Thursday, 30 August 2012

How green a Games?

We have seen the ‘greatest show on earth’ – the Olympics. Usain bolted, world records crashed, Ennis and Farrah became new national heroes and everyone had an exceedingly good time. The sun even shone (most of the time)!

But did London 2012 live up to its aim to be the greenest Games ever?

I was lucky enough to get tickets to go on one day, to see the Hockey on the first day the Olympic Park was in full use. It was amazing! Just to be inside the Park was enough. The crowds of people thronging down the walkways and the cheers echoing from the stadium - I shall never forget.

Whether the thousands there were aware that monumental efforts had been made to reduce the carbon footprint, many structures being built in a deliberately low intensity, demountable way, I am not sure.  The low-carbon energy centre was clearly evident but there was, perhaps, little ‘education’ about the innovative way this was running.

Recycling was very much in focus; however, the choices of bins seemed confusing to some. By the end of the day I suspect most ‘got it’- and that was the point.  The extensive planting of the site was extraordinary and was missed by no-one, I expect. The comments I heard about the wild meadows full of flowers and trees were legion.

Having spent nearly seven years preparing for these two weeks and as a member of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, which is the sustainability assurance body overseeing the event, all our efforts were worthwhile and made a real contribution. This set a new benchmark for events of this scale, including the upcoming Paralympic Games. We are now working on the vital legacy of establishing a new community and economic hub in once run-down east London.

But the real success was something else that perhaps no-one really expected. It was the tremendous spirit and goodwill generated by the Games. The volunteers, who noticeably got the biggest cheers in the closing ceremony, were also the stars with their humour, cheerfulness and sheer commitment.  It was infectious. Now we have to nurture that collective spirit, enthusiasm and moral legacy. We have to talk about the sustainability of community spirit which goes far beyond buildings and carbon footprint. This is a new kind of ‘green’ and in this we did very well indeed.

David Jackman
Member of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012