Geography Professor Allan Brimicombe from the University of East London is leading an impact study on behalf of the London Organising Committee of LOCOG and the IOC
The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games have promised to be the "world’s first truly sustainable" Games ever (London 2012). With five million UK spectators, 500,000 international spectators, 90,000 Games family members and the 200,000 workforce, a sustainable Games is no mean feat (Telegraph, Jan 2011). The sheer scale of the event means that the host boroughs, city and the nation will experience significant economic, socio-cultural, political and environmental impacts. However, the true extent of such impacts is not yet known.
Geography Professor Allan Brimicombe from the University of East London is leading an impact study on behalf of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This scientific Olympic Games Impact (OGI) study is required to monitor the fulfilment of a positive legacy for both the host city and the host country.
Measuring Olympic sustainability
Environmental sustainability. Carbon dioxide emissions
Socio-cultural sustainability: Participation in sport
Economic sustainability: Public transport
The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games aim to leave "a legacy far beyond the departure of the Olympic flame" (London 2012). This involved working with other players such as BioRegional and WWF to develop "Towards a One Planet 2012", a document intended to deliver the core principles of sustainable development.
Professor Brimicombe defines sustainable development as the equitable use of resources to achieve development that meets people’s entitlement to a healthy and productive life without jeopardising the entitlement of future generations. Resources may be natural (derived from the environment), economic, social and technological.
However, the knowledge, values and norms that we apply today are likely to change over time and therefore there is no guarantee that what we consider to be sustainable development today will be seen as such in the future. We must therefore always be willing to re-evaluate and evolve our ideas on sustainability. For example, currently the term ‘sustainability’ is often used synonymously with the terms ‘green’ and ‘low carbon’.
The report used 56 indicators which each measuring one specific environmental, socio-cultural or economic impact. They include measurements of impacts as far ranging as carbon emissions, housing, employment, crime, poverty and physical activity.
It should be noted that this is not a predictive study of potential impacts. Instead, it is the second of four studies, which will allow the observation of actual trends and outcomes from hosting the Games. The final study will be published in 2015 and will help provide a fuller understanding of the extent to which London 2012 has been able to achieve its legacy goals.
This summary of the first report which covers the preparation for the Games will focus only on the following three indicators.The report’s full findings can be found here.
Greenhouse gas emissions (environmental)
Participation of adults in sport and physical activity (socio-cultural)
Public transport (economic)
Other indicators included:
Environmental: air quality, water quality, land-use changes and public open-air leisure spaces
Socio-cultural: educational level, crime rates, available sports facilities, health and nutrition
Economic: hotel price index, public debt, airport traffic and foreign direct investment
The study uses secondary data from a range of sources, based on their ability to be consistent, complete and detailed. This was primarily "open data", meaning that it is publicly available at no cost. No primary (survey) data collection was feasible within the available study period and budget.
Open data in the UK
The government has made available 5,400 (and counting!) sets of data from all central government departments and many other public sector bodies. This is being brought together at data.gov.uk, where you can search for and download them free of charge. It is hoped that this will make it easier for people to make decisions about their lives and the places in which they live. This is part of the Government’s Transparency agenda.
Whereas some indicators such as water quality are quite focused, others such as health include many sub-indicators. Each indicator is assessed through impact coding and sustainability analysis. The list of indicators to be used for London 2012 was agreed between LOCOG and the IOC.
Indicators need to be assessed in terms of the six legacy promises for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games:
To make the UK a world-class sports nation: elite success, mass participation and school sport
To transform the heart of East London
To inspire a new generation of young people to take part in local volunteering, cultural and physical activity
To make the Olympic Park a blueprint for sustainable living
To demonstrate that the UK is a creative, inclusive and welcoming place to live in, to visit and for business
To develop the opportunities and choices for disabled people
An impact coding has been devised to give a consistent, visual summary of the indicator and provide a means of combining the indicators into an overall sustainability analysis. The impact coding occurs in three stages.
Firstly the relevance of the indicator vis-à-vis legacy promises is determined (high, medium, low). Then a rating is given according to the actual impact of the Games on that specific indicator (green - positive, yellow – small or indeterminate, red - negative). Finally, the confidence with which the researcher has been able to draw her/his conclusions on impact given the available data (high, medium, low).
Lower confidence levels are assigned to data that is not provided at a local enough scale. For example, Carbon Dioxide levels around the Olympic Park cannot meaningfully be separated from those for the rest of London due to the mobility of air. Other variable are less reliable if they have to be altered to another scale of analysis, which can lead to distortion.
