Summing up the 17 days of this year’s Olympic Games, by nearly common consent the greatest Games ever staged, isn’t easy. But what is clear is that the Games have had a profound effect on the UK, our attitude towards ourselves as individuals and as a country, and particularly in regard to sport, they really have inspired a generation.
During the Games, we had a team of 150 people giving our guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience, 130 staff had won the chance to work in branches in the Olympic Park serving athletes and media, and 140 staff managed the Cardnet payment network. Hospitality is a tough industry, where a smile, the weather, and a seat are the difference between an ‘OK’ and ‘brilliant’ programme, and thankfully everything fell in to place for us and the feedback from customers and stakeholders made it all worthwhile.
The Games surprised me in so many ways. Having watched Mo Farah create the moment of the Games with his second gold in the 5,000-metres and the Jamaicans smash the 4×100-metre relay record, I saw again just how inclusive London 2012 has been. On leaving the stadium, we were driven to our next event by a volunteer named Shailash, an entrepreneur running a £6 million business that employs 400 people – he simply wanted to be part of the Games and asked I sign his car’s ‘visitor book’.
The Olympic Park and its venues – my favourite being the Velodrome, which was a cauldron of noise whenever Team GB were in the medals – are a blueprint for future Games and events. The sight lines, atmosphere, comfort and accessibility in the temporary venues were excellent – often ‘out venueing’ permanent venues – and the presentation of sport was second to none, with MCs, music, crowd engagement creating walls of noise regardless of who was playing. International federations can take huge learnings for their own championships.
The only area that could have improved the spectator experience would have been better availability of earpieces for in-game commentary, which was a great idea from LOCOG (the London organising committee for the 2012 Games), just not well promoted.
Nicola Adams, the first woman to win a boxing gold at an Olympic Games, was a defining moment, as were the 70,584 people who turned out to watch the women’s Team GB football team at Wembley. London 2012 will mark a turning point for women in sport and there are going to be huge opportunities for participation, athletes, federations, events and sponsors.
I was already delighted that 20 of our Lloyds TSB and Bank of Scotland Local Heroes competed at the Games, representing four per cent of Team GB. But to witness Local Hero Kath Copeland win gold in the double sculls was a moment of huge pride – the pinnacle of a programme I could have only dreamed of when we launched it five years ago in partnership with SportsAid, and proving yet again the SportsAid system works.
As a sponsor, I’m delighted LOCOG delivered what it said it would, and more. LOCOG, the ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority) and the GLA (Greater London Authority) can be hugely proud of what they’ve achieved. I’m also delighted for the British Olympic Association and UK Sport who met their targets of more medals in more sports.
The Olympic Movement ‘moved’ our nation, however we are only at half-time, and our teams are ready to do it all over again for the Paralympic Games. BBC commentator Claire Balding once summed up the difference between the two perfectly when she said “the Olympic Games will change the way you feel, the Paralympic Games change the way you think and feel.”
I’m certain that will be the case for millions, and a few more medals from our 26 Local Heroes competing for ParalympicsGB will simply be the icing on the cake.
For more Games-times experiences – including Timo Lumme, TV and Marketing Director at International Olympic Committee – see the September issue of SportBusiness International out September 1.