Streets of fire

Shaun McCarthy

May 18, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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At long last the torch relay comes to the country, signalling the start of London’s third modern Olympics. People who have worked on Games in the past tell me that the attitude of the nation tends to change when the torch arrives; people start to get excited about the Games and more positive about them generally. I hope this is the case, as much as I support the doom mongers and whingers right to free speech I would like to hear more voices raised in celebration and pride. The greatest show on earth is coming to my city for the only time, certainly in my life. I am determined to enjoy every minute of it and bore my grandchildren about it for the rest of my life. Note to self; encourage grown up kids to start breeding soon so I can bore my grandchildren for a bit longer.

Of course it is not perfect. We were critical of LOCOG and their energy partner last year for their failure to deliver their commitment to a “low carbon torch”. However I have been impressed with LOCOG’s efforts to reduce the size of the entourage following the torch around and subsequent number of vehicles they need, plus accommodation, food etc. The “austerity relay”? Possibly! I have also been impressed with some of the funky hybrid vehicles used by some of the sponsors involved in the event. They are eye catching and give all the right messages about sustainability. It is not about living in a cave or feeling guilty all the time. It can be bright, entertaining and fun.

My big concern about the torch relay is “premiums”. This is industry-speak for the useless tat that sponsors hand out at events that are supposed to make us feel better about their brand. They generally serve no useful purpose and most end up in the bin or littering the streets. Test events on the Park do not bode well. The cardboard “clackers” handed out to help the crowd make a noise are a typical example. Most of the crowds were school children and in my experience they need no help to make a noise. If I had my way they would be banned altogether but this is not going to happen. LOCOG has gone a long way to making sure all premiums are approved by the sustainability team to ensure that they are in accordance with the sustainable sourcing code and disposable in a way that does not go to landfill. At official venues this is OK because LOCOG’s “zero to landfill” process should take care of the waste. But across the length and breadth of the UK this is impossible to control, each local authority has a different waste policy and facilities for recycling vary widely across the country.

I hope the torch relay unites the country in celebration but I hope that the sponsors don’t turn streets of fire into rivers of tat.

Shaun McCarthy

May 2012

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