Mr. Stubbs, in Brazil it is said that the success of the Olympic Games won’t be defined by sports but for the most part by sustainability. How do you explain this attitude?
Over the short term, it’s naturally all about sports and medals. But when the Games are over, memories of the event quickly fade from people’s minds and everything goes back to normal. If the Games have been sustainable, then something will have changed in everyday life. If nothing has changed, then everyone asks: Why did we do this?
The Olympics can also have a boomerang effect?
Let me put it this way: You have to dare to have a vision. It’s the key! Every city aspires to become a “city of the future.” Should you start this process with the Olympics and Paralympic Games? Probably not. But the Games can be an amazing catalyst to advance planned projects. A good example of this is London: we advanced the development area of East London so far in just seven years, something that might have taken at least thirty without the Olympics. And the positive effects can still be felt today.
David Stubbs, 57, was the head of the Sustainability Committee from 2003 to 2012 for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. Today he works independently as an expert consultant on questions of sustainability, with clients that include the International Olympic Committee, the Union of European Football Associations and the World Economic Forum.
But what sort of catalyst are the Olympics?
With the right planning, new, livable neighborhoods can be created that continue to thrive. Infrastructure can be expanded so that previously remote areas are suddenly connected to city centers. New opportunities can be created and bring jobs. The Olympics can be a tremendous boost for the common good.
As we’ve seen before in Munich in 1972, or in Barcelona in 1992?
Yes—even though those were both in an era when the idea of sustainability wasn’t as prominently exploited. Nonetheless, both cities benefitted tremendously from the Games, especially through the enhancement of city districts and new infrastructure. Even today those Games are still having an effect—and that’s the whole point. Sustainability as an explicit goal was first defined in Sydney in 2000. Since then, the topic is firmly anchored in the IOC candidature process.