Public transport Games?

July 31, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

travel 1

I travel to London from a suburban town most days by train and in a typical day I may go to 3 or 4 places in London by public transport. I never come into London by car and I am too cowardly to cycle. I think this makes me a pretty regular user of the transport system. In common with millions of regular users I was at first amused and then slightly irritated to hear Mayor Boris’s voice booming out at every tube station encouraging me to “Get ahead of the Games”. I really liked the cartoon adverts cleverly weaving …

Let the Games commence!

July 29, 2012   |   Posted by Jonathan Turner

I joined the Commission in the summer of 2007, knowing the London Olympic and Paralympic Games were 5 years away but still excited as a sports fan to be involved with the biggest sporting event in the world. As someone who is passionate about sustainability, I was also excited to be involved in assuring the sustainability of it. Now it’s equally amazing and exciting, if slightly trepidating, that the Games are underway and it’s all happening.  As I’ve been on the journey from 2007 to now there have been many occasions when I’ve had to step back and think “just when I thought I’d got my head around the size and scale of the Games, it’s actually much bigger than that!” You can imagine a number of people from Rio will be walking round the Olympic Park and other venues over the next couple of weeks thinking “wow, have we really committed to delivering all this?!”  One of my jobs in the Commission has been to keep track of all the sustainability commitments London 2012 has made, all the recommendations the Commission has made, and how all of these are being delivered. This has been a challenging task and I sometimes …

All we are saying…

July 28, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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My team have been out on the streets of East London interviewing anti-corporate protestors coming together in a combined “Day of action” to use the London 2012 Games as a platform for their campaigns. After last night’s Danny Boyle extravaganza the nation is feeling incredibly positive about the Games but there remains a significant minority of people who are concerned about the role of corporate sponsorship related to the Games.  Over the seven years I have been chair of the Commission I have met a wide variety of people from NGOs and also most of the corporate sponsors to talk about issues related to the sustainability of the Games and its legacy. Most of these relationships have been constructive and I think we have been helpful in providing neutral, unbiased assurance and fact based analysis of the issues within our scope of responsibility. Sir David Higgins once referred to the Commission as “the single source of the truth about sustainability and London 2012”. We have tried to live up to this challenge at all times. However, there have been exceptions. Some corporations are inclined to demonstrate ultra-defensive behaviour and reach for their lawyers as a first reaction to any inconvenient …

The world’s first low carbon Olympic cauldron

  |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

opening ceremony

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 …

Carrying a torch for British business

July 27, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

It was a pretty hectic day on the Olympic Park yesterday. In the middle of the day I helped LOCOG host a tour of the Park’s sustainability features with Environment Minister Caroline Spelman and President of the United Nations Environment Programme Achim Steiner. In common with most people they were blown away by the Park and there was great enthusiasm to capture the learning legacy from this sustainability experience. However we were upstaged a bit as Prime Minister David Cameron was also on the Park in the morning announcing a major event intended to promote inward investment and export business through London’s Olympic and Paralympic Games. This is expected to make a major contribution to the £13Bn of new investment resulting from the Games. During the course of our assurance work we have seen many great examples of London 2012 providing a significant boost for British business. On Wednesday of this week I was honoured to be invited by LOCOG to a dinner before the final dress rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony. At dinner, I sat next to the two people who own the company that designed the Olympic torch. Whilst we have been critical of the non-low carbon torch in the past it was great to hear about …

Will the Olympic flame light my fire?

July 26, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

I was about six when the biggest cheer in boxing history was recorded when Henry Cooper knocked down Cassius Clay (now known as Muhammad Ali) in a non-title fight in London. There was controversy at the end of the round as Clay’s corner claimed he had a split glove (allegedly to give him more recovery time), Cooper lost the fight with a cut eye and the rest is history. “Our ‘Enry” went on to be a well-loved figure among the British public until his sad death last year, Ali went on to be the greatest sportsman the world had ever seen, chat show sensation and a global ambassador for civil rights. In common with many people of my generation Ali was the first person to open my eyes to the inequalities of the world and he has been an inspiration to me ever since. I don’t agree with everything he said but I would defend his right to say it. The sheer spectacle of Ali lighting the Olympic flame in Atlanta was one of the great Olympic moments for me. In the home of the civil rights movement, the great man fought against his debilitating Parkinson’s disease to inspire the …

Over the Zil?

July 25, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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 …

Peach Melba

July 24, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

Melba running with the torch

It was with great pride I heard of Melba Palhazy’s contribution as a torch bearer inEast London yesterday. Melba is one of our commissioners and I cannot think of a better choice. She works tirelessly and selflessly with unemployed and homeless young people in East London. This is a tough job by anybody’s standards, not one that us ordinary mortals would like to take on. Melba does her job with a passion and conviction that would frankly scare the pants off the average East Endhard nut. She brings this passion to the Commission too, along with real, first-hand knowledge of …

Getting to the bottom of sustainability

July 23, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

London 2012 will be my second Olympics. I had the great honour to be part of the London 2012 observer team in Beijing and I learned a lot. They had a slightly quirky approach to sustainability which is best described by this tale. The “Water Cube” aquatics centre was superb. It was made primarily from ‘soap bubbles’ made of ETFE which helps to adjust the temperature of the building by capturing about 20% of the solar energy passing through, at only 1% of the weight of glass. They even had a system that collected body heat from the seats to help heat the pool. It is very gratifying to think that, after years of relative inactivity, my bottom made a small contribution to the success of the Beijing Games. On the other hand, the VIP seats in the main stadium had little personal air conditioners to cool the bottoms of esteemed guests. I find it ironic that in China of all places they collect body heat from the backsides of the masses to save enough energy to blow cool air up the delicate bottoms of the privileged few. I am sure Chairman Mao would not have approved. No such luxury …

Putting the bounce back into the city

July 22, 2012   |   Posted by Emma Synnott

Bouncy Castle

London has finally delivered some sunshine and just in time too.  Not only are we a week from the Games but the city is heaving with things to do and it’s not all about the sport.  The value and role of cultural activity is sometimes overlooked in the sustainability world.  It is true that many of us have strong geek tendencies and we would much rather discuss the latest innovation in smart materials than wonder at their application in art.  But the reality is that how we interact with our surrounds is very strongly influenced by the people we are …

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