Conversation killer Queen

Shaun McCarthy

August 1, 2011   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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Rubbish Bin - Aquatics Centre

A couple of years ago I was invited to speak at a conference organised for university purchasing consortia (I get all the good gigs!) I was asked to give the opening keynote speech but I was told that I would be following a “motivational speaker”. I have done this before and was quite relaxed about it; these people usually get the audience in a good mood before I put them to sleep. I did not realise until the evening before the event that the motivational speaker was Lenny Henry! However, having experienced Lenny as my warm up act did not prepare me for the event in the Aquatic Centre where I had Queen as my backing band. I was doing an interview for BBC Radio London when the speakers started booming out a medley of Queen hits to accompany a synchronised swimming demonstration in the diving pool. That pretty much summed up the first part of the day, organised chaos with a huge scrum of media people all talking at once. The BBC people were great, ushering me from interview to interview. Part of our duty is to communicate and we did lots of that on the day.

The early evening event, well organised by the ODA, was very different. 1,600 guests were invited to celebrate one year to go with the first dive into the pool by Tom Daley and a unique swimming race featuring medal winning athletes, but most of them not for swimming. All I can say about that is that as a swimmer, Tessa Sanderson throws a mean javelin. From a sustainability standpoint it was mixed. The audience was very inclusive, lots of local school kids and local residents who responded to advertising in the local media. All races, colours and abilities seemed to be there and very few white blokes in suits (like me). However I was disappointed to see naff plastic flags on every seat which served no useful purpose at all and just littered the venue after the event. I have no idea what they were made of, where they were made and where they will go when somebody has swept them off the floor. Our commissioner Neil Taylor took a load home for his kids so I suppose that is re-use of a sort. The food was healthy and fresh (and free), served on cardboard platters with wooden forks. However there was far too much and much was wasted. I was not impressed with what I saw of the waste management either, all waste in one bin with no evidence of segregation. All lessons to be learned for The Big One next year.

A final word for the Aquatic Centre. We have been very rude about this building and have been unstinting in our criticism of its relative lack of sustainability. I still think 3,000 tonnes is too much metal to put a roof over a swimming pool but the building is stunning inside. The atmosphere created by 17,000 spectators will be an inspiration. However, I still prefer the velodrome!


Shaun McCarthy

July 2011

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