With the opening ceremony of the London Olympics only days away, organizers prepare to celebrate what may be the one of the greenest Olympic Games to date.
For Olympic organizers, sustainability has been a major focus in planning the Games' venues. Forbes notes that existing or temporary venues are utilized whenever possible. For permanent structures, "Each new venue was required to achieve a minimum 15 percent improvement against Building Regulations."
The site of London's Olympic Park has also been noted for its radical transformation. Once an industrial area along the River Lea, the site was previously contaminated by "heavy metals, hydrocarbons, arsenic and cyanide," according to BBC News.
At the largest urban park built in Britain in over the century, officials planted 2,000 native trees and 300,00 wetland plants and restored five miles of the River Lea. 110 acres of land were also turned into "reed beds, wet woodlands, grassland and ponds" to encourage the return of wildlife, reported the Press Assocation.
The cleanup process involved removing junk by hand and then decontaminating two million tons of soil using special "soil washer" machines. According to BBC News, Chris Smith, chairman of the UK Environment Agency, said, "You get a win-win out [of] this re-use of soil on site because you don't have the [truck] movements back and forth. You don't send vast quantities of semi-contaminated soil to landfill sites around the country, and you can have a much more sensible process that re-uses and recycles."
On a smaller scale, food vendors at the Olympic Park "will use compostable packaging made mainly from starch and cellulose-based bio-plastics," notes Mother Nature Network. According to a recent report from BioRegional and WWF-UK, collaborations with suppliers Coca-Cola and Heineken may help to reduce waste with easier and more visible on-site recycling.
While British officials originally planned to draw 20 percent of the London Olympics' power from renewable sources, they fell short of that goal. The BioRegional and WWF-UK report explains that only nine percent of on-site energy will be renewable.
The report concludes, "London 2012 is the Olympics that sets a new sustainability standard for future Games; we just wish London 2012 had been able to push sustainability a little faster, a bit higher and with an even stronger focus on changes beyond the Olympic Park."
In the U.S., efforts to green sporting events have also begun to receive attention. Last week, representatives from all of the country's major professional sports leagues met at the White House for a conference "to recognize the sports industry’s growing embrace of energy efficiency, water conservation, recycling, healthier food and the role it plays in spreading the environmental message," reported The New York Times.