Will London’s 2012 Summer Olympics Set New Social Innovation and Green Records?

The Olympic torch has arrived in the U.K. and is now making its way to London for the 2012 Summer Olympics. This capital city is striving to keep its pledge to ensure that these Games will include social innovation and be the greenest games ever. A new progress report, ‘Delivering Change’ was released this April suggests the London planning committee is set to meet or to surpass most sustainability goals both for the Games and for post-Games operations at the Olympics site.

Looking at the London 2012 social innovation and eco programme as a whole, there are five major highlights that demonstrate where it has set new standards for sustainability. They are: 1) The Olympic Park is said to be the most sustainable Olympic Stadium ever built. The Park is the largest new urban parkland in Europe for 150 years. 2) London 2012 is the first summer Olympic and Paralympics Games to measure its carbon footprint over the entire project. 3) Sustainable transport means nine million ticket holders will experience sustainable travel. Plus there are a million extra journeys by walking and cycling in London each day of the Games. 4) All the catering is signed up to the Food Vision standards and ready to serve 14 million sustainably sourced meals. Finally, 5) There is a commitment to delivering a zero waste to landfill Games.

One area where the committee was forced to backpedal was plans for having at least 20 percent of the energy used to power the Games to come from renewable social innovation sources. However, it was forced to settle for 10 percent, after a wind turbine project was scratched. Seb Coe, Chair of London 2012 Organizing Committee says, “This is a unique and precious opportunity to demonstrate our leadership on sustainability. A platform for us to inspire billions around the world, brought together under the banner of the Olympic and Paralympics Games, regardless of nationality or cultures. What we’ve achieved to date proves that we can harness the Olympic spirit and drive sustainability forward with people who wouldn’t otherwise be involved.”

In spite of the positive reports, there have been some fears of greenwashing. One of the biggest sponsors of the Olympics is Dow Chemicals, responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster in India. Added to this, BP is a ‘sustainability partner’ and BP is not a company with the cleanest environmental track record, so this choice casts a shadow over its environmental and social innovation record.

Barely two months remain before 14,700 of the world’s finest athletes compete together, watched by millions of spectators from all around the world in the presence of the world’s most demanding media. The Games commence on July 27 and we will witness the grandest sports event of 2012. However, while it will be debated whether London 2012 Summer Olympics achieved social innovation and ‘green’ success, the data and research collected about the measures taken to minimize the projected footprint, will be an important legacy for future events.

Article by Sangeeta Haindl of Justmeans, appearing courtesy 3BL Media.

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