London 2012′s low-carbon cauldron
The Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, the independent body established to assure and monitor the sustainability of the London 2012 Games, observed the opening ceremony for the Games with an eye to its sustainability.
Commission Chair Shaun McCarthy welcomed the world’s first low carbon Olympic cauldron, a fitting symbol of the “most sustainable Games”:
“The crowning glory of the ceremony and the ultimate expression of a sustainable Games was to see seven young Olympic hopefuls lighting the world’s first low-carbon flame in the first low-carbon Olympic cauldron. London 2012 has created a cauldron that has a fraction of the materials of the traditional type, it can be turned down at night to use a fraction of the gas and it is personal to each and every team.”
The London 2012 cauldron, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, weights just 16 tonnes, compared to the 300 tonne Beijing cauldron. Having used less carbon other natural resources for its materials and manufacture, the cauldron sends a message to the world that big is not always beautiful and that you can be both spectacular and sustainable.
Furthermore, the unique design has multiple burners with each nation getting its own burner inscribed with the name of that nation. This allow a flexible burn-rate and makes the flame more personal to the national teams. After the closing ceremony each team will take a component away as a lasting souvenir of the London 2012 Games, a sustainable legacy that is distributed around the world.
Whilst the flame was spectacular on the night, at other times, and especially overnight, the gas flow can be reduced very significantly, reducing gas consumption from 100% down to 15%. LOCOG has planned for the flow rate to be constantly monitored to ensure the minimum quantity of gas is burned.
The possible use of biogas for the flame was explored but the very large quantity of gas required and the cost of installing substantial storage capacity with no obvious legacy use ruled out this option. The Commission believes the option chosen by LOCOG was the right one under the circumstances, although it is regrettable that use of a renewable energy alternative was unsuccessful.
In 2007, LOCOG promised a low carbon Olympic torch and a low carbon cauldron. The attempt to provide a low carbon torch was a failure and the Commission expressed disappointment at the time that LOCOG was unable to take a powerful message about sustainability to every community in the country. McCarthy explained:
“We’ve previously been disappointed by LOCOG’s failure to provide a low-carbon torch, so to see the low-carbon cauldron in action was wonderful. Now we’ll be focusing on the events themselves, to see if the venues perform as well as the athletes.”
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