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Delivering the Olympic “Project” – London watches Beijing

Stopping for a quick bite to eat at the Indigo offices on Friday, I caught a glimpse of the lavish opening ceremony of the Beijing’s Olympic Games, confidently playing out its carefully choreographed scenes on the TV in our office reception.

Whatever your political persuasion, it was hard not to be awestruck by the size, precision and sheer “people power” of the project taking place before my very eyes. A mammoth project in fact, delivered on time, with enormous funding, on an incredible scale.

My thoughts though while watching the ceremony, fast-forwarded a lot closer to home. I couldn’t help but think –

How are the London 2012 Olympics going to compare,

And what can and will the London 2012 organisers learn from the Beijing experience?

As a member of Indigo’s project team, and albeit working on slightly smaller scale projects than the Olympics (!) – assessing and analysing the cost, risk and benefits of our clients projects is a daily challenge of ours. So I will be fascinated to see how London 2012 manage over the coming years.

Failure to prepare? Prepare to fail

At Indigo, we specialise in helping our clients, who include no less than a number of high-profile worldwide Olympic partners, to become better project and programme managers.

When “delivering” a project, three key questions any good project manager will continually ask themselves are –

Will the project be delivered on time?

Is the project on budget?

And is the project on target?

Projects on time… With Beijing, and a “drop-dead-date” such as the Olympic Games, their project had to be, and therefore was, delivered “on time”. The same of course will have to be for London 2012, no question! Missing the deadline would be like celebrating Christmas in June!

Projects on budget… Projects like the Olympics don’t tend to let a “little thing like money” get in the way of a great finished product (some £20bn down the line in Beijing’s case).

For London 2012, with more limited resources than Beijing, and threats of spiralling costs already – putting my project manager “hat” on, focus must be made on careful project finance, planning and operations if their resources don’t dry up before the first gun has sounded.

Projects on target… The scale of the Beijing Olympics may prove to be unique in the history of the Olympics. No Olympics may ever spend or build more than Beijing. London has to realise this, step out of Beijing’s shadow, and provide a model which future Olympic Games can follow. This can be London’s project target, and a great legacy of the games.

It’s these “soft skills” of communicating and “selling” the value and benefits of the Games which will be London 2012’s challenge to convince us of over the coming years. I wonder if the sheer spectacle of Beijing is causing London to re-think its project plan!




Senior Consultant – Indigo