What to think of the Games? Ask the birds, says Smit

Sensemaking / What to think of the Games? Ask the birds, says Smit

From procurement to construction to biodiversity, London 2012 has raised the bar, says Tim Smit, Chief Executive of the Eden Project and a London 2012 Sustainability Ambassador.

18 Jul 2012

From procurement to construction to biodiversity, London 2012 has raised the bar, says Tim Smit, Chief Executive of the Eden Project and a London 2012 Sustainability Ambassador.

Photo of Tim Smit at the Eden ProjectI became an Olympic Sustainability Ambassador in the full knowledge that the contributions the team would make would be bound by the pragmatic requirements of representing a movement and structure that had become a commercial behemoth, and to which sustainability was an add-on.

Sustainability was a core part of the bidding process in Singapore, and Britain is extremely fortunate to have a team that is fired as much by idealism as commerce. The work they have done has exceeded my wildest expectations.

There is a phrase that says if you can't measure it, you can't control it. History will show that the team has broken a huge amount of ground in creating metrics that enable many things to be measured for the first time. It has also been completely transparent in showing where such metrics didn't exist and frankly admitting that what it has done is in some cases a best guess as to how one might go about it.

So, for the first time, we have a menu that can be used by any event in the world to benchmark its performance, alongside a manual which clearly demonstrates how to go about it. From now on there are no excuses. The Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games will benefit massively from the framework. And, most importantly, sustainability is now central to the project management of such events.

From construction decisions which allow buildings to be dismantled and moved on for reuse elsewhere, to astonishing architecture which will be long-lasting and have a low-carbon impact, this team has raised the bar. From the manufacture of soil and the onsite management of waste, to energy management systems, from measuring refrigerants to assessing the biodiversity impacts, it has raised the bar.

"The ultimate accolade comes from the birds"

To me, the ultimate accolade comes from the birds. The restoration and replanting of the river is breath-taking. A septic mess of rubbish and poison has been turned into a landscape of which Constable would have been proud – and the plantings are of a standard that would make any of us proud. The mass immigration of birdlife is testament to this and the team has every reason to smile with quiet satisfaction, knowing that Londoners 100 years from now will walk these paths and enjoy themselves in a natural haven no one could previously have imagined. Five stars and open the Babycham, I say!

Tim Smit is Chief Executive and Co-Founder of the Eden Project, and a London 2012 Sustainability Ambassador.

Photos: LOCOG ; Marc Hill / Apex

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