And the Green Medal Goes to London

August 14th, 2012 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on And the Green Medal Goes to London

One of the most under-reported stories of this year’s Olympics was the London Olympic Committee’s vision of a an environmentally-friendly games. London put sustainability at the heart of their Olympic Plans, and if the city itself were to receive a medal, it would not be the gold, silver or bronze. Instead, London would take home the “Green”.

Throughout their entire bidding process for the 2012 Games, the London Olympic Committee pushed its concept of a “One Planet Olympics”. Considerable efforts were made to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and minimize construction waste. No waste products during the games went to the landfill. They had a very far-reaching and effective recycling and re-use system in place for the games. From construction, to food packaging, the 2012 Olympic Games in London should not be overlooked for their efforts in sustainability. Here are but a few of the programs that made these Olympic Games particularly friendly to our environment:

Packaged Foods

– With nearly 7 million people attending the games over 17 days; over 3,300 metric tons of food packaging waste was generated. The good news is that over 70% of the materials used at the games were reused, recycled, or composted.

Building and Construction

The London 2012 Organizing Committee and the Olympic Delivery Authority set out to build new facilities with energy efficient, sustainable, and recyclable designs. Here’s a rundown on how the London 2012 Olympics cut down the watts and water to keep the games clean, Green, and energy efficient.

– The Velodrome – one of the most sustainable buildings ever built for an Olympic Games, housed the indoor cycling track. It was built to hold 6,000 people and keep them cool during the heat of the summer with a completely natural ventilation system using outside air. No air conditioning required! The Velodrome also used natural lighting during the day to supplement fluorescent lighting, saving lots of energy. And there’s still more – it collects rainwater for its main water usage with its sloped roof. Very impressive.

– The Water Polo Arena, the first-ever dedicated water polo venue to be built for the games, was built not too last, and will be torn down immediately after the games, with the materials being reused for construction. The building is made with polyvinyl chloride material, or PVC, which is easily recyclable.

– One of the largest sports facilities ever built for temporary use, the Olympic Park’s new Basketball Arena resembles a tent or scaffold that’s entirely sustainable like the Water Polo Arena. Its steel frame is covered in 20,000 square meters of white, recyclable PVC fabric. All of these materials can be taken down and reused after the Olympic Games.

– The Copper Box is perhaps the most efficient building in the Olympic Park. It was used for handball and badminton. The building was aptly named using over 3,000 square meters of copper (mostly recycled) on its exterior facing, giving it a nice bronze sheen. In terms of sustainability and energy efficient design, the Copper Box had 88 pipes that brought in natural daylight, saving an annual 40 percent on lighting costs. Also, much like the Velodrome, the roof collects rainwater for toilet use, which will cut water costs by 40 percent per year.


250 acres of new parkland were created for the games. Much of the land that was cleaned up for the parks was formerly industrial land, and much of it was contaminated. Inaccessible river banks were also opened up – creating a new park that was part of the great atmosphere during the games, and afterwards, will now become the largest new urban park in the UK in the past 100 years.


All of the spectators (100%) arrived at the Games either by public transportation, walking or cycling. In preparation for the games, London invested in permanent improvements to existing public transportation infrastructure and services. There were also improvements to 80km of cycling and walking routes to the Olympic Park and nearly 6,000 temporary bike parking spaces were created for the Games.

Nice work London! And let’s hope that moving forward we see the same level of earth stewardship from other host cities. If we’re looking for a little friendly Olympic competition, then let’s make sure that the host city reaches for the Green Medal every 4 years.