Barely two months remain before throngs of athletes and spectators
crowd into London for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Along with the traditional, frantic last-minute preparations,
the host city is also hustling to deliver on its pledge to
make these Summer Games the greenest ever.
Whether or not the British capital lives up to its pledge
wonít be truly known until after the Olympics conclude. However,
a new progress report issued in late April suggests the London
planning committee is poised to meet - or to surpass - most
sustainability goals both for the Games and for post-Games
operations at the Olympics site.
According to that report, the eventís estimated footprint
will be approximately 326,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions,
providing planners can pull off all their planned reduction
One area where the committee was forced to backpedal, however,
was its plans for having at least 20 percent of the energy
used to power the Games to come from renewable sources. It
was forced to settle for 10 percent, instead, after a wind
turbine project was scratched.
"The actual Games footprint will be determined from the quantitative
measurement of Games-time activities," the committees wrote
in their latest sustainability
progress report - 'Delivering Change'.
"There will always be debate on what counts as avoidance
and reduction given the lack of a firm baseline at the start
- but the data, coupled with narrative on the measures taken
to minimise the projected footprint, will be a vital legacy
setting a benchmark for future events."
The greening of the London 2012 games will provide a benchmark
for future events - but itís the plans for the Olympic site
after the Games that are generating the most excitement.
The report by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic
Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and the Olympic Development
Authority (ODA) suggests the site will easily deliver on its
goals for carbon management, water consumption, recycling
and green building aesthetics after the crowds disperse.
Estimates suggest the post-Olympics park will create 58 percent
fewer carbon emissions than comparable sites. The original
goal was 50 percent.
Water consumption, meanwhile, will be cut by 60 percent -
better than the 40 percent reduction goal - and approximately
98 percent of the waste created at the site can reportedly
be reused or recycled.
All these data points should provide positive publicity for
the close to a dozen multinational companies scrambling to
associate themselves with the green games - including Coca-Cola,
Dow Chemical, General Electric, McDonalds and United Parcel
These companies and other long-term sponsors
have put up close to $1 billion towards funding everything
from alternative-fuel fleet deployments and sustainable commuter
transportation, to new recycling and waste management infrastructure,
to the Olympic stadium itself.
UPS, for example, is adding
10 dual-fuel methane diesel vehicles, 5 electric vehicles,
bicycles and even a barge to manage the logistics of moving
around the estimated 13 million items it must handle during
the 6-week Games.
"To continue UPS's Games legacy, UPS will continue to use
the bicycles after the Games throughout the London area,"
said Peter Harris, UPS's director of sustainability. "The
use of the barge for some of our Olympic deliveries is an
effort to encourage London to think about the Thames as a
viable supply chain delivery route, to showcase this underused
resource as a viable option beyond the Games."
Dow Chemical, meanwhile, is providing the decorative wrap
for the Olympic Stadium. According to George Hamilton, Dowís
vice-president of Olympic operations - "Dow made a strategic
business decision to partner with the Olympics because it
creates a global stage to showcase the many ways we apply
scientific solutions to make life more sustainable, safer
and higher performing.
ďThe Olympic infrastructure contracts offer Dow major business
opportunities and every dollar invested in the Olympics is
not only investing in the Olympics spirit, but in our business."
General Electric has more than 100 Olympics-related projects
underway in London. Those projects include the installation
of 120 electric vehicle charging stations, as well as an LED
lighting makeover for the cityís famed Tower Bridge - estimated
to deliver savings of 40 percent to 45 percent, compared to
the original fixtures.
Three GE Jenbacher CHP gas engines will also provide power,
heating and cooling across the site. The engines, which reduce
carbon dioxide emissions by about 15 percent, will remain
in place after the games.
It seems every Olympic Games has its controversies - and
thatís true as well for some of the top sponsors in London.
Just recently, a British
doctors group criticised the choice of McDonald's
as the sole restaurant sponsor within the Olympic park. The
Academy of Royal Medical Colleges is taking issue with the
health message a McDonald's sponsorship might send, particularly
in a country where about one-quarter of the population is
The London Olympic Committees' affiliation with Dow has also
taken fire. Critics take issue with Dow's links to infamous
1984 gas disaster in Bhopal, India - an accident that killed
thousands of people. Dow didn't own the plant at the time,
but that hasn't stopped some critics from suggesting the company
should be dropped as a worldwide partner.
The committee, however, has reiterated its support of both
sponsors, characterising their involvement as business arrangements.
"Sponsors provide a huge amount of the funding required to
stage the games," a London 2012 spokesman said in a press
statement. "Without our partners such as McDonald's, the games
simply wouldn't happen."
As the Olympic Games takes up the mantle of sustainability,
their sponsorship choices are likely to be even more closely
scrutinised and criticised in the future - especially if London
2012 doesn't deliver as planned.