Emma Fenton
13 March 2013

Were the London 2012 Olympics really sustainable?

This is the question that we set out to address when we first started work on the newest edition of the IES journal London 2012: sustainable legacy?. This is our longest ever journal at 92 pages and the brainchild of current IES chair Heather Barrett-Mold who worked with the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 (CSL) as a biodiversity expert.

The journal was only made possible with the expertise and help from CSL Commissioners who authored the articles and provided endless enthusiasm for the project. It brings together the lessons that CSL has learned throughout the delivery of the Olympics and also addresses some of the more controversial opinions on the sustainability of the Olympic Games. Opinions such as that of Robin Stott, the CSL Commissioner for Health who stated, very early on in the life of CSL that:

"The Olympics is inherently unsustainable. It is impossible to conceive of an enormous event like this which requires a substantial amount of building in its construction and development phase and then in its running phase, millions of people travelling from all over the world using prodigious amounts of fossil fuels and it being developed within a country that is already way outside its sustainability limits for is to be sustainable. It is completely impossible."

Impossible, that is, unless you change the way that large-scale infrastructure projects procure their materials. This is an argument addressed by Shaun McCarthy in the article 'Energy, Carbon and Waste: did London lead or follow?' This article was another new experience for the IES team as it was based on an interview between Shaun McCarthy - Chair of CSL - and Richard Jackson - the then-Head of Sustainability of the Olympic Delivery Authority. The full interview for this piece is available to listen to as a podcast on the IES website.

The ODA and LOCOG set themselves tough sustainability targets for the delivery of Games. We examine how far they got in achieving those targets in a series of infographics.

The journal arrived with IES Members in early March and will be published in open access in May.

Analysis from the archive