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 …

Low carbon Britain: what can the 2012 Olympics teach us?

May 17, 2011   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

I’m very pleased to say that on 18 May at 11am I’ll be one of the speakers at the virtual event Sustainability Now. The event covers environmental issues in the property, construction and architecture sectors; and has excellent green credentials as it’s a ‘virtual event’ – hosted online, with no need to leave the confines of your office to attend. Perhaps best of all, it’s free.  I’ll be on a panel of experts discussing the subject of Low Carbon Britain: Green buildings, Green Construction, Green jobs. Chaired by Neil Jefferson, chief executive of Zero Carbon Hub, on this audio webinar we’ll be taking a look at the notion of a ‘low carbon Britain’ and what can be done to support the development of green products, materials and, yes, people too. I’m hoping to put my own views across, examining the meaning behind the buzzwords – such as ‘green jobs’ – and bringing some examples from the 2012 Olympics to the discussion. If you’d like to register to attend Sustainability Now for free, please click here. I hope you’ll be able to join us, and don’t forget – it’s an interactive session so questions from the audience are always welcome. …

Don’t believe what you read

April 11, 2011   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

I was astonished to read in a media report recently that the London 2012 sustainability plan is “in tatters”. I was even more surprised to read that this piece of journalistic endeavour was based on quotes from an interview with me. The quotes were accurate but out of context and focused on two issues we are addressing in our Annual Review, published in April 2011.   The first is about carbon emissions. We are reasonably confident that the ODA and LOCOG will meet their carbon emissions targets but these targets will not be achieved through renewable energy as originally planned. The ODA plans to invest in a community energy saving scheme in the local area and LOCOG will set more aggressive energy reduction targets to achieve the same end of reducing carbon emissions directly associated with the Games and the legacy of the venues. London 2012 has demonstrated the futility of setting arbitrary targets for renewable energy when the technology and economics related to urban renewable energy requirements appear to be very challenging. Much better to specify “what” (reduce emissions) than “how” (install renewable energy). It is good to see planning guidance also moving in this direction. The second issue …

Love over gold

March 28, 2011   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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The energy efficiency medal table? It is a great privilege to be Chair of CSL. I see all aspects of sustainability for the Games and meet everybody involved with the agenda. This is quite a unique perspective and gets me involved with many different government bodies, NGOs, political leaders and more. This has been a steep learning curve for me as I come from a mostly corporate background and I have had to learn several new cultures and ways of working over the past four years. It is always good to return to my roots and meet with LOCOG’s commercial partners to understand what they are doing. It must be a bit like doing a job in a second language that you speak fluently and then returning home to converse in your mother tongue. I met recently with Coca-Cola to understand what they are doing to reduce the carbon footprint of their product and operation, including their plans for recycling and HFC free cooling. This is the first time they have invested substantial resources into using their brand value and sponsorship of the Games to really push sustainability hard and it is very impressive. The project that most intrigued me …

Bicycle race

February 22, 2011   |   Posted by Jonathan Turner

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Team GB at the Velodrome

I attended the opening ceremony for the velodrome today. The velodrome is a venue we are particularly pleased with as a commission as it is a real sustainability success story. One of my roles in the Commission is to track all the commitments that the delivery bodies have made to ensure they are progressing against them. This has meant I have been able to see how all the venues have developed throughout their design and build. The velodrome has consistently stood out as its innovative design has helped it meet or exceed all the targets set for it. For example, …

They sold me a merry Christmas

December 17, 2010   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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Christmas – season of goodwill or orgy of conspicuous consumption of useless tat? As we approach Games-time the push to sell London 2012 merchandise is hotting up. You can see the offers available on the London 2012 website at   When I was at the Beijing Games in 2008, I commented on these pages about the huge appetite Chinese people had for the Games and the cheap merchandise that went with it. I tried to describe the huge retail outlets piled high with all manner of stuff carrying the Beijing 2008 logo and the hot, tired shoppers queuing outside the door to get their hands on these items. At the time I expressed a desire that London 2012 would be different. During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, I commented on the horror stories coming from China about the labour and environmental standards employed at the factories making the mascots for the event. Claims of excessive profiteering were abundant, damaging the reputation of the event. This was shortly before LOCOG gave the world Wenlock and Mandeville, the twin Olympic mascots for London 2012. I must say I was quite impressed with the way sustainability messages were weaved into …

All things must pass

October 4, 2010   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

This week saw the announcement that David Higgins is to leave the ODA in early 2011 to take up a post as Chief Executive Officer of Network Rail. David leaves the ODA in good shape, the facilities to stage the Games will be constructed on time, within budget and to exemplary sustainability standards. It is true that many challenges remain but the team David leaves behind are highly competent professionals with capacity to resolve them in an appropriate and timely manner. Taking on a project of this magnitude requires a highly pragmatic and single minded approach. David could have seen the sustainability agenda and the intervention of an independent commission as an unnecessary distraction but he did not. He considered sustainability to be one of many business objectives to be delivered through a world class management process and he gave appropriate attention to the subject. I met David informally every six months and more frequently in our formal reviews and reporting programmes. I found him decisive and dynamic, he got things done. He is single minded and needs to be persuaded by a strong case to divert from his planned course of action. However, I can point to several examples …