Filling Olympic Cracks

With fifteen days until London’s Olympic Opening Ceremony; whether it’s cracks in the tarmac, cracks in the security or cracks at the airport – the media seems awash with Olympic cracks.

To consider the Olympics in any real jeopardy though, as many media commentators are predicting is a bit of a stretch.

Having worked on and delivered hundreds of millions of pounds of live events around the globe, having been held under armed guard and having taken on Mother Nature . . . and won, I’ve dealt with my fair share of cracks. And a few chasms too.

Organising any major event sees you having to glue countless organisations together against a backdrop you’re never in complete control over, whilst completely exposed and with a deadline that really can’t move. Some formidable constraints.

Given there are so many things out of your direct control (a bridge’s structural failure for example), given humans are fallible (contractor problems or airport staffing) and given you have no room for delay – planning for a venture like the Olympics is as much about dealing with all these cracks as it is anything else.

Organising major events where nothing goes wrong – without any cracks appearing is the easiest thing in the world. Cracks appearing are commonplace though – and to be expected. You hope to avoid them, but plan to deal with them. And when they do occur it’s important to focus on the event’s objectives.

The Olympic’s objective is to host some sport – if the sport doesn’t happen that would clearly be a failure. Cracks appearing en-route, whilst they may be an embarrassment to some; overcoming them by putting four years planning into play is what’s important – and the real test. If the main road from the airport is unusable – put the contingency route into play, if a contractor lets you down, put the contingency plan into play, if the airport has hold ups, prioritise certain people critical to the event’s objectives. There are likely many other cracks that haven’t been reported in the media that are quietly and professionally being dealt with.

Major event expertise is about dealing with problems. Problems needn’t remain problems for long. Look anywhere around the world, and most major events are run by or involve many people from the UK. Major event expertise is a great UK export. Will the media eventually cover the amazing work being done by one of the UK’s great exportable skill sets? I hope so.

The world is imperfect, the challenges the Olympic organisers face are formidable, unprecedented even, and made more difficult by media scrutiny and by having to be accountable to the public.

The cracks appearing need dealing with and at a later date investigating, but at the moment the focus is delivering the events. The true measure of any Organiser’s success is how they fill the cracks. Not hoping they never appear.