Gallery: London 2012: The Greenest Olympic Games in History?

Map of the 2012 London Olympics site.
Map of the 2012 London Olympics site.

With less than a week to go until the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony on July 27th, excitement is building. Hundreds of workers are putting the finishing touches on the massive project that is the 2012 Summer Olympics, but as preparations continue so too do the green aspirations of London 2012. Will the Games live up to the pledge made all the way back in 2005 to create the greenest games ever? The project is huge; a far cry from putting a conservatory up in your garden, so how is it possible to stay green when caring for the environment is rarely seen as the easy option? Read on for a look at exactly how green the London 2012 Olympics will be, starting with the three main stadia. These include the 80,000 capacity Olympic Stadium, the Velodrome and the Aquatics Centre (there are also five additional separate arenas – take a look at the full map of the Olympic Park to really get an idea of its scope).

The Olympic Park

The first real success of the London Olympics was the dramatic transformation of the site itself. The heavily industrialized area of Stratford, East London used to be somewhat of a wasteland before developers started building. The soil contained petrol, tar, oil, solvents, lead and arsenic. Quite the cocktail!

The first step was to clear an area the size of 297 football pitches, removing 2 million tons of soil, which was decontaminated and then replaced, before attention was turned to the River Lea. The waterway has been restored to its former glory through the planting of 300,000 wetland plants and 2,000 native trees.

Once the land was leveled and cleared, building commenced, with plans to incorporate an extensive network of cycle paths. In April, three months ahead of the Games, the Olympic Park was awarded the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certificate, for using sustainable timber to construct the buildings – two-thirds of all wood used on site was from managed plantations.

The Velodrome

The building that required the majority of this wood is the Velodrome, which utilized 5,000 sq m of western red cedar. Known affectionately as ‘The Pringle’ due to its striking resemblance to the potato-based snack, the 250m track is made out of 56km of Siberian Pine. This is the most sustainable building on site; the roof weighs half of any other velodrome in the world. Its 17km of recycled steel cables are equivalent to twice the height of Mount Everest. That’s a lot of recycled metal! Natural ventilation has also been built in so there is no need for air conditioning, just in case London gets one of those ‘summer days’ that we’ve heard so much about, but rarely seen here in England.

The Aquatics Centre

Committed to using UK-produced materials, steel used in the construction of the Aquatic Centre was produced in Newport, Wales. Over 160,000 tonnes of soil was removed to make way for the three pools at the centre, but it was reused in the landscaping of the park.
The 866,000 ceramic tiles used for the changing rooms, pools and the poolside were delivered by train straight to the Olympic Park reducing transport emissions further – the organizers want to ensure that at least 50% of all construction materials are transported by water or rail.

The Main Stadium

And finally, to the main Olympic Stadium. The unique building will be housing the opening and closing ceremonies so all the eyes of the world will be upon it. But that doesn’t mean the organizers have scrimped on the ethics – it is the lightest Olympic Stadium ever built, and the roof has been fabricated from a PVC fabric, helping with the weight issue while keeping costs low. The structure supporting the roof is 2,500 tons of steel tubing. The clever bit is that this tubing came from old recycled old lines.

London 2012: keeping the green dream alive

if all of this sounds like a best case scenario, then take note – the London 2012 sustainability plan pledge to tackle climate change is already producing results. Carbon dioxide reductions of 15% have been achieved, and the main arenas have been awarded the BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

Having seen the plans at the start of the four-year construction, this green ambition could have been easily laughed off – but seeing it come into fruition fires a new life into the Games. The reports of spiraling costs and poor organization are diminishing as these green aspirations are finally reached. After four hard-fought years, has London actually given itself an Olympics to be proud of?

+ London Olympic Coverage on Inhabitat


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