Olympic Park

By SDRN on 30th April 2013

Location: The Olympic Park for the London 2012 Games, which hosts many of the indoor venues and the Olympic Stadium itself.

Aim: The original London 2012 Olympic bid established a suite of sustainability commitments under the heading of ‘Towards a One Planet Olympics’. Creating a strong and multifunctional green infrastructure that underpinned the development of the Parklands and wider Olympic site was an integral part of the planning applications for site preparation, Olympic facilities and legacy transformation. The Transformation phase defines works after the London 2012 Games prior to handing the entire site over to the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC). The application sought to integrate and enhance key environmental elements, systems and processes that existed within the lower Lea Valley into the development of the Parklands

Background: The whole site, including buildings, is 226 hectares in the Lower Lea Valley and was chosen because the injection of major funding into the creation of the Olympic Park would kick start regeneration in London’s East End and improve the lives of the local communities. A key legacy for local people will be the 102 hectares of the site designated as Metropolitan Open Land, to be renamed Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Status: The Olympic Park closed after the Olympics and Paralympics. It will re-open in phases from 27 July 2013 as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The parklands are doubling in size through the introduction of new trees and planting. The transformation is currently underway.

Activities: Before the Olympic and Paralympic Games the site was a mix of old industrial and abandoned buildings and polluted land. The River Lea was canalised, polluted and inaccessible, creating a barrier between communities. Now the River Lea, which flows into the River Thames from its source near Luton, is an attractive waterway running through the Olympic Park, with access along the water’s edge and newly created wetland habitats. An on-site soil hospital washed 2 million tonnes of soil, removing heavy metals and other pollutants before the soil was re-used on site. Demolition rubble has been used in bridge gabions and other structures, which have bird nesting and roosting sites incorporated into them.

Surveys of the archaeology and ecology were carried out before any construction work began. The findings of the ecological survey mean that the Olympic Park Biodiversity Action Plan provides for allotments, parks, squares and amenity space, brownfield sites, species-rich grassland, wet woodland and other habitats. There are species plans for otters, water voles, amphibians, five bat species, ten bird species and many invertebrates. Providing habitats and food for wildlife is carried through into the species planted in the London 2012 Gardens in South Park, which act as feeding stations. Along the edge of the River Lea 100 black poplars, a traditional water’s edge species, have been re-introduced in North Park, where the majority of the habitats have been created.

Natural England worked closely with the Olympic Delivery Authority to help create 45 hectares of habitat, ensuring there was no net loss of biodiversity habitat, and to draft a pioneering Biodiversity Action Plan for the park. The work had benefits for flood mitigation, climate change adaptation and biodiversity.

Natural England’s MENE survey will monitor visitors to the Park after its phased reopening and an outdoor learning project is planned to support the host Boroughs’ ambition to improve the life chances of local children and young people. Over 5,000 existing homes are now protected from flooding, and the design and planting in the Park will cope with climate change and provide increased shade.

Results: A key achievement has been the role of green infrastructure in supporting the delivery of over three-quarters of the ODA’s sustainability commitments set out in the Sustainable Development Strategy. These include:

  • The reduction of carbon emissions through on-site renewable.
  • Managing flood risk.
  • Ensuring all buildings are completely accessible by public transport, walking and cycling.
  • Meeting the biodiversity and ecology targets by creating a species-rich habitat of at least 45 hectares.
  • Constructing the Parklands with recycled aggregates and certified and legally sourced timbers.
  • Conforming to all recognised inclusive design standards.

Findings and Lessons: The key lessons learned by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and its partners during this process have been:

  • The value of having established green infrastructure frameworks to work within.
  • The benefit of taking an integrated approach to delivery.
  • The importance of placing design at the heart of the process.
  • The need to adopt a long-term sustainable view to investment.


London 2012 Legacy


Olympic Parklands Green Infrastructure case study


Olympic Park sustainability fact sheet