London 2012: Floating Venues or White Elephants?

Sustainable initiatives at the Olympic Games
London 2012: Floating Venues or White Elephants?
Publ. date 27 Jun 2012
Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London: hosting cities for the Olympic Summer Games in the last 20 years. The largest sporting event in the world is still growing (from 285 athletes in 1896 to 11.028 in Beijing 2008) with a significant impact on the hosting countries. Governments are navigating between economic growth on the one hand and a minimal environmental impact on the other hand. Bearing this in mind, is it still possible to organize mega-events such as the Olympics in a sustainable way?

Since the IOC chose to make environment the third strand of Olympism in 1994, the awareness for sustainability has increased drastically. Jacques Rogge, chairman of the Olympic Committee, spoke against Olympic luxury projects that turn into so-called ‘white elephants’ after the Games. Barcelona used the Games to renew the infrastructure in the city, Sydney heated their entire Olympic village using solar energy, and Beijing used temporary venues that could easily be transferred to other locations.

The sustainability approach for London 2012

In the bidding process, London also emphasized the importance of sustainability. Increased sports participation in the UK, an efficient infrastructure in the city of London, and a sustainable legacy with tourism growth and international prestige; all is included in the London 2012 approach. The organization partnered with the WWF to deliver ‘One Planet Olympics’ with a minimal footprint. The strategy is focused on four main topics: venues, infrastructure, food and waste. Existing venues are used where possible, such as Wimbledon (tennis), Excel (boxing, judo, table tennis, fencing, weightlifting), Lords (archery) and Earls Court (volleyball). In the new venues such as the Olympic Stadium, the Aquatic Center and the Velodrome, sustainable technology was implemented by Imtech to reduce energy use.

Local community involvement for London 2012

Besides the Olympic park and infrastructure, London's host boroughs are revitalized with the help of the local community. Over 6.000 inhabitants were involved in the project and together they planted more than 3.000 new trees, removed 15 tons of waste from parklands, rivers and canals and created 7.000m² green zones to support biodiversity.

The London approach integrates a broad view on sustainability, mapping the sustainable opportunities from the start and partnering with key stakeholders in order to host a sustainable event with a minimal footprint and long-term legacy. A former host city such as Athens pales in comparison with the British capital, because those Olympic venues are still waiting for a new purpose while maintenance costs continue to increase.

In the Netherlands, an active lobby is generating support for becoming the host of the Olympic Games in 2028. Amsterdam was recently elected as potential host city and in the Dutch Olympic Plan, sustainability is a very important pillar. With this long-term planning in mind, highly innovative ideas have manifested themselves. One of them is a floating Olympic venue where different floors can be used so that almost all Olympic disciplines can take place in the same stadium. So instead of ten white elephants there will be only one floating venue.

Making your event more sustainable?

Between conducts a baseline analysis for events, followed by a strategic plan with clear recommendations how to become more sustainable. Contact us for more information on our services for sustainable events.

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