Over the Zil?

Shaun McCarthy

July 25, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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The media love snappy names don’t they? I am often referred to as the “sustainability watchdog”. I don’t like the expression much and I try to refer to the Commission as an “assurance body” because that is what we are. I am told by members of the media and my media advisors that the pubic are familiar with the expression “watchdog”. Of course they are because the media keep using it. If they stopped maybe we could give things their real names. Here is another one. Anything mildly controversial ends in “gate” ever since the Watergate scandal in the Nixon government, which happened before the majority of journalists were born.

The Olympic expression beloved of the media and air quality campaigner Simon Birkett is “Zil lane”. This refers to the 36 Km of dual carriageway within the 160 Km Olympic Route Network that will have one lane closed at certain times of day. This will allow people whose job it is to make the Games work to be able to travel the city with a bit more ease than usual. We were advised during our annual review of 2009 that there would be no such lane closures so we are disappointed that this had to happen. We were told originally that the whole Olympic Route Network would be operated with traffic easing measures only.

Of course, when the public think of Zil Lanes they don’t think of the bloke with the starting pistol or the person who has an essential spare part to make the big screen work for the 100m final, they think of fat blokes in big cars being chauffeured from place to place just because of the position they hold.

Mayor Boris Johnson and Prime Minister David Cameron have both pledged that government officials will not have transport accreditation and they will be expected to use public transport like everybody else. I hope they live up to this promise. We will be checking.

I think the IOC could have prevented a lot of this perception by making a presumption in favour of public transport. Nobody should have car transport unless there is a security reason for doing so, unless they are doing a job that requires them to transport stuff by road or that their presence at a venue is essential to the operation of the Games and it is not possible to get them there by public transport in the time available. If this were to happen we would need a fraction of the 4,000 car fleet provided for the Games, there would be less noise, less pollution and less traffic congestion. More importantly it would require the media to write about something other than “Zilgate”.

Shaun McCarthy 

July 2012 

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