Advice from London

Five years after the London Olympics the site where the Games were staged in East London remains lively. London officials wanted the Olympics to regenerate the area. While some question the long-term legacy of the Games, they are nonetheless being credited with changing what was once polluted industrial land. And much of the credit is being given to a Commission that's made up of experts from a variety of sustainability fields.

Its mission was to make sure sustainability was factored into everything from building facilities, to food for athletes and spectators and transportation.

The independent body had direct contact with high level officials, including the mayor of London.

It asked for changes any time it thought sustainability was not assured.

For example, the commission got a new air conditioning system that emits less carbon into the plans for the swimming venue.

Looking back, the former head of the commission, Shaun McCarthy, says independence was a key to success.

"Independence was absolutely critical because that meant that we would be listened to," he says.

"And it was very clear for the delivery bodies from day one that if they were to take our advice on board, the opportunity to raise issues directly with the political leadership, if it was absolutely necessary, and to report our findings in public in the way that couldn't be interfered with by civil servants or officials was really powerful."

McCarthy also says engagement with international NGOs, local stakeholders and politicians was essential.

"It was very important to have that two-way dialogue," he says.

"I could advise the delivery bodies in a very constructive way, what stakeholders were thinking and what they are saying and how they are behaving. That was very important for my advice to the delivery bodies to have credibility."

Organizers for the 2020 Tokyo Games are also focusing on sustainability. And McCarthy has this message for the city.

"To Tokyo, be more inspirational," he says. "Be more confident and be more transparent in what you do. There's a great thing in the plans in Tokyo. But I think they need to capture imagination to inspire people to be more sustainable. And it can be done."

Nahoko Yamada joins host Minori Takao in the studio to discuss plans for the Games.

Takao: Speaking of sustainability, what are some things that Tokyo's planning for an environmentally friendlier Games?

Yamada: All 5,000 gold, silver and bronze medals you're going to see around the necks of athletes at the Games will be made by recycling metals from used cell phones and other electronic gadgets.

It's the first Olympics and Paralympics to make 100 percent of its medals from recycling.

Work is also underway to develop transportation and other systems powered by hydrogen energy. These approaches offer great opportunities to spur innovations.

Takao: Organizers are using London as a bit of a benchmark. How is Tokyo matching up?

Yamada: It depends who you ask. With the exception of recycling and energy plans other details on how they will achieve that are few.

What's more, late last year a scathing letter was sent to the IOC as well as Japan's organizing committee from dozens of environmental protection groups.

The letter said there was a significant risk that the stadium could use illegal, unsustainable tropical timber from endangered rainforests in part of the construction process.

The committee says it's following international standards for sustainability when it comes to purchasing commodities for the Olympics.

Stadium architect Kengo Kuma also says he wants to use as much domestic wood as possible.

And the committee is also trying to put in place a system to deal with complaints from NGOs, the public and others involved in planning the Games.

Takeo Tanaka of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee explains.

"It's not just about setting purchasing rules," he says. "It's also about making a system that accepts complaints. We want to make sure that our rules will be followed to avoid possible damage caused by violations. In that way, we want to assure sustainability."

We'll get a better idea about what else is being planned next March when the organizing committee says a detailed report will be ready.