“Olympic Games, [an] athletic festival that originated in ancient Greece and was revived in the late 19th century. […] The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world´s foremost sports competitiona,” says the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Winning a competition is symbolized by receiving a medal. At the Olympics, athletes compete for their country, so the honour of receiving a medal goes to the whole nation. The Olympics also have various economic, social and environmental effects, especially for the host city. And there are also the global impacts of the media attention and the event’s enormous popularity worldwide. For 2012 these broader effects and impacts have come together more than ever before in the Games’ history in a focus on sustainability
Sustainability is nowadays a key topic, continually raised in newspapers, academic articles, advertising campaigns and so on. Further it is one of the recent buzzwords in the business world. Nevertheless a definition needs to be stated at this moment. The Brundtland Commission Paper first defined sustainability and sustainable development in 1987. “Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs“ according to the World Commission on Environment and Development.
At the beginning of the strategic planning process of the Olympics back in 2006, LOCOG, the board charged with staging the 2012 Games, decided to take an influential line on people’s mindsets on the environment .“Our vision is to use the power of the Games to inspire lasting change.” Firstly the concept of sustainability – social, economical and environmental view – was included from the outline sketch onwards. There are five “sustainability themes” in the focus of strategic planning:
1. Climate Change:
“To deliver a low carbon Games and showcase how we are adapting to a world increasingly affected by climate change.”
Climate change is usually attributed to various emissions polluting the environment. The challenge the committee of the London 2012 Olympics faced was to measure and to minimize these emissions resulting from the construction and functioning of the Olympics arenas, housing and so on. One important action for this was to draw up a complete carbon footprint of the whole project.
“To deliver a zero-waste Games, through exemplary resource management practices and by promoting long-term behavioural change.”
Re-using and recycling of materials used and general waste management is at the heart of the planning process. This is done along the whole supply chain, every venue is included and considered. This waste management system can be applied to various events and can hence be seen as an archetype.
“To conserve biodiversity, create new urban green spaces and bring people closer to nature through sport and culture.”
In this field, the promotion of and changing attitude towards natural resources are considered. In general, raising awareness for this topic is the focus for the Olympics 2012. Since each venue has impact on different ecosystems, biodiversity can basically be seen as serving a vital function for economy, society and environment.
“To host the most inclusive Games to date by promoting access, celebrating diversity and facilitating the physical, economic and social regeneration of the Lower Lea Valley and surrounding communities.”
The Olympic Park is located on the Lea, a major tributary into the Thames, and in a culturally highly diverse area of London, with communities ranging from Asian and African to Pakistani and White Western and Easten European. This diversity needs to be celebrated. Furthermore, its value for the London community needs to be demonstrated around the world. Breaking down barriers, cultivating tolerance and promoting open-mindedness are core elements of this approach.
5. Healthy living:
“To inspire people across the UK to take up sport and develop more active, healthy and sustainable lifestyles.”
Elements of healthy living are on one side sports and physical activity, which are now being further encouraged in London and the whole UK. Further, air quality can be included in this topic, correlating with climate change and control of emissions, along with sustainable and local food with its variety and quality to be celebrated at the 2012 Olympics.
The 2012 Olympics is more than a sports event taking place in London. It is an event that might change world views on sustainability. Due to the intense media attention it is possible to raise awareness on a large scale. Sustainability is not just a concept about “being and acting green”, as it may be mistaken for by many people all over the world. It is more a concept depending on three core elements and qualities: economic, social and environmental. Only if all three elements come together can a project, an action, a process be seen as sustainable. This is exactly what the board of the 2012 Olympics is doing right now, what they planned in the past, and what they are going to do in future.
By: Juliane Petsch
Social Awares Journalist
Photo Source: Ushbah Abid, HGN Photographer, London Campus