Games more sustainably than ever before has brought forward an extraordinary quality of leadership and shared purpose from everyone involved, including the sponsors, and particularly from the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA). We've set out to showcase some of that leadership in the Special Edition, 'Beyond the Finish', and to refer people on to other information resources, including the London Legacy Development Corporation, in order to get the fuller picture.
By 10 September, it will all be over. As Tim Smit says, Rio de Janeiro then picks up the sustainability baton, leaving Londoners with an impressive legacy and a sustainability story that does credit to that early vision.
Jonathon Porritt is Founder Director, Forum for the Future, and Chair of the London 2012 Sustainability Ambassadors Group. This Group of eight was established to bring the importance of sustainability at the Games to people's attention.



What to think of the Games? Ask the birds, says Smit


From procurement to construction to biodiversity, London 2012 has raised the bar, says Tim Smit, Chief Executive of the Eden Project and a London 2012 Sustainability Ambassador.


I became an Olympic Sustainability Ambassador in the full knowledge that the contributions the team would make would be bound by the pragmatic requirements of representing a movement and structure that had become a commercial behemoth, and to which sustainability was an add-on.
Sustainability was a core part of the bidding process in Singapore, and Britain is extremely fortunate to have a team that is fired as much by idealism as commerce. The work they have done has exceeded my wildest expectations.
There is a phrase that says if you can't measure it, you can't control it. History will show that the team has broken a huge amount of ground in creating metrics that enable many things to be measured for the first time. It has also been completely transparent in showing where such metrics didn't exist and frankly admitting that what it has done is in some cases a best guess as to how one might go about it.
So, for the first time, we have a menu that can be used by any event in the world to benchmark its performance, alongside a manual which clearly demonstrates how to go about it. From now on there are no excuses. The Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games will benefit massively from the framework. And, most importantly, sustainability is now central to the project management of such events.
From construction decisions which allow buildings to be dismantled and moved on for reuse elsewhere, to astonishing architecture which will be long-lasting and have a low-carbon impact, this team has raised the bar. From the manufacture of soil and the onsite management of waste, to energy management systems, from measuring refrigerants to assessing the biodiversity impacts, it has raised the bar.


The ultimate accolade comes from the birds

To me, the ultimate accolade comes from the birds. The restoration and replanting of the river is breath-taking. A septic mess of rubbish and poison has been turned into a landscape of which Constable would have been proud – and the plantings are of a standard that would make any of us proud. The mass immigration of birdlife is testament to this and the team has every reason to smile with quiet satisfaction, knowing that Londoners 100 years from now will walk these paths and enjoy themselves in a natural haven no one could previously have imagined. Five stars and open the Babycham, I say!


Tim Smit is Chief Executive and Co-Founder of the Eden Project, and a London 2012 Sustainability Ambassador.



SOURCE: Forum for the Future

These articles were originally written by Jonathon Porritt & Tim Smit and published by
Forum for the Future; a non-profit organisation working globally with business and government to create a sustainable future.

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