Days of the future past

Shaun McCarthy

October 31, 2009   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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It is 31st October 2009, and exactly 1,000 days to the opening ceremony for London 2012 and time to pause for reflection. After 3 years of the Commission, numerous reports, articles, meetings, discussions and not insignificant battles, exactly what do I expect it to be like in 1,000 days time?

I expect viewers on TV to see things differently. The iconic Olympic flame will come from a more renewable fuel if they are successful. As the aerial cameras pick up the north side of the park, I hope they will pick up a 2 megawatt wind turbine. I expect the opening ceremony to feature sustainability without making us all feel guilty about having a good time. I expect to see pictures of volunteers and staff of all ages, all abilities and all colours and ethnic backgrounds.

I expect visitors to feel different. When they arrive at any Olympic venue (not just the Park), the place needs to “feel” sustainable. This may be from the green space they enter, the sustainable features they see such as local renewable energy, the information they receive about things like segregating their waste, or the welcome they receive from East London’s diverse and multi-cultural local community.

I expect the sustainable games to touch everybody working on the project, from LOCOG Chair Seb Coe to every volunteer. I was presenting the work of the Commission a couple of weeks ago to an audience from the construction industry. I had a moment of trepidation when a person from the Environment Agency who works on the Olympic Park every day raised his hand to speak. Far from contradicting my words, he was full of praise for the ODA, saying this was the first project he had worked on where sustainability was taken seriously all day, every day, on the construction site. I expect it to be like this during Games-time. Staff and volunteers should all be well informed about their environmental and social responsibilities. This should show through the packaging and responsibly sourced merchandise on offer, the number of people walking or cycling, and the way athletes and officials are transported.

I don’t expect London 2012 to heal all the problems we have in our society, but I do expect the programme to make a major contribution. This usually means addressing the things people will not see. I expect the energy centre to be powered by renewable fuel, not natural gas. I expect the buildings to be cooled by the most sustainable refrigerants. I expect to see plans in place to dispose of the temporary materials in an appropriate way. I also expect government and industry to have learned something from our experience and to raise the bar higher. The new sustainable form of PVC that exists purely because the ODA asked for it (and the Commission insisted they did) should be in more common use. London 2012 should not be the only programme addressing the whole carbon footprint including the carbon related to construction materials. I expect to see the event management industry using BS 8901 as a matter of routine. I expect to see more buildings like the velodrome and fewer like the aquatic centre, I expect to see the lessons from a sustainable London 2012 openly shared and available in a way they can be used and not for sale from consultants on the next project.

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