Wow, what a show! Danny Boyle has shown why London is one of the world’s great centres for the creative arts by turning the Olympic opening ceremony into a compelling piece of theatre depicting our progress from “ye olde England” to the modern, eclectic society we have become today.
Art is always open to interpretation but for me the show depicted the way in which our country was transformed from a simple rural community through to an un-sustainable state driven by the industrial revolution. Images of smoking chimneys and a huge growth in population at the time send a powerful message about the un-sustainable world our ancestors created. Forward to the modern Britain of today, which is still not very sustainable but we can make a difference and the message sent to the world about the sustainable Games is of vital importance.
The crowning glory of the ceremony and the ultimate expression of a sustainable Games is to see seven young Olympic hopefuls lighting the world’s first low carbon flame in the first low carbon Olympic cauldron. Beijing’s cauldron was a monster weighing in at 300 Tonnes. The London 2012 cauldron is tiny by comparison, it is on a human scale. It is approximately 8.5 metres tall and weighs just 16 tonnes. Of course less material means less carbon in the manufacture and less natural resource required for the materials. The design is totally unique, it has multiple burners and each nation gets their own burner inscribed with the name of the nation. This not only makes the flame more personal to the national teams it means that the burn-rate is flexible. The flame was pretty spectacular on the night, but then at other times, and especially overnight, the gas flow can be reduced very significantly. This means that it is possible to reduce the gas consumption from 100% down to 15%.
So, London 2012 has created a cauldron has a fraction of the materials of the traditional type, it can be turned down at night to use a fraction of the gas and it is personal to each and every team. However, it is still fuelled by natural gas which is not renewable. An attempt to use biogas was made but the very large quantity of gas required and the cost of installing substantial storage capacity with no obvious legacy use ruled out this option. The option chosen by LOCOG is the right one under the circumstances.
After the Games, the cauldron will not be a White Elephant. The national teams helped to assemble it during the Opening Ceremony, by bringing in key components. After the Closing Ceremony it will be dismantled and each team will take a component away with them as a lasting souvenir of the London 2012 Games, a sustainable legacy that is distributed around the world.
In 2007, LOCOG promised a low carbon Olympic torch and a low carbon cauldron. The torch was a failure and I was bitterly disappointed that LOCOG was unable to take a powerful message about sustainability to every community in the country. The cauldron for me is a roaring success, or actually not roaring much at night. It gives a message to the world that big is not always beautiful and that you can be spectacular and sustainable.
Congratulations to Bill Morris, Danny Boyle and the team. You really have pulled off something spectacular.