It is some time since I was invited to a slumber party so the opportunity to be part of LOCOG’s commissioning event for the Olympic Village was very welcome. They invited around 1,000 guests to spend an evening in the Athlete’s Village and to stay over in one of the apartments. A great honour and I thank LOCOG for inviting me along.
On arrival we were transported by bus from Stratford station, my bus driver let his engine idle while we were waiting which is against LOCOG’s policy but I was assured by my fellow guests that their busses had their engines switched off. Let’s put that down to fate, the one bus I happened to take had the engine running. Bad luck rather than bad planning hopefully.
Progress through security was quick and efficient, the massive temporary structure had no air conditioning but it was very cool from natural ventilation and there was plenty of natural light. My first impression and an over- riding impression of the whole event was how friendly, helpful and well informed the staff were. There was always somebody there with a smile able to help. This contrasted slightly with my experience in Beijing where the people were lovely but did not really know what they were doing – they just made you feel better about being lost.
The Village will be a housing development in legacy with 2,700 homes, a school for all ages, a GP poly clinic, shops, playgrounds and the spanking new Stratford International DLR station on the doorstep, not to mention the massive Westfield shopping centre. During the Games the homes are kitted out for athletes with no kitchens, single beds in shared rooms and very basic cheap furniture and laminate flooring. This will all be reused or recycled after the Games and the homes will be fitted out for legacy; 50% affordable housing, 50% homes for sale. This is the first major development to be built to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4. It will be a very energy and water efficient development in legacy with living roofs and sustainable drainage systems. The school is the operations centre during the Games and the poly clinic is a medical centre for athletes.
The jewel in the sustainable crown was the catering. It is difficult to describe a hall that can seat 5,000 athletes that provides every type of food imaginable 24 hours per day at no cost to the customers. ‘Massive’ does not quite do it somehow. The sustainable experience is everywhere, from the huge HFC-free Coke refrigerator with plenty of healthy drinks from their “Innocent” subsidiary as well as their traditional products and a promise to recycle every bottle used into another bottle within 6 weeks. They have built a new recycling centre in Lincolnshire to achieve this. Healthy, locally produced food is on offer and it was very good. Paper plates and all the packaging is compostable and clearly marked to show which bin to put it in. The beer and wine bottles and plastic glasses are recyclable and also clearly marked. Breakfast the next morning was the same and the food was excellent. There was even a copy of the Village newspaper for guests with a sustainability quiz at the end. This whole system is a credit to Jan Matthews and the LOCOG team who have made painstaking preparations for several years to create a real step change in the catering and waste industries. Well done LOCOG!
As I was leaving the Olympic Park on foot on a Saturday morning I was shocked to see theWestfieldcentre closed off by the police as a crime scene. While we were enjoying LOCOG’s hospitality a young man had lost his life in a gang fight. A chilling message that there is much to be done in legacy if London 2012 is to be truly a catalyst for sustainable regeneration and for the Olympic Park and its surrounding area to be a safe, healthy and sustainable place for people to live.