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 http://shop.london2012.com/
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 the introductory video, that they were made from scrap metal and presented to the children in old shoe boxes. – http://www.london2012.com/mascots
The Commission will review merchandise with LOCOG in 2011 but early signs are encouraging. For example, a London 2012 branded Hornby train set can light up the eyes of your offspring on Christmas morning for £150. This is an expensive gift but there is a great story behind it. We understand that as a result of engaging with LOCOG and needing to comply with their packaging requirements specified in the sustainable sourcing code, Hornby has revised its entire packaging strategy, minimising the amount of packaging used and maximising the recycled and recyclable content. We eagerly await more examples like this.
Such a high profile project will inevitably attract investigative journalists hungry for a story like the one for the World Cup mascots. We will be making sure LOCOG continue to pay great attention to labour standards in their supply chain. The role of adidas as apparel sponsor makes us more confident; I have been very impressed with their experience in this area.
There will even be attention paid to the way we take this stuff home. I have been assailed by various groups recently advocating the banning of single use plastic carrier bags. They want a “plastic bag free Games”. We are sympathetic to this cause and aware that LOCOG are working on it but you need to be careful what you wish for, especially at Christmas. Some of the alternatives can have very negative impacts. Our merchandise snapshot review will cover this and at the moment I am confident that LOCOG have the issue under control.
I wish you a merry Christmas and a prosperous but sustainable 2011.