The London 2012 Olympics has been seven years in the making. The scope of the event is vast, from building the infrastructure to stage the Games, to informing Londoners of the disruption, to the logistics of moving athletes and their equipment around the city. With the opening ceremony upon us, it is a great time to evaluate the communications strategy around the Games.
So, where to start? The most obvious place is the current story revolving around G4S’s inability to meet its commitment to provide security for the Olympic Games. From a comms perspective, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) has been lucky enough to dodge a bullet here, with Nick Buckles – head of G4S – taking the brunt of the negative publicity, as he acceded to every request of the Home Affairs Committee. Of course, one silver lining that can be taken away from this calamity is that the Games will be better protected than before. Few can say that they would feel safer at an event secured by G4S-trained staff, rather than the police and army. It is little solace for those being forced to cancel holidays and time with their families though.
Security aside, LOCOG has run a well-oiled comms machine throughout the run up to the Games. With the UK sometimes accused of being a country of grumblers and pessimists, there seems to have been little negative sentiment in the media. Granted, as soon as a bus-load of athletes goes missing, there are stories hitting the wires, but a driver taking a wrong turn is hardly a scoop. Let’s face it, most of us are shocked that the arenas and venues are all built. After the horror stories of half-built stadiums before the Athens Olympics and the snake-infested athletes’ village of the Delhi, it is fantastic to see that London has delivered.
The LOCOG comms team has done an admirable job in building excitement for the Games. The Diamond Jubilee certainly helped to bring a distinctly British feeling to this water-logged summer. Now, Facebook feeds are littered with photos of the Olympic Torch Relay and television schedules are full of programmes depicting heart-warming stories of previous Games and documentaries on this year’s hopefuls. There are now two standard topics for Brits to discuss – the weather (of course!) and which events you have tickets for.
As London prepared for the Games, the comms strategy not only built excitement for the event, but also acted to inform Londoners of the impending disruption. Yes, a million extra people in the city on any given day during the Olympics will be an annoyance, especially on public transport, but it is not unexpected. Businesses were warned about expected disruptions and urged to implement remote working measures during the Games years ago. Boris’s ‘skivers paradise’ comment probably was a little off message though.
All in all, the communications activities around the Olympic Games have been well measured and strategically implemented. It was never going to be smooth sailing, but LOCOG is in the enviable position of approaching the opening ceremony with the knowledge that, as long as the farm animals don’t go loopy in the Olympic procession, the eyes of the world will be watching and will be impressed. Patting themselves on the back is a couple of months away yet, but they should feel confident.
24th July 2012