You are here: Sustainable Development in Government > News archive > A legacy of change: the London 2012 post-Games sustainability report

A legacy of change: the London 2012 post-Games sustainability report

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) has published A Legacy of Change, its final sustainability report for London 2012, focusing on what was achieved in the delivery of the Games and the culmination of the sustainability programme.

SD Scene publishes news and comment on sustainable development from across government, business and civil society. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect government policy.

Setting new standards

In his opening statement LOCOG Chief Executive Paul Deighton describes the success of the Games’ sustainability programme:

“[..] we honoured our ambitious sustainability commitments and succeeded in raising the bar and setting new standards in so many areas. This wasn’t something extra; it was an integral part of what we did and helped us deliver such great Games.”

He details LOCOG’s performance against the eight key attributes of a sustainable event, first set out in the 2008 Sustainability Guidelines for Corporate and Public Events:

  1. Provide an accessible and inclusive setting for all
  2. Provide a safe and secure atmosphere
  3. Have minimal negative impacts on the environment
  4. Encourage healthy living
  5. Promote responsible sourcing
  6. Deliver excellent customer experience
  7. Encourage more sustainable behaviour
  8. Leave a positive legacy

The report also provides a detailed checklist of achievements against LOCOG’s sustainability objectives and numerous figures, such as:

  • 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent saved (against reference footprint)
  • 100% Games operations waste diverted from landfill
  • 62% out of a total of 10,173 tonnes of Games operational waste actually reused, recycled or composted
  • 99% out of a total of 61,000 tonnes of waste from installing and decommissioning Games venues reused or recycled
  • 86% of Olympic Park visitors travelled by rail
  • 29% increase in number of cyclists in central London during Olympic Games compared with same period the year before
  • 70% of LOCOG suppliers were SME’s contributing 26% by value of the programme
  • 15.5 million sustainably sourced meals
  • 39% of staff directly employed by LOCOG at the peak of the Games had been unemployed prior to their recruitment
  • 23.5% of staff directly employed by LOCOG during the Games were resident in one of the six Host Boroughs
  • 75 event related papers published on Learning Legacy website

The “wellbeing afterglow”

In his foreword to the report, Jonathon Porritt, chair of the London 2012 sustainability ambassadors group, describes the immediate positive effect of a successful and sustainable Games, while looking to the future:

“For most people, the “national high” that settled over the country during the Olympics and Paralympics lasted for many weeks – a “wellbeing afterglow” as a colleague of mine described it! In a funny kind of way, people felt blessed by the intensity of feelings associated with the Games and by their indisputable success.

“For us, as Sustainability Ambassadors, that “afterglow” was strongly influenced by the sure knowledge that we all felt very comfortable talking about the 2012 Games as “the most sustainable Olympics and Paralympics of the modern era” – one must assume that all those naked Greeks really would have had a lower carbon footprint!

“[..] There will be more to be reported on in due course, including the final report from the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 which acted throughout the last five years as the independent watchdog for the Games. And much still has to be delivered through the London Legacy Development Corporation, which will now be expected not to fall short on what has already been achieved.”

Reporting on the outcomes and legacy of the Games

The post-Games report is presented as a supplement to the pre-Games sustainability report – Delivering Change, April 2012 – and is similarly centred on the six topics that stakeholders said mattered most to them, updated with results and outcomes from the Games together with new information on legacy where available.

Carbon management to deliver a low carbon Games

“Delivering a low carbon Games was one of our flagship sustainability commitments. In part this was framed by the strategic choices to use existing venues wherever practical, to build new permanent venues only where there was a strong legacy case and, finally, to use temporary structures for all other needs. This approach, coupled with the compact nature of the Olympic Park and commitment to investing in and utilising public transport systems and a new utilities infrastructure, provided a strong foundation for our low carbon plans.”

Delivering a zero waste Games

“The management of resources at a major global event like the Games is absolutely vital to the successful operation of venues and official facilities. Waste and resource management is undoubtedly one of the more visible elements of the Games sustainability performance.”

Providing sustainable and accessible transport solutions

“More than 11m spectators attended the Games, along with a workforce of around 200,000, and tens of thousands of athletes, officials and dignitaries. This huge influx of people transformed London and proved an unprecedented test of the transport networks in the city as well as around the rest of the UK.”

Using the Games to showcase the economic benefits of sustainability

“The London 2012 Games was an opportunity to demonstrate that sustainability is both deliverable and cost-effective.”

Promoting sustainable living by making sustainability a visible part of the Games

“One of the continual challenges for London 2012 was how to communicate the sustainability story. The Games had always been seen as a major opportunity to make sustainability visible and meaningful to vast audiences, while recognising that the primary focus of the media and people attending or watching the Games would be sport.”

Ensuring the Olympic Park legacy contributes to the regeneration of communities in east London

“In October 2012 the London Legacy Development Corporation started work to transform the Olympic Park into Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – a new destination to live, work and enjoy.”

The focus of the report is primarily on the LOCOG as the organisation responsible for staging the Games. A brief narrative describes how the sustainability programme was developed over the seven years since winning the bid.

The report is complemented by a number of standalone case studies, micro-reports, research summaries and champion product documents on the Learning Legacy website.

Assurance statement

Finally an Assurance Statement by the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 commends LOCOG’s sustainability achievements while also looking to the future legacy:

“London 2012’s sustainability achievements surpass any other Games and have in many cases set new world best practice across development and events related sectors. As the world economy struggles in a climate of austerity, it would be easy for governments and industry players alike to view London’s performance as an unrepeatable high-point, domestically and abroad. This would be a mistake in our view.

“The sustainability team within London 2012 ceases in mid December 2012, and our own Commission ends on 31 March 2013. There is a limited window to ensure that London’s legacy is best applied and not simply a fond memory. The Commission has one final review to undertake before we close, entitled ‘Beyond 2012’. We will focus this review on the many ways in which London’s performance can be embedded into wider industry practice.

“A key question in our final review will be how the UK government can keep London’s legacy alive. We are heartened by the creation of a legacy unit within the Cabinet Office and under the leadership of Lord Coe and we look forward to seeing plans that set out how London’s legacy will live on.”
Shaun McCarthy, Chair, Commission for a Sustainable London 2012


We haven't yet received any comments on this page.

Do you have a comment on this page?

All comments are moderated: we will not publish irrelevant or inappropriate comments. Please note that we require your email to validate your message and will not publish it or use it for any other purpose.