Will there be a ‘green Games’ legacy from London 2012?

It’s begun – the London Games! Branded in the bid as the “greenest Olympics ever”, setting the sustainability bar high with a pledge to source 20 per cent of energy needed for the event from renewable sources.

From venues which can be re-used (some will even be shipped to Brazil for the 2016 Games), to the hospital beds used in the ceremony heading to hospitals in Tunisia, it appears the less waste and recycle message certainly hit the target.

But the renewable energy promise will not be fulfilled – with a new report finding that the Games will neither be zero carbon or zero waste.

Of course, just like athletes, there’s no point in aiming low. Winners aim high and we applaud the effort to create a sustainable Games.

But opportunities have been lost along the way during the last seven years of planning, which the report from the WWF and BioRegional says may be partly due to the fact it is difficult to use locally grown food and Fairtrade products when you consider the big sponsor names backing the Games.

LOCOG, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, have said that expectation for environmental sustainability had increased between winning the bid and 2012.

Head of sustainability David Stubbs, of LOCOG, has insisted that the London 2012 event will still leave a long-term environmental legacy which is positive. But he admitted that unsuccessful plans to set up a wind turbine near to the Olympic Park had thwarted attempts to cut waste sent to landfills and meant key goals were missed.

London 2012 is expected to have an overall carbon footprint of about 3.45 million tonnes, which is like the annual emissions from a city the size of Cardiff.

So what has been done?

Well, the VeloPark and Velodrome have rainwater collection, energy efficient lighting, and is built from 56km of Siberian pine.

More than 98 per cent of the materials from the demolition work to make way for the Olympic Stadium have been reused (against an initial target of 90 per cent), with 11 per cent of power for the venue coming from renewable sources.

The London 2012 Energy Centre includes a biomass boiler and there is a solar PV installation on the roof of the Main Press Centre which will be later removed and re-installed on a nearby car park roof to feed energy into the city grid.

But perhaps the most surprising voice in the ‘greenest Olympics ever’ debate has come from an unlikely source – and with a call which could see the environmental legacy of 2012 extending far wider than the Games’ sustainability team envisaged.

“Sport is an important part of our everyday lives and we believe, sport as an industry must grasp the green agenda

“The environmental impact of sport is massive but often overlooked – with the Olympics putting sport at the forefront of people’s minds, we believe the time is right to launch a green revolution in sport.

“Sporting stars are role-models for people throughout the world and delivering messages on sustainability through sport can reach a diverse global audience.”

Thank you, Gary Neville.

The former Manchester United legend and England football coach has launched the ‘Sustainability in Sport’ campaign to encourage sport teams, governing bodies and fans to take environmental issues more seriously. It aims to share best practice, produce eco-standards for stadiums and pitches, help clubs to measure and manage their carbon footprint, and engage with sports equipment manufacturers to encourage them to use more sustainable materials.

Whatever the intended legacy of London 2012, if it can also inspire a generation to be more environmentally-aware, then medals aside, we’ll have won.

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