Progress towards sustainability can be measured and assessed at different scales. Thus at a local level the focus might be on improving standards of living for the residents of East London. However, the reach of the Games and its legacy extends far beyond London and might focus on increasing in the skills base of people living and working in the Britain. This highlights the difficulty in assessing the sustainability of a mega-event such as the Olympics. The IOC has adopted the much used triple bottom line approach which sees sustainability in terms of the environment, the economy and society. Of the 56 indicators, 11 are environmental, 22 are economic and 23 are socio-cultural. They can be assessed for their individual contribution whilst their impact codings can be used to derive scores for the triple bottom line as well as an overall sustainability score.
Indicator 1: Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions are measured over time and at three different levels: Country (UK), Region (London) and City (5 Host Boroughs: Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Greenwich) level. Whilst CO2 emissions from the Olympic Park and other venues might be expected to be small in relation to London and the rest of the UK, any additional emissions arising from the construction and use of the venues should be minimised or brought down to zero as part of the blueprint for sustainable living (Promise 4 above).
Kyoto greenhouse gas basket (million tonnes CO2 equivalent)
CO2 emissions by end user categories (‘000 tonnes)
Data Crown Copyright
At a national level, emissions of ‘Kyoto basket’ greenhouse gases have fallen by 5% between 2003 and 2008. 45% of the CO2 emissions in the UK are derived from industry and commerce. In London, the percentage contribution to CO2 emissions from industry and commerce is similar to the national picture.
However, the main differences in London are a greater percentage contribution from domestic emissions (36% compared to 29% nationally) and a lower percentage contribution from road transport (20% compared to 26% nationally). The lower percentage contribution from road transport can be attributed to London’s dense public transport network and in part to the congestion charge zone in central London. Much of London was designated a Low Emissions Zone in 2008 so the figures can be expected to improve in subsequent years.
Total emissions in London have increased slightly, in spite of decreased per capita emissions due to a growing population. In the host boroughs however, per capita emissions have grown by 4%. This is in large part due to a 13% increase in emissions from industry and commerce.
Impact coding: Relevance: Medium Rating: Yellow Confidence: Medium
The UK’s falling emissions can be attributed to the Kyoto agreement and subsequent initiatives (Climate Change Act, 2008; Carbon Emissions Reduction Targets (CERT, 2008)) rather than any distinct effect from the Olympics.
In the Host Boroughs, however, per capita emissions in 2005 were below the London figure, with total emissions rising by 5% and per capita emissions by 4% over 3 years. In 2008 the per capita emissions had reached the level of the rest of London. However, this cannot be attributed entirely to the construction of the Olympic facilities. The bulk of the rise is likely due to a growth in the number of businesses in Docklands/Canary Wharf area which falls within the Host Boroughs.
Indicator 2: Participation of adults in sport and physical activity
Participation in sport exists at different levels, however for the purpose of this report it is defined as: the percentage of adults taking part in moderate intensity sport for at least 3 days a week for at least 30 minutes continuously per time. Participation levels in sport are an important indicator of sustainability as they reflect healthy life styles and, over an adult’s lifespan, reduced levels of demand for health services. In the table below, these data are analysed at two different scales: London and the five host boroughs. Note that there is a discontinuity in the time series as there was no survey for 2006/07.
Adult participation in sport (percentage)
Data Copyright Sport England
There is an apparent rise in participation rates for both London and host boroughs over the period and that participation rates in the host boroughs appear to be below that of London. However, the sample size for the surveys means that these differences are not statistically significant – the differences may have arisen due to chance differences in the participants of each survey.
Impact coding: Relevance: High Rating: Yellow Confidence: High
Although more men and women in England are achieving physical activity recommendations than ten years ago, levels are still low. Furthermore, there is no evidence that staging a major sporting event increases medium to longer term participation rates, so an automatic, beneficial Games effect cannot be assumed. However, there is a concerted government effort to tackle this and a significant Games effect is expected to be mediated through a range of initiatives such as Change4Life and Be active, be healthy developed for the period leading up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond.
At a London level, commitment to deliver a sporting legacy from the 2012 Games is outlined in the Mayor of London’s strategy A Sporting Future for London and in the NHS London strategy Go London: an active and healthy London for 2012 and beyond.
Indicator 3: Public transport
Travel by public transport is viewed as more sustainable than travel by private vehicle as it leads to less greenhouse gas emissions per passenger journey. During the London 2012 Olympics spectators will be encouraged to use public transport to reach venues in London by incorporating into each seat ticket a one-day travel card for use on the underground and buses.
