It isn’t the awe-inspiring Opening Ceremonies, the medal count, or Michael Phelps that make this Olympics unique. London 2012 is considered the greenest games in history.
For the next couple of weeks, Olympic Park is home to about 9 million visitors, and nearly 19,000 athletes from around the world. There are criticisms that the Olympics can’t possibly be green when so many people from the around the world travel to one venue. But the history of Olympic Park in northeast London is often overlooked.
Olympic site in 2006 – Courtesy of CNN
In 2006, the site contained a landfill, and contaminated industrial sites like plastic and glue factories, an oil refinery, and a tar distillery. In just three years, the littered, neglected, brownfield became the home to some of the most sustainable buildings in the world. Notably, the remediation project included soil-washing plants to treat and reuse 2 million tons of soil on the site. After remediation was complete, the riverbanks were redesigned to have sophisticated flood management systems which support biodiversity in the area.
As with any sustainable development, the site will also meet the needs of the future. As part of the United Kingdom’s industry standards, there will be a 50% reduction in carbon emissions over time. The energy infrastructure was planned to support development around the area over the next 25 years. The official site of the London 2012 Olympics states: “Throughout the construction programme and planning the Games themselves, we have been thinking of tomorrow: our aim is for the Games to leave an amazing legacy – for the Games to be remembered not only as a summer of fantastic sport, but as the catalyst for the regeneration of one of the most underdeveloped areas of the UK. “
The visitors and spectators in London and across the world revel in the journey of the athletes from a childhood dream to the Olympic Games. The same can be said of the site of the games itself – from brown to green.
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McNicholas, M., Lass, M., and Mike Vaughan. (2012). Gold Medal Legacy. Civil Engineering, 82 (7/8), 60-67.