Light my fire

November 8, 2011   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

Much media attention was focused on the failure to deliver a low carbon Olympic torch earlier this year. This was disappointing in terms of the symbolism of the Olympic flame and the message it could have given to the world about a sustainable Games. The actual carbon impact is very small indeed, LOCOG will save more carbon by limiting the number of vehicles in the inevitable motorcade that follows the procession and ensuring the vehicles that are allowed are as low carbon as possible. The torch was all about the message. We should not forget that LOCOG also promised a low carbon Olympic cauldron; the flame that is lit during the opening ceremony and stays alight throughout the Games. This is about the message and the carbon. We won’t know the details until the opening ceremony but I am encouraging LOCOG to think about this in a very holistic way. Firstly; conservation should be considered as the first design challenge, so we would expect the flame to burn much less fuel than its predecessors. If it’s anything like Sydney, London’s cauldron could use as much gas during the Games as 225 UK households use in a year – that is …

Who will save the world – Wenlock and Mandeville?

October 11, 2011   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

London 2012 Shop opening at Stansted Airport

Part of the Commission’s work involves dealing with the huge weight of expectation people have for the Games. First there are the pessimists, moaners and naysayers; “We won’t win the bid” (we did), “the venues will be late” (they are all virtually ready), “it will go over budget” (it did not, but admittedly the budget was very generous), “the logo is rubbish” (actually I agreed at the time but I quite like it now), “the mascots are naff” (slightly harder one to argue with but the kids seem to love them), the latest from the misery mongers is that London …

Eton quite full

September 14, 2011   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

Olympic Venue Eton Dorney on a sunny day

Reflections on the test event at the Olympic rowing venue I admit to a special interest in the Eton Dorney venue for the Olympic and Parlaympic rowing and canoeing events. As a local resident I have reservations about the impact of the event on traffic in the area but as Chair of CSL I think it is a wonderful venue and if the sun shines as it did when I visited the test event it should prove to be a stunning backdrop to the event on which high hopes of British success are pinned. In common with other test events, …

No time to waste

September 5, 2011   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy


Waste management and recycling is an important topic, especially when it comes to the world’s largest sporting event. This topic and the issues involved give particular emphasis to the challenge for London 2012 to meet its promise to host “a truly sustainable Games”. You may recall that last year the Commission released a waste management review, which looked at London 2012’s commitment to the promise of the Games being ‘a catalyst for new waste management infrastructure in East London’. A year on, I’m really looking forward to talking more extensively on the topic when I visit the midlands to present at …

London Prepares: Two Tales of One City

August 31, 2011   |   Posted by The Commission

The price of fish Having recently moved into Stratford, I was delighted and surprised to find evidence of a resident badger in the garden.  Its fresh digging, D shaped tunnels and chubby paw prints mean I eagerly await the arrival of a wildlife camera so I can set eyes on the snuffling creature….and dispel my suspicion that it is a cruel joke played on the unsuspecting Aussie by my London friends. My mother has another theory entirely:  she’s convinced that ‘Badge’ is an environmental refugee from the Olympic Park.  I live 30 minutes walk away Mum!  I know those setts are big but I don’t think Boris has extended the superhighways from Bikes to Badgers just yet. Badgers though, are topical for the Games. At least, they are at Hadleigh Farm where LOCOG recently held its Mountain Bike test event as part of the London Prepares series.  Here, LOCOG had carefully roped off a major Sett close to the field of play after attempts to lure the Badgers to human-dug ‘hotel accommodation’ in the nearby paddock failed to attract stayers (one suspects a poor review in the Badger Daily but who knows?) There are definitely more glamorous occupations than peering …

Half a world away

August 18, 2011   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

Shaun McCarthy - Summer 2011 - Olympic Park Australia

Can London match Sydney’s “green games” legacy? I recently paid a visit to Australia in a privately funded trip connected with my non-CSL business. Despite this I could not resist the temptation to take a look round the Olympic Park during my free time to see how the legacy is going. I was impressed. The Park is located in the moderately affluent suburb of Homebush, 30 minutes train ride from the city centre. It does not have the green space as a centrepiece that London will have but it is good to see economic development in the area, with good …

Conversation killer Queen

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 …

Sustainable London 2012 – the final lap

July 26, 2011   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy


Like many British people, I remember the sound of the bell to signify the last lap, the gasp of tension in the crowd and the sight of Seb Coe crossing the finishing line to claim his gold in that famous race. The bell has now sounded on the race to become the most sustainable Games ever and it is time to assess the likely medal position. It is a question of gold or silver, not abject failure. But what are the successes propelling us forward, and what are the failures tugging us back? It cannot be denied that the ODA has set new standards of sustainability for the construction industry. They have many significant achievements and one significant failure. The good news first: 95% waste diverted from landfill, buildings which are 95% HFC-free, are 15% more energy efficient than building regulations (with the wonderful velodrome achieving 31%) – the list goes on. With respect to social and economic sustainability the ODA has delivered on its promises to employ people living locally, to offer more than 350 apprenticeships and to employ 10% of the workforce from people previously unemployed for six months. The big failure relates to renewable energy. LOCOG promised …

Field of Dreams

June 27, 2011   |   Posted by Emma Synnott

Olympic Park 15 June 2010 - Credit: Emma Synnott

Having recently returned to London and to the Commission I had the great and unexpected pleasure of stepping out onto the Parklands last week. While I had earlier worked with the Chair Shaun McCarthy in establishing the Commission, the intervening four years have delivered much it seems. Just two weeks into the job as Commission Manager, I didn’t quite know what to expect from such a unique opportunity: mud, clay and mayhem or nicely trimmed lawns and cucumber sandwiches?  The truth was far from either of these clichéd tableaux and what a surprise it was. The opportunity came as part of a series of events being held by the ODA to celebrate their progress …

Live and dangerous

May 20, 2011   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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Shaun McCarthy - Live and Dangerous

What is a “green job” anyway? As we move closer to the Games it is inevitable that the level of media attention directed towards the Commission will increase. It has been a great privilege to represent the commission at public events, to talk to the press and to take part in live TV and radio broadcasts. This week I was grateful to the organisers of Sustainability Now! for giving me my first experience of a live webinar. It was a bit of a weird experience. The four delegates were squashed in a tiny room in Blackfriars glued to laptops and talking …