London 2012 to offer “amazing experience for spectators”
As the Olympic sports programme gets underway, with the first round of women’s football matches taking place this Wednesday, Olympic.org speaks to London 2012 Director of Sport Debbie Jevans about the complexities of organising the Games.
Q. How do you feel now that the Games are set to begin?
A. It’s a combination of emotions – I’m nervous and excited all together. It seems incredible that we started this journey nine years ago – when we started the bid – and now we’re so close, with the football starting in Cardiff. So I feel very excited and slightly nervous, but I think that’s normal!
Q. Can you summarise how much work has been involved in getting everything ready for the sporting competitions?
A. If you look at it, we’ve got 26 International Federations and within that there are a number of different disciplines, so what you really have is over 30 world championships that you’re running at the same time within a period of 16 days. If you look at the complexities involved in running something like the Wimbledon Championships, they run that event year-on-year and yet there’s still a lot of preparation involved. We’re putting in brand new events and running them all at exactly the same time. For that, it’s over 600 sessions of sport and my team builds up to over 23,000 people, so the work is extraordinary. People say it is the biggest peace-time operation and I think it certainly is if you look at the complexity of it – from the number of media that descend on the city, the number of contractors, and of course the athletes and officials. So what we’ve been focusing on is the details to get everything right, bring it all together to create an efficient machine that works. That’s been the most complex part of it – pulling it all together.
Q. How helpful have the IOC been throughout the process?
A. They’ve been very helpful. The thing about the IOC is that it has the experience year-on-year and Games-on-Games and can see how the Olympic Games and the sport within it has evolved. So they’re a great sounding board thanks to all their experience. They also have existing relationships with all the stakeholders that we have to deal with, such as the National Olympic Committees, the athletes, the International Federations. While LOCOG comes and goes, the IOC is the consistent factor in the Games and has the knowledge and experience to be able to support us with. If there are any challenges, it’s always good to have the IOC there to work with us and to work through that challenge. They are incredibly helpful.
Q. How would you sum up your own personal experiences from the start of the bid through to today?
A. People say it’s going to be a lot of work, but I don’t think you can appreciate what hard work is until you have to build up to an Olympic Games. It really is relentless, certainly in the final run-in to ensure that everything’s right. For me, the whole journey has been one with very different emotions. When we won the bid was an incredible high and there have been so many different feelings along the way – which I’ve never experienced before with any job – that culminates with what is the greatest sporting event on the planet. It’s been enjoyable, it’s been tough, but it is one of the most exciting journeys that you can go on.
Q. What are you most looking forward to during the Games?
A. For me, I’m really excited about seeing the athletes on the field of play, when all that planning comes to life, and seeing all our sport-specific volunteers getting very excited. I’ll also spend some of my time just watching the spectators, because we’ve worked really hard on how we present the sport and ensuring they have an efficient journey to the venues, and I want to see them there watching and – if I’m allowed to be biased for a second – cheering lots of British medals!
Q. What can people expect from the sports presentation?
A. We’ve worked very closely with OBS [Olympic Broadcasting Services] and the IOC so that we can build up an atmosphere at each event. In some sports, at half-time, we’re working with the International Federations to put on demonstrations of different versions of those sports. We’ve also acknowledged that a number of spectators may not be familiar with the sport they’re watching and they may not understand the rules. Their enjoyment of it will be far greater if they understand the rules, so we’ve put together a number of “A to Z” films that explain the sport, which we’ll show in the build-up before the event starts to educate the spectators and increase their understanding and enjoyment. The absolute priority is the athlete and the integrity of the sport, but around that we’re introducing innovations to make it an amazing experience for the spectators.