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Let the (sustainable) games begin

22 March, 2024

Any Londoner will recall the gradual emergence of the Stratford Olympic Park, a sprawling regeneration project, offering grand promises of transformation and change for the east London community. As Ken Livingstone, the Mayor at the time explained, ‘I bid for the Olympics…to clean the soil, put in the infrastructure and build the housing’. Along with Rio, Barcelona and Athens, the London Olympics obsessed over legacy; How would the games benefit the local community in the future? How would it change London’s landscape and provide an opportunity to transform the city?

But in Paris, where the Olympics will be hosted this summer, the story is notably different. With the goal of making sustainability its chief legacy, 95% of 2024 Olympic events will take place in facilities that either already exist, or that will be dismantled following the games. And with the remaining 5% set to be new eco-builds made from materials like wood and glass, you can expect vast quantities and shades of timber. The Olympic village will be an eco-compound, sourcing its energy from heat pumps and renewables, while an 8,000-person capacity stadium will boast a recycled aluminum façade and wooden structure, with plans to convert it into two public gyms and the grounds for the Paris basketball team following the games.

The hope is that the games will propel Paris’s green transformation, bringing the city closer to the EU’s target of a 55% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. Alongside their €200 million investment in sustainable construction subsidies, the games look to be a promising opportunity to cut carbon in the building sector and reposition France as a front-runner in wooden architecture.

We won’t know the impact of the games until long after, but Paris’ approach offers a refreshing shift in how we think about legacy. While its impact might be less physically visible, it looks set to be genuinely sustainable, in all senses of the word.

By Rosie Serlin

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