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A spectator’s guide to the sustainable Olympics


For those of you lucky enough to have tickets for the Games, or just planning to be glued to your telly for the next few weeks, we thought we’d point out some of the green highlights to look out for in-between the sporting endeavours.

Your guide today is David Stubbs, who’s led the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games’ sustainability programme since the original bid to host the ‘greenest Games ever’. And, as head of sustainability for LOCOG, he’s seen this vision right the way through to the Games.

Following WWF and Bioregional’s ‘scorecard’ publication “Towards a One Planet Olympics – revisited” last week, which reported much good progress on delivery (but prompted some widely varying media coverage!), we thought it would be only fair to give David the floor to talk about what he is most proud of, and give us a brief green guide to the London 2012 Games.

David Stubbs, head of sustainability for LOCOGDavid Stubbs, head of sustainability for LOCOG

“It was a little short of nine years ago when I first met with colleagues from WWF and Bioregional to begin mapping out our vision: ‘Towards a One Planet Olympics’.

And now the world is turning up in force to enjoy the spectacle of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – and, hopefully, appreciate our efforts to make these the first truly sustainable Games.

Others have already acknowledged the huge efforts put into transforming the Olympic Park site and embedding sustainability into the fabric of the construction and staging of these Games.

Connoisseurs may be thrilled by the fact that low-carbon concrete was used in building the venues, and by tales of sustainable sourcing of timber and working to new management system standards, but to the average sports fan, concrete and wood are just that, and nothing to get excited about.

So, here’s our challenge: millions of ticket holders coming to the Games, tens of thousands of athletes, officials, media and staff, and a global TV audience in the billions – how will they know we have tried to deliver sustainable Games? Well, probably not all of them will. But when we’re talking about numbers on this scale, even if we get a proportion of that audience to take some notice, we’re into game-changing territory.

Some things are not in our control. For example, we’ve provided detailed briefing material packaged up in easy chunks for the media to use during tonight’s opening ceremony. But will they use it? Will the commentators say “sustainability”, or “one planet” or “green Games”? Tune in and see.

Meanwhile, here are my green highlights to look out for around the Games…

The ‘look’

Yes literally, that’s what we call all the fabric and other materials use to dress venues to create the ‘Look of the Games’. All our ‘look’ materials are recyclable, but for me the really clever thing is that we are using the same design for both Olympic and Paralympic Games. So we only have to change the logos after the Olympics, not take everything down and redress in a new Paralympic ‘look’.

It might seem obvious, but we are actually the first Games to do this, and it means we’re saving loads of material and cutting down on waste.


This is the first fully public-transport Games, and we also have the innovative ‘Active Travel Programme’, which is promoting cycling and walking to the Games. We’re expecting 300,000 people to be active travelling spectators. There will be secure cycle parking available for every venue, including 7,000 spaces alone at three sites around the Olympic Park. And if your brake pads are wearing a bit thin, we have a repair service too! You just pay for the parts and the rest is free.


Feeling peckish after that journey? We have over 800 concessions serving food across the Games, and we’ve gone to great lengths to showcase the best of British food by sourcing local and seasonal produce that is Red Tractor Farm Assured. All our fish is Marine Stewardship Council certified, and for products from overseas we have chosen Fairtrade certification for tea, coffee, sugar, bananas, oranges and even the white and rosé wines.


Any leftovers and packaging need to go in the correct bins, and this is where everyone can help. If you’re at the Games, look for the green recycling mark on plastic bottles and cups and put these in the green bins. Your plates and hot drink cups will have an orange mark denoting compostables, and these go in the orange bins. So green in green and orange in orange – not too hard, and we’ll have signs and even volunteers to help too. Do this and we’ll be well on our way to meeting our recycling targets.

Aerial view of the Olympic park, including the main stadium and the OrbitThe Olympic Park really is a park. The meadows, wetlands, gardens and tree-planting look well-established and will provide a stunning backdrop for the Games. © EG Focus

A bit of shopping

Our retail colleagues have been working tirelessly with us to get the right messaging at the counters and on our bags to push the message about reuse and recycling. No single-use plastic bags at these Games.


You won’t miss our workforce! Those diverse and friendly people dressed in distinctive purple and poppy shirts made of recycled polyester. On their feet is the ‘world’s most sustainable trainer’ and even their water bottles and umbrellas are made from recycled content.

It’s the Park!

The Olympic Park really is a park. It has spectacular cleaned-up waterways and landscaping that for the most part have been growing-in over three summers. The meadows, wetlands, gardens and tree-planting look well-established and will provide a stunning backdrop for the Games. Despite the thousands of people milling around and lots of noise, if you look carefully in the right places along the rivers you should see our resident sand martins and grey wagtails, and maybe even hear the scratchy song of a reed warbler trying to outdo the public address system.

Above all look for the butterfly symbols or download the mobile app denoting our ‘Walk in the Olympic Park‘ and follow the trail through the parkland, as it describes the amazing transformation this site has undergone.

There are lots of sustainable things to do and see. We just hope people will appreciate them, the media will talk about them, and the world will begin to think differently.

Got views on the “most sustainable Olympics ever”? Leave them at the Towards a One Planet Olympics page.

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