One week into the London 2012 Olympics it’s time to take stock and see whether the major risks identified are materialising. And if there are any lessons for risk professionals.
Up until a few weeks ago there was typically British indifference and indeed scepticism about the Games. But with a well-received opening ceremony which caught the British imagination, the predicted ‘transport armageddon’ not yet materialising and Team GB’s haul of gold medals leaping, the Brits seem to have rolled over and fallen completely in love with London 2012. There’s even some sunshine after three months of almost non-stop rain!
The risk of venues being half full is long forgotten. Even today’s first session of athletics in the Olympic stadium was at capacity and that for the earliest of qualifying heats which at previous games have seen banks of unsold seats. Indeed one of the few negatives about the Games has been the reaction to the site of empty seats reserved for officials and sponsors, when so many Brits are clamouring to get in. This led to a swift mitigation strategy being cobbled together by the organizers to sell these kinds of tickets last minute on the web. Apparently over 2 million people logged on to the site last night to try to snap up the few tickets released.
Even the security problems which saw a private provider unable to deliver the promised number of trained personnel has also been turned into a semi-triumph. Armed Forces personnel were drafted in to man the airport-style security checks. Uniformed soldiers are more visible, are leading to more confidence and the presence of troops returned from Afghanistan adds to the patriotic mood.
The potential for a meltdown of the transport system was identified as a major risk even when London was bidding for the Games. London’s underground system runs close to capacity even on normal working days and so there has been a big focus on strategies to mitigate the risk caused by adding tens of thousands of additional travellers into the mix. There has been a huge PR exercise with regular London commuters warned for weeks to work from home, travel at different times and to avoid certain stations. So far there have just been minor glitches but it feels like everyone is still collectively holding their breath.
Indeed it’s the very success of these transport risk mitigation strategies which are causing other problems. Just ask any fuming London cabbie. Special Olympic-only lanes on the roads (closed to London taxis) and re-phased traffic lights have led to locals and casual visitors staying away. Central London is almost deserted, with the crowds far off in the east of London where the Olympic Stadium is located. Some central tourist attractions have reported 40% fewer visitors than this time last year and West End theatre attendance is 25% down.
If I was to take one lesson for risk professionals from this, it’s that a holistic approach is needed – not just to risks but also to mitigation. Risks are connected but so too are mitigation strategies. Fixing one problem can lead to another. Maybe something to consider over dinner at a top London restaurant where you’re almost guaranteed to get a table and even a discount deal in the next few weeks?
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