Bringing Brownfield Sites Back To Use – Olympic Parks

DateFeb 16, 2017
AuthorMaria Poy

The Olympic Games bringing out the best of not only athletes but also developers.

This is the second instalment in a series of blog posts which will present examples of the implementation of different remediation technologies for the clean-up and redevelopment of contaminated sites.

Recent Groundsure blogs on remediation of contaminated land have looked at how the development of brownfield land has recently been encouraged in the UK and what steps are recommended in order to bring these sites back to use. Here, we are going to show how some high-profile events such as Olympic Games have become great examples of the successful redevelopment of previously contaminated and deprived areas via the implementation of cutting edge remediation techniques.

Many of the Olympic grounds around the world in recent times were built on sites affected by land contamination. The nature of contamination is complex, and just as each contaminated site is different, so to do mitigation measures vary from place to place. Many Olympic venues are inspiring examples of former industrial areas that have been brought back to use and converted into the most modern sport facilities and largest urban parklands.

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (Olympic Games 2012, London)

The clean-up and re-use of the area where the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has been developed is considered one of the most successful remediation projects undertaken in the UK over the last decade, having warranted further development of previous widely-used remedial methods and technologies.

In order to understand the levels of contamination encountered at the site and the complexity of the remedial works undertaken, Groundsure has reviewed historical mapping available for the area and analysed what the site looked like in the past. The images below evidence the heavy industrial character of this area of east London.

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Stratford and area of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

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As shown in historical mapping, past usage of the site included oil refineries, chemical works, cold storage facilities, power stations, gas works, saw mills, black filled reservoirs as well as warehouse/distribution centres.

Once the specialists had assessed the history of the site, a comprehensive remediation scheme consisting of the following five steps was put in place:

  • A site investigation was conducted to facilitate detailed remediation design;
  • A global remediation strategy (GRS) was developed to establish site-wide principles and procedures;
  • Specific construction zones were established and site-specific remediation requirements were implemented at each zone;
  • A remediation method statement was developed to provide details of the options appraisal and implementation plan for the remediation;
  • Remediation design was implemented and a remediation validation report was provided to confirm appropriateness of the remediation work that was conducted. (1)

The remediation work at the site involved 246ha of land that had been used for industrial activities for over 200 years, and was required to be completed in less than 3 years. The project started with initial ground investigation which identified soil and groundwater contamination by a range of contaminants, including volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, total petroleum hydrocarbon, heavy metals ammonia etc. (1) Based on this, a conceptual site model was developed and site-wide remediation strategies were implemented. The remediation strategy involved keeping as much soil as possible on site and incorporated considerations such as minimisation of energy consumption and carbon footprint. The selected remediation technologies included complex sorting, bioremediation, soil washing, soil stabilisation and thermal desorption ( ). Some interesting figures provided by Atkins suggest that over 900,000 m3 of soil was treated of which 700,000 m3 was soil washed and reused as sand and gravel fractions. Additionally, 30,000 m3 of soil was treated by bioremediation and used as general fill. (2)

This megaproject resulted in the conversion of a heavily contaminated and deprived area into what today is one of the largest green spaces in London, benefiting from modern sporting venues and new residential and retail space.

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The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Vancouver Olympic Village (Winter Olympics 2010, Vancouver, Canada)

This Olympic Village was developed in Southeast False Creek for the 2010 Olympic Games. Southeast False Creek, an industrial hub of the city, had been occupied by sawmills, steel fabrication and bridge works, shipbuilding, sand and gravel production, and brick and shingle manufacturing since the early 1900s.

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Vancouver Olympic Village

Given the history of the site, comprehensive site investigations were undertaken; this included the installation of 93 boreholes, 43 monitoring wells, and the collection of over 1,400 samples.  From these investigations twelve Areas of Potential Environmental Concern were identified on the site (3). In order to decontaminate such a complex site, appropriate and detailed risk assessments and a meticulous remediation strategy were implemented.

Authorities certified that the site was remediated in less than two years converting what once was the hub of the city’s industrial area into a neighbourhood of parks, market and subsidized housing, marine areas, community garden, shops, schools, and community centres.


The Sydney Olympic Park (Olympic Games 2000, Sydney)

The 2000 Sydney Olympic Park was developed within the extensive tidal wetlands of Homebush Bay, a 760ha disused industrial site situated 16 kilometres west of the Sydney central business districts and on the south bank of the Parramatta River.

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Sydney Olympic Stadium

Sydney’s rapid expansion in the 1950s and 60s meant people and industry needed more space to put their waste and, at that time, Homebush Bay appeared to be the perfect place for it. Waste dumped in this area included petroleum waste, unexploded ordnance, potential acid sulphate soils, illegally dumped wastes along the waterways (including persistent organic pollutants), dredged sediments, municipal waste in managed tips, industrial waste (including rubble, power station fly ash, gasworks waste, asbestos) and contamination from site activities (burning pits, chemical leaks and application).(4)

Additionally, the Homebush Bay area was home to a number of industrial sites since early in the 19th century. These included salt works, abattoirs, brick works, armaments depots, shipbreaking yards and chemical works. (5)

In order to develop the Olympic site, a complex remediation strategy was developed following an initial two-year regime of site investigations. This is believed to have been the largest project of its kind in Australia.

The remediation works were regulated by the Environment Protection Authority, and subject to stringent conditions directed at ensuring environmental protection and public safety. Following remediation, the Environment Protection Authority certified the areas historically used for landfilling as suitable for use as parks and recreational open space by an accredited site auditor, in accordance with regulatory requirements, making the area one of the greenest spots of the city. (4)

The above are great examples of the exceptional legacy the Olympics have left in terms of green redevelopment and its potential for these type of events to promote a sustainable development. Reports released by the Olympic Committee also show how over the last decades, similar Olympic facilities have also boasted additional sustainability credentials in relation to air pollution management (Beijing, 2008), minimisation of waste generation and recycling (London, 2012) and carbon footprint assessment & energy efficient technology implementation (Rio Janeiro, 2016).(6)



  1. Sustainable site clean-up from megaprojects: lessons from London 2012. Available at: [Accessed 18th August 2016]
  2. Rehabilitating the London 2012 Olympic Park site. Atkins. Available at: [Accessed 5th September 2016]
  3. The challenge Series. Millenium Water: The Southeast False Creek Olympic Village. Available at: [Accessed 16th September 2016]
  4. Sydney Olympic Park Authority. Industrial History and Site Remediation. Available at: [Accessed 18th August 2016]
  5. Sydney’s Toxic Green Olympics. Available at [Accessed 15th September 2016]
  6. The Environmental and Sustainable Development. International Olympic Committee. January 2014. Available at: [Accessed 12th January 2017]