LONDON, July 18 (Reuters) - The possibility, however slim, of a Formula One race one day being held in the London Olympic Park left Green campaigner and environmentalist Jonathan Porritt boggling at the ironies of life on Wednesday.
Organisers of the Games, which open next week, are proud of their efforts to make the Olympics in east London as car-free as possible through an array of rail and bus links and secure bicycle parking.
At the same time, the London Legacy Development Corporation announced on Tuesday that one of the four bids to take over the Olympic stadium after the Games was from a little-known company acting in association with Formula One.
Premier League West Ham United remain the favourites to become tenants but F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who denies any direct involvement in the bid, has spoken in the past about his interest in hosting a race in London.
“Our life is full of irony isn’t it,” smiled Olympic ‘Sustainability Ambassador’ Porritt, whose father Arthur was a bronze medallist for New Zealand in the ‘Chariots of Fire’ 100 metre race at the 1924 Paris Games.
“I find the whole story about F1 racing and sustainability quite difficult,” added the man whose focus has been on the sustainable design of Olympic venues and an environmentally-friendly legacy.
“F1 racing is a celebration of crazy, unsustainable use of cars in many ways and I would much rather that we would see more use of the park for cycling and all of those kind of things,” added the environmental activist and former director of the Friends of the Earth campaigning group.
The gas-guzzling sport of Formula One is trying to burnish its green credentials, with teams and factories offsetting their carbon footprint and the sport declaring itself carbon neutral.
Technical rules have been changed to make engines last longer, with bio-fuel and fuel efficiency set to be an increasingly important factor, while manufacturers are also keen to establish a link between racing and ‘greener’ road cars.
Organisers have pushed urban street circuits, such as Singapore or Montreal where spectators do not have to drive to grands prix, and compared the sport favourably to the Tour de France cycle race which is followed daily by a long caravan of vehicles.
The sport, however, depends on criss-crossing the globe, and teams fly cars in jumbo jets to circuits from Brazil to Australia to Singapore.
While the Formula One-angled bid for the London stadium looks a long-shot, the 2014 Winter Games in the Russian resort of Sochi has a grand prix as part of its legacy planning.
The first race there is scheduled for the months after the Games, using some of the same facilities built for the Olympics.
“One is bound to say that these things just sound dissonant,” said Porritt.
”Motor car racing just doesn’t fit in that stable for me.
“To me it’s extraordinary that anyone could think this could be on the side of the angels when it comes to sustainability but there we go,” he told Reuters.
Despite London’s best efforts to limit car usage, something also pushed by fears of gridlock on narrow congested roads at Games time, VIP guests and Olympic officials will be whisked around town in a fleet of BMWs.
“They will be very noticeable to people living in central London because they will be whizzing up and down those specially designated lanes and probably making people a bit angry on that score,” conceded Porritt.
“Who knows, in 20 years time, maybe there will be no cars at all even for members of the IOC.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ossian Shine)