2012 London Olympics — Lasting Legacy

The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) is the public body responsible for developing and building the venues and infrastructure for the 2012 London Olympic Games. The ODA’s priority themes included:

  1. Design and Accessibility
  2. Employment and Skills
  3. Equality and Inclusion
  4. Health, Safety and Security
  5. Sustainability
  6. Legacy

As I read the ODA’s priority themes, they all seemed worthy and important goals. The word legacy struck a chord and I wondered, “what does happen to the buildings and infrastructure after all the medals have been awarded, athletes and visitors have gone home, and life goes back to normal?” I decided to find out.

Investment in Tomorrow

75 pence of every £1 (100 pence per pound) that was spent went towards the long-term transformation of East London and the Lea River Valley. This includes world-class sports venues, open space, energy networks, waterways, roads and bridges, transportation links, thousands of homes, and education and healthcare facilities.

Environment and Sustainability

Ever since the 1994 Olympics held in Lillehammer, Norway, sustainability has played an increasingly important role in planning and staging the Olympic Games.

Prior to morphing into Olympic Park, the site in East London was derelict and polluted. Development of Olympic Park represented a huge opportunity to mitigate negative environmental impacts often caused by demolition and construction, and to rehabilitate the natural environment. A few highlights include:

  • Olympic Park Site - Before Photo1.4 million cubic meters of soil were cleaned using a green clean-up process involving 5 soil-washing machines.
  • 70,000 cubic meters of industrial and domestic waste were separated into piles of glass, metals, concrete and soil, and later reused on site or recycled off site.
  • 98% of materials generated from demolition were reused or recycled.
  • 100+ hectares of open space with parkland and wetlands were created or rehabilitated and will reduce the risk of flooding in the Lea River Valley and enrich the biodiversity of the area.

Learning Legacy

The ODA’s Learning Legacy project was created to capture and share knowledge learned from the construction of the Olympic Park. Anyone with an Internet connection can benefit from lessons learned, innovations, best practices, research, and case studies.

Sustainable Event Management

A legacy of London 2012 is a global standard for sustainable event management ISO 20121. The standard addresses sustainability before, during, and after an event. Social and economic interests are linked with environmental and sustainability aspects.

Lasting Legacy

The lasting legacy of the 2012 London Olympic Games is the transformation of a large section of East London and its potential for long-term growth and development for both community and business.

  • Velodrome and WetlandsThe Velodrome used green building materials and methods such as using natural light and ventilation to reduce energy use. Temperature and environmental conditions inside are set to create the world’s fastest cycling track making this a world-class venue that will continue to draw cycling competitors and enthusiasts.
  • Olympic Village will provide 2,818 new homes, for sale or rent, of which half will be affordable housing, along with new education and healthcare facilities.
  • New infrastructure including bridges, roads, transportation links, and pedestrian byways will facilitate getting around in the emerging community and connect it to the greater London area.
  • The Energy Center’s modular design facilitates adding capacity and new technology as the area grows and develops.
  • The flexibility and state of the art technology of the International Broadcast Center will be a draw for new businesses and jobs

London Legacy Development Corporation

The London Legacy Development Corporation is a public sector, not-for-profit organization that will be responsible for the long-term planning, development, management and maintenance of the Olympic Park and its facilities after the London 2012 Games.

There is a counter on their website counting down the days until Olympic Park will be handed over for its next phase of development. The first order of business — Olympic Park will be renamed Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Olympic Stadium with Meadow Flowers

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2012 London Olympics Sustainability — Recycling and Composting

Bottled WaterWatching athletes gulp down bottled water at the 2012 London Olympics Games got me thinking about recycling and waste reduction. Most Olympic spectators are probably not thinking about plastic bottle recycling. I have a fascination with recycling and waste reduction so had to investigate.

The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) Zero Waste Games Vision Plan published in February 2012 states a commitment to ensure that at least 70% (by weight), of operational waste is reused, recycled or composted.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

In just the food and drink arena, imagine the potential mountain of waste that could be generated from disposable bottles, wrappers, cups, utensils, and uneaten food. Waste reduction strategies include:

  1. Reduce — the first line of defense is to avoid waste in the first place for instance,  eliminate or minimize packaging for take away food and drink items.
  2. Reuse — serve food in reusable dishes than can be washed and reused.
  3. Recycle — use recyclable and compostable packaging.

Packaging and Color Coding

LOCOG worked closely with Olympic Park catering operators and food and drink sponsors to ensure wrappings, containers, and utensils are either compostable or recyclable. Proper sorting and disposal is essential to successful composting and recycling.

Imagine trying to get an international audience speaking hundreds of different languages, with a kaleidoscope of cultures, scurrying between events, and focused on their team, to sort their “trash” into recyclable, compostable, and non-recyclable bins.

A color coding scheme was developed to assist visitors and LOCOG catering workers with determining what to dispose of where. Color coded bins with graphics are placed in groups around Olympic Park.

  • Olympic Recycle, Compost, Trash BinsOrange = Compostable for wrappings, containers, utensils, food waste
  • Green = Recyclable for plastic bottles, cups, meal trays, paper (limited glass and metal will be used at the Olympics)
  • Black = Non-recyclable in other words trash (will go to energy-from-waste facilities versus directly to a landfill)
  • Purple = Dedicated Recycling (e.g. rain ponchos)

The majority of packaging and consumable items available from LOCOG catering operations and at McDonald’s will have a color coded dot, icon or mark (orange, green, or black) as an additional visual clue to help visitors place disposables in the correct bin.

And Now a Word from Our Sponsors

According to LOCOG, “The Games could not take place without sponsors. They play a huge role in supporting the Games and promoting sport, way beyond the core provisions of their service or product categories”. Food and drink sponsors were actively engaged in developing and implementing waste reduction plans for the 2012 London Games. A few examples related to food and drink served at Olympic Park are listed below:

Coca-Cola (exclusive provider of hot and cold non-alcoholic beverages)

  • Packaged Coca-Cola products will be served in recyclable PET bottles and contain up to 25% recycled content.
  • Coca-cola, Diet Coke, and Coke Zero drinks will be served in bottles that contain up to 22.5% plant-based material.
  • In a joint venture with ECO Plastics, Coca-Cola has made a commitment to recycle all PET bottles collected in London 2012 venues and turn them back into new bottles within 6 weeks of being discarded.

McDonald’s (exclusive branded retail restaurant)

  • Aligned packaging and consumable items with LOCOG guidelines.
  • McDonald’s locations will have color coded icons or marks to match the color coded  (orange, green, black) bins.
  • McDonald’s has committed to provide daily mobile litter patrols to collect any litter around their Olympic Park restaurants.

Heineken (exclusive pouring rights for beer and cider at venues where alcohol is served)

  • A PET plastic bottle was developed for the Games and includes a recycling message.
  • In venues where a draught system is available, product will be served in recyclable plastic cups.


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