Olympics legacy: Green enough to deserve environmental gold, but why so quiet?

A neglected aspect of the Games’ success

Environment Editor

The first thing to be clear on is that it’s difficult to think of a more environmentally-unfriendly event than the Olympics. The travelling, the lighting, the construction – the carbon footprint of the greatest show on earth doesn’t bear thinking about, although to be fair the event did at least hit all but one of its sustainability targets.

But the good news is that when the legacy of the event is factored in, the 2012 Olympics looks like being a reasonable-sized net force for good.

It is widely regarded by the experts to have set a new environmental standard for big events, with the new blueprint heavily influencing preparations for next year’s America’s Cup sailing competition and the bidding process for the 2020 Olympics.

Furthermore, the building projects unleashed by the Olympics have changed the way big construction companies think about the environment and given them new green skills they can use in future projects. No doubt helped by this evolving builder mindset, private companies appear to be embracing increasingly green projects in the aftermath of the Games. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ swanky new building next to Boris Johnson’s office is a good example – this exemplary green structure may have been completed before the Olympics even started but don’t forget that the Games were nearly a decade in the planning. Overseas projects have also been greenified as a result of the London Olympics, such as Barangaroo, a big commercial and residential development on the Sydney waterfront being built by Bovis Lend Lease, which worked on the Olympic Village.

Finally, the Olympics has transformed the area around Stratford, some of which was grim.

But there are also two major disappointments. The first one comes with the Government. A report by the independent commission set up to assess the Games sustainability legacy found the G overnment to have been woefully lacking when it comes to incorporating the events innovations on sustainability. As Shaun McCarthy, who chaired the commission, told me: “In many cases there is still a level of scepticism in the Government which sees sustainability as being high-cost. It is shy of setting ambitious sustainability targets [when procuring services] because it feels it could cost more. I think that’s wrong”.

The Games also missed a big opportunity to promote sustainability to its huge and captive audience. So many inspiring environmental stories to tell that just weren’t told. One theory for the reticence suggests that because some of the Olympics “sustainability partners” lacked credibility in the eyes of many – with oil giant BP and energy company EDF raising the biggest eyebrows – it became that much harder to bang the green drum.

Nonetheless, the Olympic Games has lived up to its intention to be the greenest games ever.

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect