Sustainable venues of the London 2012 Olympics

The start of the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games is just under a week away. Aside from the athletes, sustainability will be the focus of the Games. Following the Towards a One Planet 2012 slogan, the planning and delivery of the Games in London revolved around 5 sustainability themes: climate change, waste, biodiversity, inclusion, and healthy living.

One of the key areas for sustainable development was in the construction of venues. Not only does the venue design impact the athletes’ performance, it affects how sustainable the Games really are. For me, seeing the iconic venues unique to each host country is one of the most memorable moments of watching the Games. Although I won’t be able to see these venues in person, I’m still excited the watch the competitions at these venues on television/online. Here are 5 new venues that I am most excited to see:

1. Olympic Stadium

According to the Official London 2012 website, this Stadium is the most sustainable ever built for an Olympic Games. The top ring of the Stadium’s roof uses surplus gas pipes, minimizing the need to manufacture new steel. The Stadium required about 10,000 tonnes of steel to build, significantly less than other Olympic stadiums. Also, the Stadium’s river banks use recycled granite from King George V docks according to the Sustainable construction on the Olympic Park publication. I really like the idea that ‘re-using/recycling’ is at the forefront of developing a sustainable venue.

The Olympic Stadium’s main roof truss is constructed from surplus gas pipes (Source: London 2012)

2. Copper Box

 Installed in the roof are 88 light pipes that allow natural light into the venue and reduces the demand for electric lights. This will achieve annual energy savings of up to 40 per cent according to the Official London 2012 website. Rainwater collected from the roof will be used to flush toilets, reducing water consumption by up to 40 per cent. Also, copper cladding from mostly recycled copper is used on the building’s exterior walls. Over time copper oxidizes and  its colour changes from a copper to green and eventually to black—depending on which type of copper oxide has formed. So I’m not sure about the aesthetics for building with an entire exterior covered in copper.

An aerial view of the natural light design of the Copper Box (Source: London 2012)

 3. Velodrome

According to the Official London 2012 website, the venue has a 100 per cent naturally ventilated system that eliminates the need for air conditioning. The roof uses a cable-net design in which steel cables are ‘strung’ like a tennis racket, reducing the amount of material required and construction time by 20 weeks. Rainwater collected from the roof will be used for toilet flushing and landscape irrigation. The website doesn’t give further information on how the natural ventilation system works and I wonder how the athletes will react to this venue and the use the natural ventilation.

The Velodrome incorporates a variety of sustainable designs like natural ventilation (Source: London 2012)

4. International Broadcast Centre/Main Press Centre (IBC/MPC) Complex

The MPC’s roof incorporates a ‘living roof’ design which will provide a habitat to attract wildlife like the black redstart bird. Photovoltaic panels are also installed onto the MPC’s roof but the Pre-Games Sustainability report doesn’t say how much electricity will be generated or what they will power. However, the report does say the roof is predicted to deliver a savings of 30 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

An aerial view of the IBC/MPC complex. Notable features include the living roof design on the MPC building (Source: London 2012)

5. Aquatics Centre

The Aquatics Centre forms part of the gateway to the Olympic Park where most of the spectators will enter through the Aquatics Centre bridge. The centre has a ‘living wall’ for wildlife, as well as bird and bat boxes built into the Aquatics Centre bridge. I think these features will show how a wildlife habitat can positively co-exist in an urban habitat. Also, water used to clean the swimming pool filters is recycled and used for toilet flushing which I think will be a very effective use of water.

The Aquatics Centre has an iconic wave shaped roof and bird and bat boxes built into the Aquatics Centre bridge (Source: London 2012)

Science and technology has always had an important role in the Olympics, from the equipment athletes use to compete to the safety measures used to protect competitors and spectators. It’s exciting to see the progression of sustainable designs and I look forward to seeing how affective these designs turned out to be. But perhaps the biggest test will be the sustainability of these venues once the Games are over and the venues are converted into other uses.

London 2012 Organising Committee. (2012). Pre-Games Sustainability Report. Retrieved from

London 2012 Organising Committee. (2010). Sustainable construction on the Olympic Park. Retrieved from


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