Last night served as the launch of the Summer Olympics’ most recent incarnation. As a prelude of sorts to the competition, a report titled “Toward a One Planet Olympics Revisited” was released earlier this month by BioRegional, an international sustainability charity. Authored in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund-UK, the document claims the 2012 Summer Games “succeeded in being the most sustainable Games yet, but that failures have occurred in some significant areas.” The first city to host the modern Olympics three times, London was praised for its inclusion of a carbon footprint tool, but denigrated for the lack of visibility in terms of renewable energy installations. However, with the Games barely 24 hours old, to deem them the most sustainable seems presumptuous considering the vast numbers of attendees flying in from outside the country, an undetermined amount of water used, trash generated, and energy consumed among other factors.
BioRegional and WWF-UK have worked with the 2012 London Olympic Games since 2005, when the city was awarded the quadrennial competition. Towards a One Planet Olympics was published in 2005 as the London 2012 sustainability strategy. It is available for download here. As an interesting use of social media, the two organizations (BioRegional and WWF-UK) have set up an online social network at www.towardsaoneplanetolympics.com for people to share their opinions on the London Games’ sustainability.
It appears that environmental sustainability is the main focus of the new report. Large tracts of land in the city’s East End were razed and transformed for the Games, which does not necessarily bode well for those groups that previously inhabited the space. While the long term legacy will play out over the next several years, it has been reported that the Olympic village will be turned into roughly 3,000 affordable homes. However, many local businesses and groups suffer despite the influx of people during the Olympics, as numerous venues fail to capitalize on the extant business infrastructure.
Economists can be found on both sides of the economic sustainability (benefits outweighing the costs) debate. NPR has a report on some of the issues brought up by Olympic detractors. Whatever the economic and social sustainability components, the “greenness” of the Games demonstrates an effort to reduce environmental impacts, namely through the mitigation in resource consumption leading up to the Olympics. Now, if they could only figure a way to bring spectators and competitors via sustainable transportation from all corners of the globe.