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Evaluation of London 2012 Olympics Sustainability Plan

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Executive Summary

Before the London Olympics that were hosted in London in 2012, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) published a sustainability plan that indicated ways in which sustainability issues like healthy living, climate change, waste management, biodiversity and inclusion could be dealt with. This paper provided an overview analysis of this plan, covering all these sustainability aspects. It later focuses on reviewing the aspect of climate change and efforts that were made to reduce the carbon footprint of the games.

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Findings from a small opinion survey that was carried out at GSM with ten students as respondents are also presented in this report.

Introduction

Sustainability is among the factors that are put into consideration when preparing for major sporting events (Kim, 2013). Within the past decade, there has been a growing increase in the level of attention by sports organizing committees on this issue. Before the Olympics and Paralympics Games that were hosted in London in 2012, the international Olympics Committee (IOC) prepared a plan that was to ensure sustainability during and after the games (LOCOG, 2009). With reference to these summer games, this paper intends to provide a brief analysis of the plan drafted by the event organizers, which will incorporate biodiversity, waste management, climate change, healthy living and inclusion. It also intends to provide a further detailed review of the inclusion aspect of sustainability, which shall be backed with evidence from news and academic perspectives. In establishing the effectiveness of sustainability efforts, an opinion survey was carried out with a section of students from GSM London as respondents. Even though most of them were satisfied by the progress made so far, a small section of respondents opined that more needs to be done. Whereas this report highlights the progress that has been made by the IOC’s sustainability efforts, some of the drawbacks are also mentioned.

Overview Analysis of the IOC Sustainability Plan

Due of the fact that the Olympics attract millions of people, they can be detrimental to different aspects of sustainability if there is no detailed plan of their potential adverse impacts (Pedersen et al., 2011). In an effort to ensure this, the IOC focused on five aspects key aspects and prepared a sustainability plan to address the potential risks that could be posed to them. These are; biodiversity, inclusion, healthy living, waste management and climate change (LOCOG, 2009). This section provides a brief analytical overview of these aspects based on how attainable they are and their potential effectiveness.

Waste

Wastes during the Olympics and Paralympics are from a wide range of sources, which include construction, and other activities that relate to sporting (Douglas, 2012). In an effort to limit the impacts of wastes during and after the Olympic Games, the IOC had several strategies in plan. Its main objective was to attain zero waste during the games through utilization of exemplary management strategies. These included minimization of wastes at their sources, diversion of wastes from construction sites to other feasible locations, promotion of the reduce-reuse-recycle waste hierarchy and facilitation of individual behavioural changes (IOC, 2012). Another strategy was ensuring that all wastes resulting from the games were not directed to landfills. Whilst all these approaches were ideal, instilling a behavioural change in individuals to make them conscious about how they deal with their wastes can be considered as the most appropriate. This is because of the long-term impact it can have, not only on waste management but on the whole aspect of sustainability (Commission for a Sustainable London Olympics, 2007). On the other hand, the most challenging strategy to attain is the diversion of waste materials from construction sites. This is particularly challenging if the waste is bulky or the distance to where it is to be diverted is long.

Climate Change

Effects that Olympics and Paralympics could have on climate change were mainly as a result of carbon emissions. With the high numbers of people within and out of the UK and heavy energy consumption, the carbon footprint was bound to be enormous (Gold & Gold, 2013). Therefore, the IOC was to establish and implement long term solutions to this issue. Some of the key areas that were to be addressed included the management of water and energy resources, infrastructural development, transportation and carbon offsetting strategies. To minimize the carbon footprint, the strategies that were used included optimization energy demand and efficiency and encouraging the use of renewable energy sources that had lower levels of carbon emission. With the increased global concerns of climate change that are caused by greenhouse emissions, these strategies received support from many stakeholders (Commission for a Sustainable London Olympics, 2007). Even with the optimism, reduction of the carbon footprint during the games was affected by the high population of that attended the games and limited amount of available renewable energy.

Biodiversity

The existent biodiversity in London and other venues that hosted the 2012 Olympics had to be maintained and even further enhanced. For conservation of diversity, the IOC saw it necessary to use the Olympics as an avenue for increasing the public’s awareness about conservation and the role that natural environments play maintaining and promoting biodiversity (LOCOG, 2009). To attain this, the IOC pledged its commitment towards ensuring that natural resources in the Lower Lea Valley, London and across all other venues in the UK were effectively managed. The potential of success for this strategy is high. However, it was largely dependent on the availability of resources to facilitate management and promotion of public awareness (Commission for a Sustainable London Olympics, 2007).

