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Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshot

Will London be the Greenest Olympic Games Ever?

When London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics, their aim was to make it the greenest, cleanest and most sustainable games ever held. Now with just barely two months left, the host city is scrambling to make good on its promise.

As with most sporting events, the 'greenness' can only be evaluated after the games conclude. However, if the April progress report is anything to go by, the London Olympic planning committee is set to meet the sustainability goals for the Games. 

In spite of the positive reports, there have been some fears of greenwash. One of the biggest sponsors of the Olympics is Dow Chemicals. The Guardian reports that the company is "enjoying one of the elite £63m sponsorship deals with the IOC. The firm has also agreed to provide a £7m decorative wrap for the Olympic stadium." Dow Chemicals is responsible for the famous 1984 Bhopal gas disaster in India and the company's involvement in the games could spell a "crisis of legitimacy" according to former London mayor, Ken Livingstone.  Added to this, BP is a "sustainability partner." The London Game organizing committee sealed a partnership with BP well before the Deepwater Horizon debacle, but BP is not a company with the cleanest environmental track record, so this choice is dubious.

In spite of all this, Business Green reports that some of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), which is responsible for building the Olympic Park has contributed the most in terms of sustainability. The ODA has been responsible for reducing the carbon footprint of construction through many innovation and simple methods. They have made the main stadium lightweight by reusing gas piping and re-designing the aquatic center's temporary stands to reduce its use of steel.

There has been widespread reuse of materials throughout the construction period, including the park's own cooling, heat and power plant. There has also been extensive use of renewable energy within the park. The land the park was built on was previously heavily contaminated and now it houses large quantities of greenery. After the games, this land will become one of the biggest parks in Europe with 50 km of cycling paths and 30 km of hiking trails. They also plan to keep the 45 hectares of natural habitat within the area and boost biodiversity by erecting 525 bird boxes and 150 bat boxes.

Here's a quick run down of the green fact file:

  • The Velodrome is almost 100 percent naturally ventilated and makes optimal use of natural light, thus reducing the need for electric lighting. Rainwater collected from the roof will be used for flushing toilets and irrigation.

  • Estimates suggest the post-Olympics park will create 58 percent fewer carbon emissions than comparable sites. The original goal was 50 percent.

  • Water consumption will be cut by 60 percent -- better than the 40 percent reduction goal -- and approximately 98 percent of the waste created at the site can reportedly be reused or recycled.

  • The Aquatics center will be reused after the games for local events, schools, colleges, and as a practice center for elite athletes in the UK.

  • The foundations for venues and roads have used recycled materials and many of the venues and bridges will have green habitat spaces incorporated into walls and roofs.

  • Over 100 hectares of new parklands for people and wildlife have over 4,000 trees and over 300,000 wetland plants.

In terms of infrastructure and post-Game planning, the London Olympics might just be the cleanest Games ever. But like always, we'll have to wait and see about what goes on during the Games itself.
Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshot

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net

Read more stories by Akhila Vijayaraghavan