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Will the London Olympics Live Up to Its Green Ambitions?

Last month, it was the little wind farm.A week ago, the waste management infrastructure. Now,it’s a 427-foot wind turbine once slated for Olympic Park.

Will the London Olympics Live Up to Its Green Ambitions?
Aquatics Centre

Last month, it was the little wind farm.A week ago, the waste management infrastructure. Now,it’s a 427-foot wind turbine once slated for Olympic Park. Everywhereyou look, London’s 2012 Olympics have scrapped or hedged on someaspect of their environmental goals, casting doubt on whether there’seven such a thing as Green Games.

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London won the Olympic bid in2005 on a platform of sustainability, pushing itself onto theInternational Olympic Committee as a model of eco-chic and onto theBritish public as a chance to redevelop the seedier parts of the city.The government vowed to “transform the heart of East London” and “makethe Olympic Park a blueprint for sustainable living.” It would be, theysaid, the “greenest games in modern times.”

Velodrome

Five years on,there’ve been plenty of incremental successes — Hopkins Architects‘s velodrome (above) is light as a featherand NORD‘s recently completed substation (below) made clever use of demolition scrap from Kings Yard — but there’ve also been plenty of failures.Olympic Park’s energy hub will run on gas, instead of biogas. Wind-power ambitions have been scaled back. And the roof of Zaha Hadid’s feted aquaticpark (top image) is made out of ungodly amounts of steel, each ton itsown little environmental nightmare. Same story with Anish Kapoor’sOrbit tower (bottom image).

The Commission for a Sustainable London2012 released a report last week (which you candownload here) applauding the Games’s progress on environmental issues at the same time that itexpressed serious reservations. With few exceptions, there is “nocomprehensive plan” for new waste management in east London or for Olympic Park’s so-called “blueprint for sustainableliving,” the report says — which were big selling points for London in the firstplace. “Having an Olympics is an inherently unsustainable thing to do.To build all this stuff to watch some people run around – what’ssustainable about that?” commission head Shaun McCarthy told the UKGuardian. “We have to ask ourselves is it good enough just to have somegreat sustainable venues and put on a sustainable games which we areincreasingly confident about, or will the Olympics really make adifference?”

Inmany ways, it’s an old story. Ask anyone in Montreal or Athens, andthey’ll tell you, the Olympics are a high-stakes gamble, and the housealmost always wins. London, with its lofty environmentalism, was supposed to be different. It still might be. But time’s starting to run out. And Almost Green Games just doesn’t have the same ring.

[Via UK Guardian]

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About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.

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