What Medals Should the London 2012 Olympics Get for Sustainability?

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

No one can deny that the London 2012 Olympic Games were a brilliant success. The athletes were magnificent, the crowds were enthusiastic, the trains ran on time and the place looked great. London's claim to fame was that it was going to present the greenest, most sustainable games ever. So how did they do?

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

Transportation: Gold. The trains and subways and buses and cable cars transported hundreds of thousands of people with few glitches. New modes of transport were developed (the Javelin train) and existing linkages improved. Cyclists were the one group that did not benefit. But given the predictions of gloom and doom, London deserves huge congratulations for being a public transport Olympics all the way.

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Buildings: Gold. There are some pretty magnificent buildings remaining as a legacy: the Velodrome, the Aquatics Centre, plus a host of smaller, interesting and innovative buildings. The future user of the Olympic Stadium is still undecided which is a major cost issue.

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Olympic Park: Gold. This stunning park, which will continue to be developed in the future, is a fantastic legacy for the communities in the east end of London.

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Carbon emissions: Silver. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) set a target of 50 per cent cut in carbon emissions compared to if the Olympics was built business as usual. This has been achieved to 47 per cent through a combination of energy conservation and using green electricity suppliers.

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Food: No medal. Much was made of McDonald's opening the largest restaurant ever at the Olympics. But in fact they only provided 10% of the meals and at least you know what you are getting there.

There were two caterers for the Olympic Park and they had to agree to the Food Vision: a plan for affordable, healthy and diverse kinds of offerings, using local ingredients. But the food in the many stalls, and inside the venues, was terrible. The only good ones (Mexican, noodle bars) sold out before noon and the rest were over-priced, formulaic and tasteless. It seems there is just no way of serving tasty and reasonably priced food to a mass market.

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Olympic Legacy: Let's Hope. The dramatic transformation of the heavily industrialized wasteland that was East London is a major plus. What used to be a toxic mess now has new housing, a park and a cleaned-up canal system. Not to mention a massive shopping mall. The newly created London Legacy Development Corporation has the job of continuing the commitments made to sustainability in buildings, business and transport in the east end of London.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

All in all, a magnificent event. Congratulations to everyone involved. See you in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

Tags: Architecture | Communities | Gardening | London | Olympics | Transportation

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