Inclusion

The IOC’s objective was to make the London Olympics and Paralympics the most inclusive since the start of the Olympics (IOC, 2012). Therefore, the games were expected to bring together people from diverse social and cultural backgrounds. The games were also expected to facilitate regeneration on economic, physical and social aspects of the lower lea valley and its surroundings. By celebrating the diversity that exists in the UK and global population, the London Olympics and Paralympics encouraged participation from everyone with an aim of promoting social cohesion, fair play and respect (Karamichas, 2013). One of the strategies that were used to ensure inclusion was encouragement of communities across the UK to take advantage of opportunities that were presented by the games. These included trade, employment and new infrastructural facilities.

Healthy Living

Promotion of healthy lifestyles was also among the aspects that were addressed during the 2012 summer games (Wheeler, 2013). These games were to be used in inspiring people in London and across the United Kingdom to take up sporting activities to keep them active. Healthy and sustainable lifestyles should be attained by refraining from overexploiting natural resources. According to LOCOG (2009), there are many health benefits that can be attained through people’s own efforts. These include engagement in physical activities and maintaining a healthy living environment. This message was to benefit people from the UK as well as tourists who came as spectators.

Review of the delivery of the Climate Change aspect of Sustainability

There have been several mixed views about the success levels that were attained in the last Olympics to reduce the potential amount of carbon emission during the Olympics and Paralympics. As discussed earlier, a high percentage of greenhouse emissions originate from transportation and energy uses. Therefore, it is vital for the responsible bodies to consider addressing the aspects of energy and transport to realize a reasonable reduction of the overall emission (Siikamaki et al., 2012). Chaabane et al. (2012) suggests that greenhouse gas emission can be managed by reducing motor transport. This can be achieved through avoiding unnecessary trips, using public transportation or alternative transportation methods that require less energy. There are direct and indirect consequences of this measure. The direct impact will be reduction of the total energy used in transportation, which directly reduces the volume of greenhouse gases emitted (Melanta et al., 2012). One of the indirect impacts is the reduction of congestion and traffic jams, which economizes the amount of fuel used by vehicles on the road and ultimately, the amount of carbon emissions (Droege, 2011).

The use of sustainable energy sources is also suggested as an ideal approach towards reducing the carbon footprint (Droege, 2011). Some of the available sources of alternative sustainable energy include wind energy, solar power and geothermal power, among others. Given that the amount of energy produced from sustainable sources is limited, the public should be sensitized about the efficient use of energy in their workplaces and in their homes (Droege, 2011). One of the simple approaches that can be used is the purchase and use of energy efficient vehicles and electrical appliances.

However, Saunders argues that a rebound can be experienced as an impact of attaining high energy efficiency levels. With reference to the neoclassical theory, Saunders argues that increased energy efficiency leads to a drop in its prices. As a result, it may be used to run machines as a substitute to human labour. This creates an increase in the greenhouse gas emission from fuel usage. He also argues that an increase in energy efficiency results in an increase in economic growth, which results into an increase in energy use (Saunders, 2013).

Regardless of the neoclassical theory presented by Saunders, the current climatic situations present the need for increasing energy efficiencies (Droege, 2011). With reference to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, it was established that the carbon dioxide released in the course of the games was 28% less than the projected amount. According to the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), the initial projection of carbon dioxide emission reductions was at 6,000 Mt but the attained reductions were at 31,000 Mt (Environmental Leader, 2012). The success in this reduction was attributed to a concept referred to as “the four R’s (reduce, re-route, re-time and re-mode)” by Transport for London (TfL). This approach is similar as to those suggested in literature. It involved reducing the need to travel by taking leaves working at home, planning to travel before or after peak times, taking an alternative route and using different transportation means (LOCOG, 2009). The alternative transport modes that were used on the widest scale included walking and cycling. Even though LOCOG (2009) is credited for provision of this information, it is worthy pointing out that most of the reports about sustainability during the Olympics were positive, even though several observers identified shortcomings in these efforts.

