After the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the pressure is on London to put on a dazzling show next summer. Parliamentary democracy does not lend itself well towards massive factory shutdowns, relocation of thousands of people, and rounding up thousands of youngsters to perform and smile perfectly in an opening ceremony. But the 2012 Olympics promise to be quite the show, and they will prove to be a baby step towards proving that massive sporting events can be compact and sustainable. And like other countries, the United Kingdom has struggled with deficits and budget cuts, so the Olympic organizers must do more with less.
One example is London’s Olympic Stadium, which was promised to be the event’s showcase. The stadium had to shed some features after a government spending review demanded cutting the project by up to GDP 20 million (US$32.7 million). The cuts had an impact on the stadium because the venue was supposed to be covered in a high-tech fabric wrap to make it look like a nest of steel bones. Now one of the world’s largest chemical companies has stepped in to fund the stadium’s completion with its most remarkable feature.
Dow Chemical’s new Performance Plastics Division has agreed to fund the wrap. Keep in mind that this feature is not really a “wrap,” so it will not look like a Christo exhibit or the world’s largest prophylactic. The wrap is actually a set of 336 panels, 25 meters high and 2.5 meters long (82 by 8.2 feet) that will layer over the stadium. Picture flaps similar to the ones that greet your car if you take it to an automatic car wash, edgy vertical blinds, or giant yet narrow fangs that dangle from the top of the stadium (see artists rendering, courtesy Dow Chemical and Businesswire.com).
Dow’s definition of “sustainable” is open to many different interpretations. Dow states that the fabric will be made of light resins which require fewer raw materials for its manufacture. The material promises to be 35 percent lighter than conventional materials and have a lighter carbon footprint, as verified by several third parties including the consultancy Cooley Group. Other features include UV-curable links that promise to reduce emissions, as well as VOCs (volatile organic compounds) during the manufacturing and printing processes. Dow promises that any hardware used to hang the panels will be recycled after the games, and the fabric will be repurposed and recycled. Watch for purses, backpacks, dresses, and wallets to filter into stores in the months following London 2012.
As for the wow factor, design buffs will love the shimmery appearance from afar, as well as the bells and whistles including graphics and sporting-related images. The wrap should serve as shelter for spectators, too.
Great design and sustainability are converging more than ever before–look for London to be a showcase.