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 …

Has the Bam Bam been banned?

July 21, 2012   |   Posted by Jonathan Turner


I’ve been out to view the torch relay twice over the last couple of weeks to see it in action before it makes its way in to London. We have been looking a issues ranging from the vehicles in the convoy, to the local authority run evening celebrations, to the product and promotional items given out by the Presenting Partners.   The main beverage provider was only giving out its most high profile products which we were very disappointed to see. They did give out sugar free versions of it and weren’t giving it to children (just to adults who often …

The Dream

July 20, 2012   |   Posted by Emma Synnott


There is no doubt that the London 2012 Games set a ‘high dream’ for embedding sustainability: zero waste, low carbon, 100% public transport, providing real and sustained employment for local people and a community inspired to be more active and healthier.  It is easy to stand back and throw stones where things haven’t gone to plan, and it is far more difficult to show leadership when dreams turn to nightmares. So it was a huge coincidence on the day that I was heading for the US First Minister’s residence to hear about their plans for their new ‘green’ Embassy building, …

Bullfrog blues

July 19, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

Today WWF and BioRegional have published their report on the progress of the London 2012 Games in meeting its sustainability objectives. It has taken a huge collective effort to put these Games on track to be the most sustainable to date – from the organisers, to campaign groups like these, and to an assurance body like ours which is tasked with being the bastion of impartiality and good evidence. London 2012 will be my second Olympics, but I know that there will be particular aspects of these Games that will stand out. Beijing 2008 - "Cockroach Kebabs" I had the great honour to be part of the London 2012 observer team in Beijing and I learned a lot. It was immediately obvious that we were in a different part of the world when encountering the food. Stir fried bullfrog is a delicacy and the street vendors offer griddled insects on a skewer that I described as a “cockroach kebab” in a blog at the time. It probably wasn’t cockroach really but as I spend most of my time doing dull fact-based assurance it is sometimes good to use a bit of artistic licence in a blog. When we visited a …

Big fellow taxi

July 18, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

Taxis in Parliament Square

London cabbies are revolting Walking past the Houses of Parliament yesterday I was surprised to see the traffic even more motionless than usual and a group of burly taxi drivers standing around in the street with their cabs idle. Assuming there to be an incident at Parliament Square I realised it was in fact the cabbies themselves causing the gridlock. They were protesting about lack of access to the 35Km of exclusive lanes of the Olympic Route Network. LOCOG would no doubt argue that the ORN is for vehicles transporting people and things that are essential to the Games operation. For example, …

Let’s spend the night together

July 16, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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Athletes Village canteen

It is some time since I was invited to a slumber party so the opportunity to be part of LOCOG’s commissioning event for the Olympic Village was very welcome. They invited around 1,000 guests to spend an evening in the Athlete’s Village and to stay over in one of the apartments. A great honour and I thank LOCOG for inviting me along. On arrival we were transported by bus from Stratford station, my bus driver let his engine idle while we were waiting which is against LOCOG’s policy but I was assured by my fellow guests that their busses had …

2012 and beyond

June 19, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

Breaking the tape

When I first became involved in the London 2012 Programme in 2005 it all seemed a long way off. Visiting Beijing in 2008 the London Games still seemed a distant vision. Now we are nearly there and we need to consider whether London 2012 will offer a unique sustainable experience and, probably more importantly, consider the lessons learned and how we go beyond 2012 to capture the momentum towards a more sustainable future. This week sees our final comprehensive review before the Games. In it we recognise the excellent work done by the ODA, LOCOG and many other organisations to …

You spin me right round!

June 13, 2012   |   Posted by Emma Synnott

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It was a fabulous balmy evening when I found myself talking with a very earnest engineer about the mysterious world of the supply chain of wooden pallets – perhaps not notable other than to state the obvious – we sustainability geeks tend to stick together on matters like this.  The event and the venue on the other hand made this conversation very interesting indeed.  We were perched on a balcony overlooking the Olympic Park in a building constructed in just eight weeks – all fine, providing you don’t sneeze or lean on anything!  In fact, we were enjoying the ambience of Cisco House and we were there to join in the first networking event for the Circular Economy. ‘The Circular Economy’ at face value sounds like some kind of dubious merry-go-round involving strange job-creation programmes and maybe a giant swap-meet. But far from some weird ponzie scheme, the concept has legs.  In fact, it was recently given prominence by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation whose profound report by the same name highlights the value to the UK Economy of making sure resources are truly optimised from the first time they are used (cradle) to the time they are re-used (grave-cradle) in some …