Even though the carbon footprint from transport was less than the projected levels, the carbon emission from spectators was estimated to be 913,000 Mt, which exceeded the expected emissions by approximately 36% (Environmental Leader, 2012). This difference between the estimates and the actual emissions was argued to have been caused by the high number of spectators, athletes and the Olympics and Paralympics workforces. There were a total of 11 million spectators, thousands of athletes and more than 200,000 people in the workforce. Even with the higher amount of emission from spectators, the overall amount of emissions was at 3.3 million Mt, which was much lower that the estimate of 3.4 million Mt that was made in 2009 (LOCOG, 2009). Even after the Olympics and Paralympics, these strategies for reducing the CO2 are still being used in the UK. In addition to the climate change aspect of other aspects like waste management, biodiversity and inclusion also attained reasonable levels of success.

Opinion Survey

Methodology used

To get a further understanding of the effectiveness of strategies that were formulated in the IOC sustainability plan, a small opinion survey was carried out. The main objective was to obtain their views on how effectively the emission of greenhouse gases was managed. A semi-structured interview approach was utilized to allow the respondents to freely give their opinions about the subject of the opinion survey (Yin, 2010). Ten students from the Greenwich School of Management were selected as respondents the selection was random and was based on their willingness to participate in the opinion survey. During the survey, two main questions were asked to the respondents. The first was their opinions on the achievements made in efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The seconds was their opinions on what could be done to attain better results. The answers that were given by respondents were recorded on paper and stored for analysis. One major limitation that was experienced was the lack of interest by some of the students who were approached to participate in the survey. There were also cases where students were willing to participate, but lacked the background information about the subject of the survey.

Findings

Out of the ten the students who were interviewed during the survey, six were satisfied with the carbon management efforts while three were unsure about whether the strategies were effective. However, one was sceptical about the management of carbon emissions. For instance, one of the respondents argued “During the games, I was impressed by how transport was managed. Though I expected many challenges because of the millions of people who attended, I can’t remember seeing any big traffic jam or related issues.” This signifies how effective the transportation plans were during the games. As aforementioned, reduction of traffic jams and congestion contributes towards energy efficiency. Another respondent based his argument on the reviews he had read on different news periodicals he argued “after the Olympics, many news outlets have indicated their satisfaction about the reduction of carbon emission by the efficient use of energy. Infact, there was an article that indicated that the footprint was much less than what was anticipated.” The scepticism of one of the respondents was based on his opinion that there was no appropriate way of accurately estimating the volume or weight of carbon emissions from the Olympics (Droege, 2011). He said “I don’t believe there’s an appropriate method to measure the exact amount of carbon emissions. The stuff we hear in the news is based on estimates. They might have reported a smaller value of emissions just to portray a good image of the UK or the IOC to the world.” Even Though one respondent was sceptic about the achievements of the IOC, TfL and LOCOG, the fact that most of the respondents were positive about the efforts made to achieve a low carbon footprint during the Summer Olympics indicates the strategies in the sustainability plan published by the IOC were ideal (Environmental Leader, 2012). Some of the recommendations that were made by the respondents to further reduce the carbon footprint in future games included increment of fuel prices to discourage travel by personal cars and increasing the energy production from sustainable energy sources.

Conclusion

As presented in this paper, sustainability has been among the key aspects for consideration in major sporting events within the last decade. In this regard, the organizers of the 2012 summer Olympics and Paralympics prepared a detailed plan on how to address several suitability issues that could have arisen in the games. These include healthy living, waste management, inclusion, biodiversity and climate change. This paper focused more on the how effectively the aspect of climate changes was managed. The main area of focus was the approaches that were uses to ensure energy efficiency and reduce the carbon overall carbon footprint of the games. The effectiveness of these measures were reflected in the fact that there CO2 greenhouse gas emissions caused by energy use was less than the projected amount by 28%. A small opinion survey also was carried out with help of students from the Greenwich School of Management. From its findings, there was a further indication that the sustainability plan or ensuring a smaller amount of carbon gas emissions was ideal. One major drawback was that there was a higher amount of carbon dioxide emission from spectators that was anticipated. However, this was attributed to the high population of spectators, officials and sportsmen who were approximately 11 million in total. In order to further reduce the carbon footprint during major games in future, organizing committees have to carry out an extensive review of the strengths and drawbacks of the strategies applied in London in 2012. This will help them modify the sustainability model and make it better. In future research, a more in-depth survey that involves more respondents drawn from across the UK should be carried out. All the other elements of sustainability should also be addressed.

References

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Evaluation of London 2012 Olympics Sustainability Plan. (2019, Feb 19). Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://phdessay.com/evaluation-of-london-2012-olympics-sustainability-plan-2/.