11 August 2012
So how green were these games? To what extent has the claim to be the greenest games ever been fulfilled? The job of monitoring this claim was passed to the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, led by 12 commissioners. The focus of their activities is clarified by the range of 'experts' they chose to involve: in the areas of biodversity, waste, sport, and standards and ethics. Nobody was considering the amount of energy used in flying the millions of spectators around the world. The work of the Commission is typical of the way action on sustainability often ignores the wood to focus on a few whimsical trees. It is of some interest that the cauldron uses less gas than the cauldron in Beijing, and that the lighting system for the stadium was most out of recycled gas pipes, but these design features are farcically insignificant compared to the massive CO2 emissions resulting from the travel of the spectators.
This takes me to my most fundamental criticism of the games: they were planned to be and inevitably were a games for the elite. The people who live, work and run businesses in London were frightened into leaving their own city, turning it over for three weeks to be the playground of the world's rich and famous. This is what the Olympic games have become and it is symbolic of the displacement of citizens from all positions of power within the global economy, which is now similarly dominated by corporations and elites.
I may only be seeking to recoup my share of the investment in the games (which is now estimated at some £11bn, so slightly under £200 for every UK citizen), but I like to think that, in spite of all the focus on individual achievement it is we, the British people, who have actually won the games. Both Olympic bureaucrats and athletes have commented most on the warmth, enthusiasm and sheer niceness of us Brits. If the games have proved to us that we are a nation of kind and helpful people will it be worth my investment? I think only if we use that knowledge to spend more time getting to know each other and co-operating to achieve something real in our communities, and less sitting in our own homes, absorbing the messages of media elites about business elites celebrating the performance of sporting elites.