Passenger Journeys (millions)
Over the period 2002/3 to 2008/9 the increase in Bus and Coach passenger journeys in London rose by nearly 41% compared to an average rise of 15% for Britain. Meanwhile, passenger journeys by rail rose by 17.6% in London and 23.8% for Britain as a whole.
In London, bus services rose significantly by 20% compared to 1.3% for the country as a whole. This growth reflects the rise in commuting/passenger journeys over the review period; a period in which employment and population growth occurred in London and its surrounding regions.
A series of policy documents on Transport have been produced in the pre-Games phase. An infrastructure development budget estimated at £17 billion was established to contribute to transport improvements for London and its region and since 2005 several of these projects have been completed. This development must be analysed in the context of severe under-investment in transport in London and Britain over the decade preceding the pre-Games phase.
Impact coding: Relevance – High Rating - Green Confidence - High– High
Although there are no separate figures for host boroughs available, the rail network connectivity into East London is being improved. This improvement includes the upgrading of Stratford station, new DLR links to City Airport/Woolwich, the opening of the new East London line, and the upgrading of the North London line. With two decades of rail developments to come, Stratford will be established as a regional transport hub, boasting a total of nine rail lines (Financial Times, 12 August 2012).
These transport improvements have been accelerated by the hosting of the Games in East London. An examination of the policy documents and implementations suggests that London’s transport network has benefited from the upgrades and improvements of infrastructure in the context of London 2012. Access for the disabled and cycling infrastructure have also been improved.
In order to quantify the triple bottom line and to derive an overall score for sustainability the individual indicator impact factors were scored such that the sustainability scores would be in the range of -1 (movement towards total unsustainability) to +1 (movement towards complete sustainability) with a score of zero representing a status quo with no change. The results are given in the following table:
The triple bottom line and overall score
The first thing to note is that both the triple bottom line and the overall score are all positive, that is, a level of greater sustainability above the status quo is being achieved. Overall relevance (0.82) and confidence (0.92) are high, meaning that the indicators are capable of discerning legacy and that the researchers feel they have been able to draw robust conclusions from them.
The overall rating score (0.42) is comparatively low reflecting that for many of the indicators it is too soon for the data to reflect legacy. Within the triple bottom line the socio-cultural indicators score highest followed by the economy indicators. There is thus good evidence that one of the key legacy promises – to transform the heart of East London – is proceeding on a sustainable basis.
The sustainability analysis is meant to be broad brush and is driven by the reasoned judgement of the researchers rather than by formulae. This is one of a series of studies that has focused on the construction period of the Games facilities. Other reports will focus on the actual Games event, and after a few years post-Games event in order to better assess the legacy impact.
Evaluate the effectiveness of the partnership scheme involved in the urban regeneration of the five host boroughs. (10 marks)
"To what extent is the Olympic development project an example of successful planning and management of an urban area?" (40 marks)
With reference to London 2012, discuss the role of the players involved in rebranding. (10 marks)
Managing urban areas requires a balance between socio-economic and environmental needs. Discuss with reference to the Olympics. (25 marks)
"Large events such as the Olympics provide a considerable threat to the sustainability of world energy supplies." How far do you agree with this statement? (25 marks)
The Olympic Park was committed to reducing the overall use of potable water by 40%. This was achieved by using treated sewage water (or "blackwater") instead – a policy delivered through a partnership between the Olympic Delivery Authority and Thames Water. Blackwater was extracted from an existing Thames Water sewer before being treated in a combined sewage treatment works and drinking water treatment plant in Stratford. It was expected to produce around 574m3 of potable water per day, which will be used for flushing toilets, irrigation of grounds, rainwater harvesting top-up and cooling the energy centre on the Olympic Park. Thames Water will continue this as a research project for 7 years beyond the Games.
A commitment among developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, most notably Carbon Dioxide. Takes its name from Kyoto, Japan, where the agreement was first drawn up in 1997.
A collection of six greenhouse gases that the Kyoto Agreement seeks to control in order to manage the effects of climate change. The gases are: Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Hydrofluorocarbons, Perflurorocarbons and Sulphur Hexafluoride.
Low Emissions Zone
Introduced in 2008 and made more stringent in 2012, it aims to encourage heavy diesel vehicles (such as lorries and vans) to become cleaner. Those that don’t meet emissions standards must pay a daily charge. The zone covers most of Greater London.
That data which is not collected by the user. Researches often use secondary data when substantial data is already available. This can reduce the cost of research, especially when large samples are needed. The census is a common secondary source.
Capital warned of two-decade legacy wait, Financial Times, 12 August 2012
Olympic Sustainability, London 2012
Towards a One Planet Olympics, London 2012: Candidate City
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