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Written by Katerina Girginova

London’s 2012 Olympic Games expect to welcome over 14,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, 28,000 members of the media, and around 5 million spectators. However, only part of the action will take place throughout the Olympic months of 27th of July – 10 September; the rest is planned to continue long after the Games. Here is a brief introduction to some of the UK’s plans for a sustainable legacy.

One of the core ideas behind the UK’s successful Olympic bid is a radical departure from the traditional, grandiose Olympic designs with a focus instead, on sustainable legacy. This legacy is aimed at both social and physical regeneration of East London, the site of the Olympic Park and stadium and also one of the poorest areas in the country. The 2.5 square km of the new Olympic Park features environmentally conscious architecture and innovative building techniques, which make these the ‘greenest’ Olympics to date. As a result, the London Organizing Committee of the Games (LOCOG) and the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) have set a new sustainability standard in sports infrastructure building.

As part of the push for urban regeneration of the East face of London seven unique venues were built in the Olympic Park. These include an aqua dome, velodrome, basketball arena and energy center, the latter of which will power the Olympic Park and surrounding neighborhoods post-Games. Notably, many of these new structures will allow people to see inside them and have been constructed using modular techniques, which can be built up as well as taken apart. In addition, there are thorough plans for the sustained use of these venues after the Games. For example, the aqua dome will be partly dismantled after the Olympics and scaled into a more sustainable school and local community swimming facility. 

Poised as the greenest Games so far, some 63% of all construction materials have been delivered to the Olympic park via rail or water; 98% of all materials from the Olympic Park’s demolition were reused or recycled; and over a million cubic meters of soil were cleaned prior to construction. Moreover, the ODA has launched a highly publicized campaign intended to make access to the Olympic venues environmentally friendly, too. Public underground transportation will be servicing the Olympic Park every 15 seconds and spectators are being encouraged to walk or bike to the competition venues. 
There have also been some notable efforts to integrate the modern Olympics into the traditional British design while also making the sporting shows visible and accessible to all. For example, one of the more spectacular venue decisions is the beach volleyball competition, which will be held at the Horse Guard’s Parade courtyard, just a throw away from 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace. However, since sand does not come naturally to this area, 5,000 tons of it will be locally sourced from a distance of about 100km in Surrey, UK. 

Every step of London’s Olympic architectural plan has been radically transparent, documented and publicly scrutinized. Furthermore, the scrutiny extends beyond the ODA; based on the environmental concept ‘Toward One Planet’, every contractor working for the Olympics, and that means some 75,000 vendors, is required to meet the environmental standards. For the first time in the history of the Olympics, the host country’s government is closely engaged with environmental challenges surrounding the Games. With roughly two members of the media per athlete during the competition all eyes will indeed, be on London watching for both sporting competition and the promise of a sustainable legacy.


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