‘Our Team Are The Best In The Business’: Q’s With Steve Sayer, VP & GM The O2

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Steve Sayer, vice president and general manager of The O2, in his office. (Picture by Luke Dyson)

The O2 celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Bon Jovi opened the arena on June 24, 2007 – the first of many of the biggest artists of all time to grace the stage at this revolutionary building. Pollstar took a deep dive into the building’s history, but also looked at the present moment.

We reached out to The O2’s vice president and general manager Steve Sayer, to find out what it feels like working at one of the most famous buildings in the entire world, and asked him to share some of his favorite moments so far.

The O2 Turns 15: ‘A Living, Breathing Music Machine’

Pollstar: 15 years, but for some reason, it feels like a 50th anniversary, just because of the history that’s been made at this building. Would you agree that it feels much longer, and why do you think that is?
Steve Sayer: In our short lifespan we have packed a lot in, with an average of over 200 event nights in The O2 arena each year, plus many more acts playing indigo at The O2. Overall that equates to a lot of world-class artists and many iconic and memorable shows under one roof.

Since opening, we’ve been visited by over 100 million people and welcomed an incredible number of acts to the stage – from Bon Jovi playing the very first show in the arena and Prince having an unforgettable 21-night residency both back in 2007, through to now with our 15th birthday month where we’ve had incredible performances from Queen with Adam Lambert, Billie Eilish, Diana Ross and more. Plus who can forget the return of Monty Python back in 2014!

The O2 Turns 15: ‘A Living, Breathing Music Machine’

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Said Steve Sayer: “I walk in every day and still get a buzz when I see the iconic yellow masts and The O2’s main entrance.”

What does it feel like working in one of the world’s most popular buildings?
It feels very special. The O2 has welcomed some of the very best acts in the world to perform in the arena – from legends such as Prince, U2 and more recently Queen with Adam Lambert, to modern day superstars like Beyonce and One Direction, to some of the very best in the fields of comedy, sport and more.

The diversity of content that we have in the arena, as well as everything that surrounds it within the Entertainment District, Icon Outlet and our roofwalk Up at The O2, makes The O2 a really exciting place to be.

I walk in every day and still get a buzz when I see the iconic yellow masts and The O2’s main entrance. That moment was made even more special when we reopened the doors to the arena for first time in 18 months back in August 2021 following the lifting of government restrictions for the pandemic, when Gorillaz played to a sold out crowd of ecstatic NHS workers. It was one of my absolute favourite moments working in live events and something I’ll never forget.

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The free Gorillaz concert for NHS workers and their families at The O2, Aug. 11, 2021, is one of Sayer’s career highlights. (Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage)

What are other memorable show that come to mind, and why?
In addition to the Gorillaz show I mentioned (who also happen to be one of my favourite bands), I have to say the recent Billie Eilish shows come straight to mind. Billie is a phenomenon – a truly special performer, with star power and humility in equal measure, who delivers a mesmerising show. She has a connection with her fans like none that I have seen at The O2 before.

What made her shows even more special, was the fact that we worked with Billie, her mother Maggie, who founded the charity Support + Feed, and all their teams to co-curate a cross-campus climate festival event called Overheated, which included turning The O2 arena fully vegan for her residency at the venue. Sustainability is such an important part of everything we do at The O2 and something we care deeply about. We are so proud that Billie chose our venue to help drive important change.

See: The O2 Presents Billie Eilish With Sustainable First-Time Award

Another personal favourite of mine was the Metallica show back in 2017 – the show that to this day still holds the record for attendance at The O2 at over 22,000. It was an incredible live show, and you just can’t beat the buzz around the venue when iconic artists like Metallica come to town.

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Billie Eilish speaks on stage during Overheated Live at indigo at The O2, and event that brought together activists, musicians and designers to discuss climate change and how to make a difference. (Photo by Bonnie Britain/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

What upcoming highlights would you like to draw readers’ attention towards?
Still to come this year, we’re looking forward to a summer of sport in the arena, with the hotly anticipated return of UFC in July, multiple boxing events booked in over the summer months, and the Laver Cup tournament taking place in September, with world champions Federer and Nadal scheduled to play. We’re also welcoming Kendrick Lamar, Robbie Williams and Arcade Fire to the venue alongside some nostalgic acts, with the return of N-Dubz who are playing 4 sold out shows with us, as well as Backstreet Boys and Blue. As ever, it’s a hugely diverse line-up of really exciting content.

Looking ahead, 2023 is set to be our biggest ever year at The O2, with a record-breaking number of acts due to take to the stage in the arena including multiple nights for both Justin Bieber and Elton John, the 12th BRIT Awards Ceremony at the venue and lots more exciting content in the pipeline still to be announced.

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Adele accepts the Artist of the Year award at the 2022 BRIT Awards in February. The O2 has been hosting the U.K.’s most prestigious music prize since 2011. (Picture by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

In 2023 we’re also excited to be hosting even more cross-campus festivals, drawing in fans from all over the world and fully utilising the diverse space we have to offer. In March we’ll have the return of C2C for their ninth event with us, as well as the very first Just For Laughs London comedy festival with a range of exciting comedy events to be announced from stand-up shows to script read-throughs. 2023 will also see the launch of KPop.Flex in September, Europe’s largest ever mega K-Pop festival, which is hugely exciting for us as we’ve see the K-Pop scene grow massively over recent years.

See: Just For Laughs London Launches At The O2 In 2023

As a venue, we’re also working towards achieving the A Greener Arena accreditation. Finding ways to make both our venue and our industry more sustainable is really at the forefront of our strategy for the years ahead. The recent changes we made in the arena off the back of Billie Eilish’s shows to reduce single use plastic through the implementation of recyclable paper cups and recycled PET fabric wristbands, as well as getting rid of the beef burger on our concession menus, are just some of the changes that we’re really proud of. We’re looking forward to building on this in the future to make our venue even more sustainable for customers and reduce our environmental footprint even further.

See: O2 London Announces New Sustainability Measures

The O2 Dua Lipa 2nd May 2022 by Luke Dyson SMAll
The O2 presented Dua Lipa with a First Time Award to mark her two sell out headline performances May 2-3, 2022 (from left): Dukagjin Lipa, Natalie Rudland (Live Nation), Lee Laborde (Live Nation), Emma Bownes (The O2), David Bradley (WME), Dua Lipa, Christian D’Acuna (The O2), David Levy (WME), Kelly Chappel (Live Nation). (Picture by Luke Dyson)

How important is your team to The O2’s success?
Our team here at The O2 really are the best in the business, and they’re the main reason that we are the world’s most popular music, leisure and entertainment venue. The team here are constantly raising the bar, and never cease to amaze and inspire me to do my best for them. It’s always our aim for the inclusive and best-in-class culture that we encourage for staff at The O2 to translate through to the service we give to the fans, bands and brands that support us.

We’ve certainly been through our fair share of challenges over recent years, as has the rest of our industry, but I’m so proud of how everyone has pulled together to ensure that we continue to wow our customers and ultimately provide the very best experience we can for everyone that comes to The O2 – whether they’re a fan, shopper, diner, partner brand or an artist.

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