- LA 2024 wants to create blueprint for the "smart, responsible use of host cities’ existing assets”
- USC recycling methods and Coliseum plans highlighted as evidence of "circular economy"
- A Green Sports Park would be showcased during the Games
There’s no doubt the 2024 contenders are taking sustainability more seriously than any previous Olympic bidding process. Never before has the IOC been so focused on instructing bidders to slash costs, think green and to meticulously address thorny legacy questions. Never before have candidate cities vying for the biggest sporting prize on earth laboured so hard on this aspect of the bid dossier. This time may be different, but can Budapest, Los Angeles and Paris pay more than lip service to deliver sustainable Games
The 2024 contest is the first test of IOC president Thomas Bach’s much-trumpeted Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms, which calls for sustainability to be included in “all aspects of planning and staging of the Olympic Games”. So, has the IOC got it right? Are the reforms working and the bids delivering?
Jacqueline Barrett, the IOC’s associate director for Olympic candidatures, seems to think so. As the IOC sets to work on examining the third and final bid dossiers submitted in February ahead of evaluation commission visits to the three cities, she believes sustainability “has been fully embraced”.
Following the troubled run-in to the 2016 Olympics and now alarming reports that some venues are falling into disrepair and disuse, the IOC might be glad to see the back of Rio. Despite the problems, Barrett is quick to defend Rio’s blighted post-Games landscape. She says the IOC disagrees “quite rigorously” with any analysis that the Brazilian city is a failure: “Rio, we have to take a little bit of a distance from in terms of judging legacy and sustainability. It’s very early days there.”
For the 2024 Games expect something better, she suggests. “We have reinforced legacy and sustainability commitments [to the bids] and addressed governance structures for legacy delivery,” she explains.
But why should IOC members voting on the 2024 host city in Lima, Peru, in September care about sustainability and legacy? Many are unlikely to give the detailed evaluation reports on Budapest, LA and Paris much of their time.
“The bottom line is sustainability matters today – for everyone in society. Olympic Agenda 2020 was a very thorough and long discussion… the IOC voted in unanimity,” Barrett adds. “They want this on the table. They feel it themselves. It’s their Olympic agenda… it’s not just the president’s, it’s the whole Olympic Movement’s.”
Does she think the winning 2024 bid can match up to their promises and set new benchmarks? “It’s a huge opportunity, win or not, working with diverse groups, to introduce new standards and to come to the table with something creative, so yes we have high hopes of that,” she says.
VIDEO: An introduction to Los Angeles' venue plan for the 2024 Games:
“We are not going to make any promises we can’t keep.” That’s the message from LA 2024 executive director of sustainability and legacy Brence Culp. “I’m absolutely comfortable Los Angeles can deliver on any sustainability goals we set ourselves,” she says.
A “distinguishing attribute” of the bid is the fact no new permanent venues or Games-related infrastructure are required – quite a statement – and one that fits the principles of the IOC’s Agenda 2020. By eliminating major construction projects and offering a concept based on existing world-class venues and temporary facilities, LA 2024 is confident of substantially reducing the carbon footprint of the Olympics.
Green initiatives abound in California. LA 2024’s athletics venue, the 90,000-seat LA Memorial Coliseum, recently achieved zero-waste status – the largest stadium in the NFL to do so. This season the University of Southern California (USC) – the Coliseum operator – repurposed 233 tons of waste created by over one million fans.
VIDEO: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum renderings
Culp cites the USC’s recycling methods as an example of the circular economy in action. “We have so many partners and participants in that space… we can source local food and return compost back to those growers. The circular economy is just the way we do business here,” Culp says. To this end, the bid is working with the USC to incorporate innovative green strategies into its Games plan. The university has implemented measures such as the use of compostable trays, cutlery and cups, social media and peer-to-peer education campaigns. There are 150 “eco station” recycling sites around the Coliseum, as well as on-site waste compactors.
Other LA 2024 venue partners have adopted green schemes, including the installation of energy-efficient LED lighting, staff and community education programs and even onsite renewable generation through solar carports. All temporary generators at LA Olympic venues will be run on 100-per-cent biodiesel.
LA 2024 will even have a Green Sports Park – home to track cycling, rugby, tennis, modern pentathlon and hockey, and a showcase for leading technology in sport and green innovation.
Los Angeles and California are widely acclaimed as leaders in carbon and renewable energy, resource conservation and are emerging as leaders in biodiversity.
The Golden State is at the forefront of environmental protection and clean tech investment. The California Green Innovation Index reveals a 1,378-per-cent increase in the state’s solar generation and a 244-per-cent rise in zero-emission vehicle registrations over the last five years. California attracted $9.8bn (€9.2bn) in clean technology investment last year, a 35-per-cent year-on-year increase and over two-thirds of the national total.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s first ever Sustainable City Plan for the city, introduced in April 2015, is reaping rewards. Greenhouse gas emissions are down 20 per cent since 1990 and the city is nearly halfway to meeting its objective of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030.
PICTURE: Solar panels are visible on the roof of Staples Center, one of LA's leading sports venues
Culp believes it’s a win-win for the IOC. “If we are following Agenda 2020 and working with what we have, we are doing what is natural for our city, our state, for our partners and people,” Culp says. “This is how we live here and this is how we do business.
“So, when we make our sustainability claims, they will be based on how we already live and how we already operate.”
The bid will continue its efforts to drive engagement around environmental sustainability, as well as economic and social inclusion in the months leading up to the September IOC vote in Peru.
“We look at the opportunity of the Games to galvanise that and further engage people and partners and our community, who are already deeply invested in these practices,” she says.
Los Angeles has got previous, of course, in the 1984 Games. They were globally commended for leaving a lasting legacy and being a financial success. The fiscally responsible organisation resulted in a $232m surplus. For the 2024 Olympics, a balanced budget was approved in December by the city council after “rigorous” workshops and a review by KPMG.
PICTURE: The opening ceremony of the 1984 Games in Los Angeles
The 1984 Games left an indelible mark in the memories of those who participated or visited – including some of the IOC members who will cast their votes in around six months’ time.
“The people of Los Angeles have directly experienced the legacy left by the 1984 Games. For youth participation and sport, the 1984 Games created a cultural explosion here,” explains Culp.
“People know how the Olympics have transformed our city and they have experienced the power of the Olympics to do that,” she adds. “Because we care about sustainability and legacy, we will use the Games to demonstrate the Olympics at the highest and best in those areas, and create a positive impact for our community.”
The US candidate city vows to host the first ever “energy positive” Games, mobilising all of its partners to produce enough solar energy to power the entire Olympic and Paralympic Games. Culp says similar green schemes are set to be introduced with water, renewable, food and waste.
“I think that we can apply the enthusiasm that everyone has in LA and nationally to encourage participation in a fun and friendly way… to do things that are good for themselves and for the environment,” she says. “It’s going to be a very inclusive and participatory Games.”
Sustainability oversight would be embedded within the organizing committee, with a chief impact officer – in charge of community engagement, impact fund development and legacy strategies – reporting directly to the CEO. An external sustainability and legacy committee would provide input and serve as a watchdog.
The objective is clear – to help the Olympic Movement set a new blueprint “for the smart, responsible use of host cities’ existing assets”.
“I think that we’ll be able to deliver the greenest Games ever and create a new model that will be transferable for future Games and future sustainable event hosting,” she says.
As the three bids launch their international campaigns, mayor Garcetti is proud of his city’s carefully conceived plans: “As the IOC considers the future of the Games after Olympic Agenda 2020, I hope they are looking for a partner who dreams as big as the Games deserve. If they do, then LA is the place to be in 2024.”