London Olympics Clears Sustainability Hurdles

LONDON, UK, July 31, 2012 (ENS) - The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games has met the vast majority of its sustainability targets, says the United Nations official in charge of helping Olympic Games host cities produce events that protect the environment and make smart use of their resources.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, UNEP, said, "Every Olympic Games represents unique challenges and opportunities in terms of raising the bar of the third pillar of Olympism - namely the environment - and London is no exception."

The Olympic Park with the Olympic Stadium, right, Aquatics Centre, left, the Water Polo Arena and the Orbit sculpture. (Photo courtesy UK Government)

LOCOG is committed to the use of public transport, with a target of one million extra walking and cycling journeys in London during the Games.

The organizers have employed a sustainability assessment guide developed in part by UNEP.

UNEP has been cooperating with the International Olympic Committee since the mid-1990s, helping to green the Games in Athens in 2004, Torino 2006, Beijing in 2008 and Vancouver in 2010.

UNEP has provided a set of recommendations to the Organizing Committee of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games in Russia to provide guidance on the integration of environmental considerations in the preparation and staging of the Winter Games.

Rio de Janeiro has invited UNEP to assist in its preparations for the 2016 Summer Games.

UK Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs Caroline Spelman and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner walk through Olympic Park, July 26, 2012 (Photo courtesy UK Government)

Some of the measures LOCOG has taken to make the London Olympics sustainable include the creation of the Olympic Park on once-contaminated industrial land in east London's Lea Valley, the recycling of over 98 percent of waste during construction and the commitment to do the same in the demolition phase.

Steiner listed LOCOG's accomplishments on a walk through Olympic Park.

"London's clean-up of an old industrial site; the restoration of flows and habitat on the River Lea; the greening of supply chains; the low energy linked with the design and construction of the stadium, including utilizing old gas pipes for the facility's Olympic ring; and the use of temporary structures to reduce emissions are among the actions that can assist in inspiring the organizers of the Rio 2016 games and beyond," he said.

This is the first time that a host city has committed to measure its carbon footprint over the entire term of the Olympic Games from construction to the finish line.

UK Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs Caroline Spelman said, "We are committed to building a future for everyone where the natural environment is not just protected, but valued as a national asset."

"We are delighted to have set new standards in sustainable development, and to showcase the expertise and ingenuity of British companies in delivering a green Olympics so warmly welcomed by Mr. Steiner," she said.

Secretary Caroline Spelman, left, and other dignitaries introduce the One Planet Centre to members of the media, July 12, 2012 (Photo courtesy UK Government)

One of the "secret jewels of the London 2012 Games," said Spelman, is the One Planet Centre in the Olympic Athletes' Village. Here the athletes can find out how the Olympic site was built using sustainable techniques.

The interactive One Planet hub is filled with events and competitions such as swapping of pins, sharing of stories and use of social media that the athletes can use to find out more about protecting the environment.

Spelman says the One Planet Centre encourages the athletes to use their role-model leadership to inform their fans about how everyone can take positive steps to help build a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future.

The One Planet Centre is the result of collaboration between LOCOG, the UK government, charity and business. Developed by London 2012 in partnership with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the project is supported by Coca Cola and managed by the charity group BioRegional.

BioRegional has been working with London 2012 since 2004, when the group co-authored the sustainability strategy for London's winning Olympic bid entitled, "Towards a One Planet Olympics."

Sue Riddlestone, BioRegional's executive director, said, "For some athletes the One Planet Centre will be the first time they are asked to think about sustainability. I am excited that we have been given this unique opportunity to create a centre which will educate athletes about living sustainably and inspire them to become ambassadors for helping to create a better tomorrow."

Olympic Stadium, the Orbit sculpture and wildflowers in Olympic Park (Photo courtesy UK Government)

British Olympian Ben Hunt-Davis said the special energy created inside the Athletes Village would be a powerful force to help drive change. Hunt-Davis won a gold medal in coxed eights at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney as a member of the only British rowing team to have won this event since 1912.

"This project is an ideal way to capture the one planet spirit you find in the athletes village during the Games," he said. "Engaging athletes in sending out a positive message from London about how we can all build a better world ensures the village spirit is carried to every corner of the globe."

In addition to the One Planet Centre there is a photo competition and a number of Sustainability Circles designed by the Royal College of Art that tell stories of living sustainably and create a treasure hunt competition for athletes.

Athletes who want to find out more about the transformation of the Olympic Park, can take a walk through the park led by someone from the London 2012 team.

David Stubbs, LOCOG's head of sustainability said, "Our vision was to use the power of the Games to influence lasting sustainable change. The athletes and sport are at the heart of the Games, and the One Planet Centre on the Olympic Village is the perfect place to positively engage with them."

Facts and Figures on Sustainability at the London Olympics:

Volunteers of all ages donated over thousands of hours of their time to clean up the Thames River and London's other waterways. They removed over 950 black sacks of litter and large expanses of the damaging invasive weed Himalayan Balsam.

Volunteers planted 12 wildflower meadows and 80 trees along river and canal banks in an effort to ensure the spaces that surround and intersect the Olympic Host Boroughs are clean, accessible and ecologically improved.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said, "It's fantastic that so many volunteers have pulled together to help make our rivers and canals sparkle for London's summer like no other. The eyes of the world will be on the capital during the Games and thanks to this hard work, millions of people will be able to see our wonderful waterways at their best."

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