There has already been a lot of praise for the achievements of the London Olympics in the field of sustainability, as well as for the amazing sportspeople taking part. A great deal of emphasis has been placed on these games being the greenest ever.
In the early planning stages in 2005, the organisers involved the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and BioRegional in determining the sustainability benchmark, defined in a report called Towards a One Planet Olympics. This has recently reviewed (see http://www.bioregional.com/files/publications/towards-a-one-planet-olympics-revisited.pdf) and on the whole a lot of good progress has been made. Whilst praising the Games green credentials, this report warned that organisers were likely to miss a target to deliver 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources. However, this disaster has now been averted as the Olympic Park now sports 7 vertical axis turbines, provided by British manufacture Quiet Revolution. They are each 18-metres tall with 8kW of capacity and can provide up to 7,500 kWh of power a year if average wind speeds reach seven metres per second.
The UN has also praised London’s Olympic achievements. Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), says the eco achievements of the London 2012 Games should act as an inspiration for following organisers: “London’s clean-up of an old industrial site; the restoration of flows and habitat on the River Lea; the greening of supply chains; the low energy linked with the design and construction of the stadium, including utilizing old gas pipes for the facility’s Olympic ring; and the use of temporary structures to reduce emissions are among the actions that can assist in inspiring the organizers of the Rio 2016 games and beyond” .
Meanwhile, some questions have been asked of the sustainability of some of the sponsors – notably EDF and BP, especially as The Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 (CSL), which oversees the provision of sustainability for London 2012, yet was not involved in selecting these partners. When EDF failed to deliver their low carbon torch, CSL made a point of embarrassing them in their latest report, ‘In sight of the finishing line.’ The report notes: “The promise of a low-carbon torch was made in 2007 so the excuse of “we ran out of time” is not acceptable”.
The big skeleton in the Olympic’s closet, however, is clothing. According to Kathy Marks, in the Independent on 14/4/2012, “Olympic-branded gear – to be worn by British athletes and Games volunteers – is being manufactured for Adidas in sweatshop conditions in Indonesia, making a mockery of claims by London 2012 organisers that this summer’s Games will be the most ethical ever”. She goes on to say that “the German company – which unveiled its Stella McCartney-designed kit for British athletes last month – hopes to make £100m from its Olympic lines, the mainly young, female factory employees work up to 65 hours (25 hours more than the standard working week), for desperately low pay. They also endure verbal and physical abuse, they allege, are forced to work overtime, and are punished for not reaching production targets. None of the nine factories pays its employees a living wage – about 20 per cent higher than the official minimum wage – one of the cornerstones of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) base code, an internationally recognised labour code adopted by the Olympics organising committee, Locog. Workers struggle to survive on pay as low as 5,000 rupiah (34p) an hour.”.
Please let us know what you think of the Olympic’s green credentials – they may well be the greenest ever so far, but are they any where near green enough?