What the Olympic Video games’ legacy of sustainability means for at present’s occasions


This summer season marks 10 years for the reason that London 2012 Olympics, and is an opportunity to mirror on the legacy of the occasion. From the very starting, the purpose was to make it a everlasting occasion on the grassroots degree. Based on the United Nations, sustainability is “growth that meets the wants of the current with out compromising the flexibility of future generations to satisfy their very own wants”. It has as a lot to do with heritage because it has to do with environmental affect.



Learn extra: London 2012 Olympics: the way it boosted medal profitable however didn’t encourage a era


The BBC comedy Twenty Twelve, which satirized the London 2012 outfit, drew consideration. In a single episode, the (fictional) head of sustainability described the Video games as a “catalyst for change” and “bettering the standard of life in London’s East Finish”.

These are arguably the identical outcomes which were counseled for the (actual) UK authorities and the Mayor of London’s joint report on the legacy of the Video games. And there was recognition from all sides, displaying that this purpose had been achieved.

In 2012 Achim Steiner, government director of the United Nations Environmental Administration Group, praised London 2012 for displaying society extra broadly that “sustainability shouldn’t be in precept however infinitely potential”. Ten years later, native faculty teams proceed to make use of the Olympic Park web site as an outside classroom to learn the way East London’s polluted waterways and brownfield land had been reworked into a brand new public park.

How this was achieved – in different phrases, what the regime was – is vital to evaluate how London 2012 has affected occasions within the UK starting from soccer tournaments to festivals. Extra importantly, internet hosting the Olympic Video games in London successfully modified the best way we discuss sustainability as shoppers of such occasions.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Ron Ellis | Shutterstock

From a industrial perspective, internet hosting an version of the Olympic and Paralympic Video games is like taking over a fast-food franchise. Because the host metropolis, you signal a contract with the Worldwide Olympic Committee that determines how it’s essential to conform to particular operational tips by way of time, funds and high quality. You run the danger of managing these sophisticated protocols to point out the world’s largest present. If a world recession strikes, because it did in 2008 within the lead-up to London 2012, or a world pandemic thwarts a number of plans, as Tokyo 2020 has, you elevate the invoice, even when This implies utilizing public cash to plan your legacy.

The problem is that the “host metropolis” shouldn’t be a single entity, however reasonably a cacophony of actors, with no particular particular person or group in cost. Jeremy Beaton, director common of the Provisional Authorities Company accountable for coordinating London 2012, described the advanced distribution construction:

You could have this glorious state of affairs the place you have obtained highly effective figures working departments, cities and cities in every single place, [but] They aren’t governance constructions since you can’t rule.

That is sometimes called the “many fingers drawback”.

Within the late Nineties and early 2000s, the UK didn’t have a robust report of delivering advanced initiatives nationally. London suffered significantly reputational and financial injury through the “Picketts Lock Affair” of 2001. This political transfer reportedly value London’s bid to host the 2005 World Athletics Championships.

However the management after London’s 2012 Olympics has made it clear how effectively Britain has circled that fame. A key think about attaining its sustainability targets is how completely different stakeholder teams in the private and non-private sectors have been capable of work collectively when united by a standard imaginative and prescient.

environmental sustainability

London first submitted its software to host the Olympics in 2003, and the winner was formally introduced in 2005. In 2007, the then London Mayor Boris Johnson and Tony Blair, as Prime Ministers, shaped the Fee for Everlasting London 2012. Its goal was a company to supervise sports activities sustainability applications, from carbon emissions to meals waste.

Athletes and people in suits pose for photographs.
Seb Coe, Boris Johnson and Tessa Jowell attend the London 2012 promotional occasion outdoors Metropolis Corridor, London in 2008.
Justin Case Zsicsz | alami

In 2007 and 2008, the Olympic Supply Authority printed quite a few paperwork with the London 2012 organizing committee, together with a sustainability technique. London 2012 Organizing Committee chairman Sebastian Coe mentioned the committee noticed the Video games as a chance to show the “unprecedented scale” of sustainability:

London 2012’s continued pursuit of sustainability has been a part of each daring and difficult determination now we have made within the growth of Olympic Park and the staging of the Video games.

Particularly, Coe highlighted that these Olympic and Paralympic Video games had been the primary to be acknowledged to satisfy Everlasting Occasion Administration Normal BS 8901. This British commonplace has helped pave the best way for a brand new worldwide commonplace on sustainability, which fits in a roundabout way to point out the affect these Video games – and the UK – have had on worldwide sustainability coverage.

The initiative and plan, created in London 2012, included adopting the WWF-approved One Planet Dwelling Sustainability Framework, utilizing Dow insulation throughout the Olympic Stadium, committing to zero-waste targets and greening the Video games’ provide chain.

Nevertheless, these plans didn’t present constant outcomes. Earlier than the Video games started, Guardian environmental correspondent Fiona Harvey wrote that “the greenest Olympics ever” may very well be greener than they ever had been. Sean McCarthy, chairman of a seamless London 2012 Fee, put the problem in blunt phrases in early 2013:

Though London has delivered probably the most sustainable sport ever, it isn’t potential to name any Olympic or Paralympic Video games actually sustainable given the extreme use of assets.

Nonetheless, analysis exhibits that, since 2012, the collective effort has contributed to higher apply and conversations round occasion internet hosting. In September 2021, Tottenham Hotspur partnered with Sky within the #GameZero initiative to launch the world’s first net-zero soccer sport. And Birmingham has claimed that the 2022 Commonwealth Video games represent probably the most sustainable multi-sport occasion ever. In each ambition and infrastructure, these two occasions are the results of a long-lasting legacy pioneered by the organizers of London 2012.



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