LONDON: London has pledged to host the greenest Olympic Games ever staged, but it could take years before the promises start to flower.
The pledge was made seven years ago by then-prime minister Tony Blair when London won the right to host the 2012 Olympics.
Bigger, more beautiful, cleaner: all Olympic Games make the same promises. But what becomes of the concrete infrastructure, the miles of new roads and the tonnes of waste?
“It’s a slight oxymoron, the idea of the Olympic Games being sustainable,” said John Sauven, the executive director of the UK branch of environmental organisation Greenpeace.
“When you put on any event that lasts a weekend or a fortnight, it’s very hard to make it sustainable in nature, because it’s a very short-term event.
“You’re going to have an awful lot of people flying in for a very short period of time, consuming a huge amount of resources, and flying out again.”
However, the London Games do not measure up badly, he explained, because of the transformation they have brought about in Stratford, east London, and the legacy they will leave once the Olympic flame is extinguished on August 12.
“This was a fairly polluted industrial site,” Sauven said of what is now the Olympic Park.
“It has been restored, obviously a massive regeneration programme has been going on and it will be integrated into the fabric of the city, so it’s not like the 2004 Athens Olympics where a lot of the facilities are just abandoned ruins now.”
David Stubbs, the head of sustainability at the London Games organisers LOCOG, said: “From the beginning, sustainability was part of the project.”
Some two million tonnes of polluted soil has been cleaned up and re-used on the site and rainwater is stored and re-used.
Construction materials with low carbon content were given priority in building the stadia on the Olympic Park, with the aim of reducing carbon dioxide missions by half compared with normal construction standards.
While they acknowledge the effort, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth regret “missed opportunities” such as the scrapping of a wind turbine project on the site.
The decision made the percentage of renewable energy used on the park drop from the original target of 20 percent to 12 percent.