Just 16 days until the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games and already some are wondering if the city can pull off its attempt to hold the “greenest” event to date.
London has titled this year’s Olympic concept the “Towards One Planet Olympics” after calculating that if everyone in the world consumed at the same rate as a typical citizen of the UK, it would require the resources of three Earth’s to meet global demand.
The last three Olympics (held in Sydney, Athens, and Beijing) had varying degrees of environmental impact, but the UK is on its first carbon budget during 2012. This means the country is legally bound to cut emissions this year, regardless of the fact that it is playing host to hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world beginning July 27th.
A failure to pull off the event with a low carbon footprint would be embarrassing to say the least.
Chair of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 Shaun McCarthy said, “It’s an important year for the environment so London has a real opportunity to show the world what Britain is capable of achieving. Our recommendations are a matter of urgency now, because time is short. It would be a travesty if we couldn’t meet our 2012 goals.”
At the beginning of the massive construction project to prepare for the games, the UK set ambitious goals to recycle water, cut carbon emissions by 50 percent and use recycled materials for 25 percent of construction. But now that the games are about to begin, officials have focused the public’s attention on ”reducing” and “mitigating” the carbon footprint of the games instead of the original targets described.
Some of the environmental impact surrounding the games are, of course, out of Olympic officials’ control, primarily the fact that thousands upon thousands of visitors from all corners of the globe will be flying into London.
According to one estimate, the “total emissions that will be released into the atmosphere from spectators traveling to the Games are estimated to be seven hundred thousand tons – the equivalent of 143,173 return flights from New York to London.”
Traffic congestion–and therefore automotive emissions–within the city will also increase substantially as people travel back and forth from the various events. Londoners must be dreading this particular aspect of the games: they have been told to avoid the trains and tube for up to a month before the start of the Olympics. The city is creating special “Games Lanes” and changing over 1,300 traffic lights to green in order to get athletes and other Olympic VIPs to and from events quickly.