London 2012 set out to deliver “the most sustainable Games ever” and to deliver unprecedented levels of access and inclusion under the heading “everyone’s Games”. As the assurance body for the London 2012 programme we have reported extensively on the preparations. This report describes our work during the Games and examines whether the promised levels of sustainability were actually delivered on the day.
Whilst there are always things that can be improved we have no hesitation in confirming that London 2012 has delivered the most sustainable Games ever. We congratulate all the delivery bodies and we are proud to have made a small contribution to this achievement.
LOCOG, TfL, the GLA and their many partners responsible for staging the Games were provided with the best possible platform by the ODA. All of the venues and the Olympic Village were successfully constructed to the highest sustainability standards with unprecedented levels of energy and water efficiency, well designed and constructed using sustainable materials. The infrastructure underpinned this commitment. The use of combined cooling, heat and power and black water recycling ensured that energy and water were not only conserved, they were supplied from more sustainable sources. The presence of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, Stratford International station, extensions to the DLR, London Overground and modifications to the Jubilee Line came together to make the Olympic Park one of the best connected places in Europe for public transport. The final piece of scene setting was the visionary design and delivery of the natural environment by the ODA. This not only provides Europe’s biggest new urban green space for 150 years but also provided a stunning natural backdrop to the world’s premiere event.
Our work during the Games comprised assurance by our professional team at most venues, in the last mile and on routes to venues. This is supported by our assurance programme during test events and our long history of assuring the preparations. We have also reported our communication activities during the Games. We do not yet have access to any performance data from London 2012. We are advised that this will be published in December 2012 in the final London 2012 Sustainability Report and we will provide an independent commentary on this report.
The food we eat impacts sustainability in every way and LOCOG set out an ambitious vision for healthy, fresh, sustainably sourced food that would suit all cultures, tastes and budgets. This was a first for major event catering and was achieved at most venues. However, some Live Sites commissioned by the GLA and some local authorities were not compliant and some non-LOCOG sites did not allow people to bring their own food, making a visit expensive for families even though tickets were free of charge. Free drinking water was available at every venue, another Olympic first. There were some problems with shortage of supply and virtually no signposting but in general, this initiative is to be commended.
London 2012 was the first summer Games to declare a target of zero waste to landfill with 70% re-used, recycled or composted. Typical events achieve 15%. We are confident from our observations that this will be achieved. Meticulous attention to recyclable and compostable packaging, an innovative and eye catching three bin system for spectators and exclusive use of a materials recycling facility have combined to make this possible. The system was not perfect but low levels of litter and higher than normal levels of source segregation provide another exemplar that others would do well to follow.
Having been provided with excellent energy infrastructure and efficient buildings, LOCOG’s energy conservation plan was disappointing. Despite our representations in 2011, LOCOG was very late in developing an energy conservation plan and in recruiting people with responsibility for this during the Games. There is no doubt the people eventually recruited made a difference and the target 20% energy efficiency improvements are very likely to be exceeded. However, so much more could have been done had planning started earlier and staff had the opportunity to build relationships with venue teams and influence their plans.
We were very impressed with the logistics operation. Intelligent planning, use of alternative fuelled vehicles and innovative demonstration projects using river transport all featured in a comprehensive plan to deliver a vast range of goods efficiently and with minimum disruption to London’s population.
A key feature of LOCOG’s strategy was the ground-breaking sustainable sourcing code. We have assured this initiative in previous reports but in this case we focused on Games-time compliance with requirements for sustainable timber, PVC free solutions and low global warming impact coolants. Although compliance with timber requirements was excellent, the influence over hire markets providing cooling and PVC was less effective.
We were very impressed with the sustainability messages coming through the ceremonies and the attention to detail exemplified by the Look and Feel team in using sustainable materials, minimising the amount of materials used and the impact of the change-over from Olympic to Paralympic branding. Spectators and the general public were able to point to the waste strategy and the green spaces as examples of sustainable practice but limited information was made available about the sustainability of the venues and village buildings and infrastructure.
One of the biggest challenges to London 2012 was to ensure that the huge number of spectators, volunteers, staff and Olympic and Paralympic family members got to their venues easily, safely and sustainably, enjoyed exemplary levels of accessibility during the Games and returned home in the same manner. Contrary to speculation in the media, London’s transport system worked brilliantly during the Games and credit should be given to the team at Transport for London. The “Last Mile” experience was mixed, with differences in local authority policies on issues such as waste management causing some confusion. London 2012 was the first Games to offer a comprehensive mobility service at all venues and accessibility during the Games was generally very good. Facilities for blind and deaf people were subject to some shortcomings but access for people with restricted physical mobility was generally very good.
We are pleased that some of the lessons learnt from the Games will already be available for wider application through London’s learning legacy website. We hope that future major events and infrastructure projects take note of what has been achieved by London 2012 and raise the bar even higher in future.