The one with the end of act one

So act one of the Olympics is over and let’s be honest it was the first part that we (the UK, the British, London etc) were on the hook for on the world stage.

In the run up to the Olympics (especially the most recent part of it) I didn’t really get involved, express an emphatic opinion although I did challenge a few people being overtly negative about our chances both in terms of medal performance and to actually deliver the event. I realise with reflection it’s exactly the same mode of behaviour I adopt when Wales are playing in a big rugby match they may win but it’s by no means a done deal – internal optimism whilst not saying much one way or the other for fear of it tempting fate.

As I sit here just over 2 weeks later I am delighted to have been proven so wrong in my lack of overt enthusiasm – what an absolutely amazing fortnight.

It would be easy to focus on the performances ‘on the field’ (pool, velodrome etc) and those performances have been amazing and the justification of sustained preparation, individual and team effort and backroom support from some world class people. That being said, the athletes are not exactly experiencing a lack of recognition so let’s move on…

It’s easy to criticise politicians but many of them have staked personal and political collateral to achieve what has happened in London – locally in London both Ken Livingstone for the initial phase and latterly Boris Johnson for his emphatic championing of the games. Barbara Cassani although not a politician was the first chairperson of the bid and her successor Sebastian, Lord Coe, both deserve recognition for leading what must have been an exceptionally complex process to a successful end.

LOCOG has taken a fair amount of flack for it’s management of sponsorship and the policing of the brand associated with the London effort. Paul Deighton is the CEO of LOCOG and he must be sitting somewhere thinking a) ‘thank goodness the first bit’s done and b) ‘how the hell do I follow that?’. The team he lead have delivered a great output so he must be feeling justifiably proud.

Games don’t run on nothing and the team at ODA (some of whom I now have the pleasure to work with) must be sat looking at the television coverage thinking how great London looks to the world in the facilities they delivered. Sir John Armitt who has chaired ODA and Sir David Higgins who was CEO for most of the work should receive widespread recognition for leading teams who delivered a world class set of venues on time and in budget. Their work has already moved the bar on in terms of delivering infrastructure projects and it’s a high bar that’s been set.

The Olympic Stadium, London
Photo credit: @rootytoots

One man who I can’t imagine has been more than 3ft from his mobile over the past month is the Commissioner of Transport for London, Peter Hendy. TFL and by reflection Hendy were in that horrid position of having little opportunity to win plaudits but probably in the hot seat to be number 1 villain should the infrastructure not have held up. What is clear is that a lot of planning, investment, communication, structure and effort has gone into delivering the transport during part one of the games and I think the team at TFL have done the city proud.

The group who’ve gained so much respect and recognition during the games are the people who probably had very little to lose and will never appear on an honour’s list or a headhunter’s shortlist for their efforts – the games makers. These people gave of their time to don their purple tops and khaki chinos and make the whole thing possible. One of my team is a games maker and seeing her briefly last week brought it home to me what an experience it’s been and how proud she feels to have been part of it. In an ideal world all these people would be gifted back their annual leave and recognised for their commitment… [Note to the member of my team if she reads this – it’s not an ideal world, sorry!]

The furore over the security arrangement got so much press in the run up to the games itself it’s been great to see it be a complete non-story for the time the games have been taking place. I can’t imagine it’s because no one tried but public sector and private sector security services have obviously worked together to ensure the safety of all those participating and attending.

The final point of recognition goes to us/you/them. I think the mood and behaviour of those attending the games both from the UK and overseas, the people getting on with their lives whilst it was all happening and the genuinely respectful way in which all the participants not just the winners have behaved has been amazing. A credit to all the nations and whilst celebrations have been impassioned, there has been little evidence of gloating and genuine respect for the contribution of all the participants.

I’m sure in the weeks to follow we will see lots of articles, blog posts and TV programmes about what happened in London (I am sure because it’s already started) but I write this not to try and cobble together some learning points or to jump on the band wagon but simply because right now I could not be more proud to be British and to see what we can achieve as a country when we set our minds to it.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The one with the end of act one

  1. I think the success of London 2012 is the triumph of faith over cynicism. Each end every one of the interested parties could have decided early on that it was doomed to failure, and they were on a hiding to nothing. It’s not difficult for that mindset to become embedded, and therefore become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    However, in team terms, they each looked one another in the eye and declared “I will not be the weak link in the chain – and neither will you”. They jointly decided to succeed, and to not only take responsibility for their own projects, but to integrate and cooperate with everyone else’s. If one part of the organisation was struggling, others stepped in to bring it back online. When one department received criticism (such as the transport planning, or security with G4S), the others gave support, and refused to let that project manager stand alone.

    I expect to see an army of business consultants citing the London Olympics as an object lesson in ambition, teamwork, project management, and seeing things through. Even when there were mistakes, and there were, the way they have been handled (from my perspective) has been terrific.

    If the theme of the London Olympics is to inspire a generation, then that need not be exclusively about athletes. All manner of organisations and businesses can draw direct inspiration from the outstanding team working on this project for the past 7 years.

  2. Brilliant Rob. This elegant, eloquent piece invoked a physical and mental response in me. I was like you, hardly bothered. I was hooked too. Immense in every way conceivable, you did though forget the BBC’s unprecedented coverage. Never has such a sporting spectacle been covered so brilliantly through digital media and by fantastic people in front of and behind cameras. The sense of loss felt now that act one is over is incredible. Your piece serves as good a reminder of the collective efforts of all concerned and you make some really astute observations about private/public cooperation, infrastructure solidity and creative problem solving. This Olympic part one was a lesson to us all about belief, energy and desire and this blog sets that out really sweetly. “And it’s Jones, fingers pumping, eyes bulging…yes he’s got the London 2012 blogging gold…he looks delighted.”

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