London 2012: The Greenest Games Yet?

All those people flooding into the London for the 2012 Summer Olympics next week will infuse the city with cash. But they’ll also produce another, less desirable side-effect: trash. It’s just one aspect of the environmental impact of this mega sporting event, which planners have worked hard to reduce. According to a new report from the United Kingdom’s branch of the World Wildlife Federation (WWF-UK) and BioRegional, this summer’s Olympics will be the greenest yet — but still illustrate how far the global games have to go in becoming truly “planet friendly.”

Way back in 2005, when this summer’s games were just a twinkle in London’s eye, BioRegional and WWF-UK worked with the city’s Olympic committee to develop the original sustainability strategies for the event. Now the two groups have joined forces again to rate how well London 2012 has done in actually implementing those strategies — call it London 2012’s eco report card. The report, entitled “Towards a One Planet Olympics,” outlines the 76 promises made in 2005 and rates them according to whether they have been met. The upshot? Good, but not great.

London Olypics 2012

image via London 2012

The report states that “London 2012 is the Olympics that sets a new sustainability standard for future Games; we just wish London 2012 had been able to push sustainability a little faster, a bit higher and with an even stronger focus on changes beyond the Olympic Park.” Its authors go on to note that the event’s calculation of its total carbon footprint –and focusing on strategic ways to reduce it — was good. But  its failure to build a significant and visible renewable energy source for the games was disappointing.

Sue Riddlestone, BioRegional’s Executive Director (and who was involved writing in the original strategy) said, in a statement, “London 2012 has set the sustainability bar high for future Summer Olympics. It has built venues and staged an event which set new standards for resource efficiency which cut the carbon and saved money. The 2012 team pulled out all the stops to achieve real innovation on park recycling, sustainable food and yes even transport.”

She goes on to note, however, that there were some promises made in 2005 which London 2012 didn’t keep — even though she and the other authors on the report “know they tried.” “We were especially disappointed about the failure to meet the renewable energy targets,” she said, “So the journey to deliver a sustainable Olympics will continue.”

In the meantime, the two organizations have set up a dedicated social network dedicated to gathering input on how green the games are, from the visitor’s point of view, and to stimulate discussion on how far London 2012 has come in achieving its goal of delivering a sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.