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Environmental Protection & Preservation

Did London Live Up to Its Claim of Being the 'Greenest Olympics Ever'?

The 2012 London Olympic organizers aimed it to be the "greenest Olympics ever," according to CNN. Now that the ceremonies are over, the medals have been won (USA taking home 104) and the athletes have returned to their home countries, can we look back and say that goal was accomplished?

There have always been raised eyebrows and accusations that the tradition of the Olympics is the opposite of sustainable because of the resources used, construction done and waste produced when preparing for (and during) the Games. The London 2012 Olympics planning committee went to great lengths to make sure this was the most sustainable Olympics ever. They repurposed one of the most neglected and degraded areas in London and turned it into the Olympic Stadium and Park. The stadium itself was built out of some recycled material, including the roof—made from used gas line pipes. According to Maria Cardona of CNN, the stadium used about one-tenth of the steel that Beijing's Bird Nest employed. Reusing and recycling waste was a main concern throughout the entire Olympics planning process.

The 2012 organizers also stressed the importance of cleaning up the Olympic Park and surrounding areas. Polluted rivers and wildlife areas were cleared of debris. CNN reported that in addition to over 300,000 wetland plants, organizers planted more than 4,000 trees and 130,000 plants and bulbs to create a more livable area for wildlife. David Stubbs, head of sustainability for the London 2012 Games, said "If you can put sustainability at the heart of a project which is the largest logistical exercise in peace time -- across 26 different sports, with thousands of people attending and millions watching -- then you can do it anywhere."

The committee's main goal of being the greenest Games of all was brought into focus from their partnering with the organizations BioRegional and World Wildlife Fund. They developed the theme of "Towards a One Planet 2012"  – which became a sustainable Games strategy guided by principles that transformed the community and environment.

Many sustainability goals were completed and the London 2012 committee was ultimately successful in accomplishing a much greener Olympic Games than those past. However, not all targets were met and many are saying more could have been done to minimize the environmental impact of future Olympic plans on people and the planet.

According to, Sue Riddlestone, BioRegional's executive director, said "The 2012 team pulled out all the stops to achieve real innovation on park recycling, sustainable food and yes even transport." She did, however, agree that not all targets were met and it could have been better.

“We were especially disappointed about the failure to meet the renewable energy targets,” she said. “So the journey to deliver a sustainable Olympics will continue.”

Commission Chairman Shaun McCarthy said, "In the main, London's sustainable Games have been a massive success but like the best sports teams there is a need to continuously improve."

While not all goals were met, McCarthy reports that London 2012 was actually the world’s first Olympics to maximize public transport "despite all of the gloom and gridlock."

Having such an environmentally-friendly vision attached to such an enormous universal tradition is a big step for sustainability. It sent a strong message to the world as a whole. McCarthy said London has set high standards for Rio in 2016 and other future Olympic host cities.

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