Gallery: 6 Ways in Which London 2012 has Failed to be ‘The Green Olympi...

In 2010, the London Olympic Authority announced plans to make the London 2012 Olympics the "Greenest Olympics ever" by ensuring that they were fully sustainable and carbon neutral. Now two years later, controversy has arisen over whether or not the 2012 Olympics will be able to fully live up to these goals. Read on for 6 ways that this year's summer games have failed to be 'The Green Olympics'.

1. The unsustainable games

London’s bid for the Olympic Games revolved entirely around sustainability. Their concept, “Towards a One Planet Olympics”, was based on the notion that if the entire world’s population lived a typical British lifestyle, people would require the resources of three planets.

London’s Olympic plan included green building measures like water recycling, halving the carbon footprint of all construction projects, and sourcing 25% of each project’s materials from recycled sources. Unfortunately, as the games have drawn closer officials have been noticeably distancing themselves from their original targets and have been focusing on “reducing” and “mitigating” the carbon footprint of the games.

2. 3.4 million tons of CO2

Energy company EDF has announced plans to sponsor the olympics by providing 24 MW of energy produced through renewable sources such as wind power. The Olympic park will also feature on-site combined heating and cooling in addition to a power plant with biomass boilers. It will have the capacity to switch from natural gas to other low-carbon and renewable fuel sources.

The problem is that no one knows exactly how much energy the games will actually use – conservative estimates have stated that the games will probably produce 3.4 million tons of CO2. By comparison, the UK’s total annual emissions are around 550 million tons. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog) has been vague about cutting emissions, saying: “Our first objective is to get a handle on our climate impact and then work out how to avoid our emissions.”

3. The failure of carbon offsets

One major environmental issue with hosting the Olympic Games is the sheer amount of construction projects that are needed. Despite plans to reuse or recycle 90% of construction waste, more than half the CO2 emissions associated with the games comes from the construction process.

In order to make the entire operation as emission-free as possible, the Games have had to do a lot of carbon offsetting. This means that in exchange for creating large amounts of CO2, the Olympics are funding environmental projects to counteract the emissions from their operations. Unfortunately, this ‘pay-to-pollute’ scheme has drawn a lot of criticism – especially from those who see it as a ‘carte blanche’ for developed countries to pollute as much as they like without trying to cut their emissions.

Robin Webster of environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth has said that offsetting “is a false solution. The focus needs to be on emissions reduction, both in the UK and abroad, rather than playing one country off another.”

4. The embarrassing PR gaffes

The 2012 London Olympics have had several awkward PR gaffes on the environmental front so far – including the revelation that metals in the medals came from the Rio Tinto mine, which has caused life-threatening air and water pollution with mining endeavors around the globe. It has also been accused of mistreating workers and driving pay below a living-wage.

The alleged carbon neutral Olympic flame has also received criticism after being flown from Athens to the UK in a gold-painted private jet known as The Firefly.

5. Transportation chaos

Of course, before the Olympics can take place, everyone has to get there. This will mean thousands of people flying to London and, as a result, increased global fight emissions. In fact, the estimated total emissions that will be released into the atmosphere from spectators traveling to the Games are estimated to be seven hundred thousand tons – the equivalent of 143,173 return flights from New York to London. How are these emissions being countered? That’s right, more carbon offsetting.

Meanwhile, in London itself, the cars needed to get athletes and dignitaries to specific events are expected to greatly increase traffic congestion – Londoners have been told to ‘stay off the roads’ for at least a month!

6. The aftermath

In the aftermath of the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics, the countries’ environmental records varied greatly. For the UK, 2012 will be the final year of Britain’s first carbon budget, which commits the UK to legally binding emissions cuts, so if London’s fails to stage a low-carbon Olympics, this would be highly embarrassing.

To quote Shaun McCarthy, chair of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012: “It’s an important year for the environment so London has a real opportunity to show the world what Britain is capable of achieving. Our recommendations are a matter of urgency now, because time is short. It would be a travesty if we couldn’t meet our 2012 goals.”

Yes it would Shaun. Yes, it would.

Images: p_a_hmegoizzyMike KnellKhE 龙Tamsin Slater


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  1. Josh Gellers August 5, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    So, any time there is new construction, an event is automatically not green? This might be an unfair standard. Also, a report by the WWF and Bioregional declared that the London Games are in fact the “greenest Olympics ever” ( Perhaps we should applaud progress first before holding up the event to an impossible standard?

  2. paulkchaney August 5, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I can see that the estimation for the carbon footprint at the 2012 Olympics being a difficult thing to accomplish. Do you also count the electricity all over the world for people to watch it on their room heating 50″ TVs? Should everyone have sailed to Great Britain instead of flying? Finally, should we renounce the invention of fire and abandon the Olympics forever too?

    Maybe we need to keep our noses to the grindstone and continue learn from the efforts here and everywhere we can about how to improve our environment. Oh, we should congratulate those who worked so hard om all of the Green aspects of these 2012 Olympics. I am certain they were far more green than any of those we remember this century.

  3. grrl666 August 5, 2012 at 11:56 am

    i’d like to know why you guys chose to take a negative view of what the london Olympic committee has tried to do rather than applauding the measures taken to try to make this as green as possible. you’re never going to have an entirely green olympics, the fact that people will travel to go automatically makes a low carbon footprint impossible.

    one of the basic tenets of good leadership is to give credit where credit is due. if you applaud the efforts that are made, people will be more willing to go out of their way to change the way things are done.

  4. philipm31 July 24, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    I’m working in the stadium, and have noticed that theres always three bins wherever i go.. Trash, recycling, and compostables.. And all of the concession food containers are compostable. It’s a start at least.

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