2012 Olympic Games sustainable reputation could be derailed by air quality in London



It’s just over a year until the beginning of the 2012 London Olympic Games, an event that has been marketed as the most sustainable global sporting event of its kind. The organising committee for the London games not only were able to secure the bid in part due to the environmentally focused aspects of construction and hosting the event but have also ramped up efforts since winning the bid in keeping with what has become an increased global awareness of the fact that temporary events such as these fail to match the definition of sustainable practices, at least on the surface. While the strides made in preparing the city for an eco-friendly event in terms of construction and infrastructure improvements, a major blot on the copybook far removed from the organisers’ realm of authority looks set to take place in June of 2012.

Just a month before the opening ceremony the EU targets for improved air quality will be released with the UK currently poised to miss reaching the standards laid out by Europe’s governing commission. According to government documents the targets are unlikely to be reached before the year 2015 which could cause the EU to take some forms of infringement action right before the Olympics begin. Hardly the type of public relations sought by the committee who have worked to make the games an environmental medal winner.

who then have nine months to review them. Action taken if necessary will be implemented in June of next year.

For health reasons the EU has set aggressive goals in reducing levels of nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants in European cities which are primarily caused by traffic. A target date of 2010 was not achieved which resulted in the current extension, but many major cities have been able to reduce traffic with the implementation of congestion charges and public transport improvements however it would seem not sufficiently.

The government response is expected to include new initiatives that would target moving more freight from road to rail, changing delivery times for retailers and further modifying vehicle pricing for cars and trucks that lower emissions. Finger-pointing within UK politics has already began whilst London is still ranking far down the list for overall air quality.

As I write it’s not yet apparent what actions the EU will take against cities whose proposals are not accepted, however on the eve of London being firmly in the global spotlight it’s almost a certainty that this story and the resultant consequences could overshadow the greener aspects of the 2012 games.