I am working at London 2012. In the words of a key sponsor I’m loving it. However my contracts say I can’t talk about it. So I am keeping an adhoc diary for publication once the Olympics and Paralympics has been successfully staged.
My first day and I am expecting to rock up, read a stack of documents and get working. This is London 2012 and first lesson don’t expect anything.
Initiation is simple. A slow death by PowerPoint. 9:30 am to 4:30pm, with 30 minutes for lunch (which I spend recovering a mobile phone. A loosing trend that continues for the next few years). There are 30 new starters and we are told that this happens every week and will grow exponentially towards games time. The power point slides produce waves of excitement, waves of being overwhelmed and with a little bit of controlled breathing and acute focus on the part I shall be playing. After all I haven’t started and I am being told my iris project is 7 weeks late.
21st Century Vertigo is extenuated by the location. Views from the 23rd floor of Barclays in Canary Wharf or 1CP as we call it, are incredible. Main reception has been positioned to provide one of the best views of the main stadium. Day Two and Finn starts me of with a meeting. It is in a room that has a spectacular view of the building formerly called The Dome. It takes me a year to learn that it will be North Greenwich Arena at the Games.
My first meeting is held like a dinner party discussion, these are young dynamic and very clever people who are determining the marketing campaign around the Mascots of which my digital projects seems like a small insignificant part. We discuss the second movie. Random drop-ins by Mascots to schools. Everyone is having fun on this project. Everyone is contributing loudly. And then sudden silence and gawping. I no longer have the best view. Behind me through the glass we can see that Seb Coe is showing Stephen Fry around our office.
I am told every day isn’t like this. It is hard to believe. Day four and I find myself hanging out with our Judo Olympiad and sneaking away to play tennis against Anne Korevang and Ross Hutchinson
The main amusement of week one is being told by the technology team that I can not speak to BT, a key sponsor and new media supplier. BT are responsible for providing me a machine on which to run my Mascot Games built by iris. BT is a comical British company. Far to big. Very profitable. In my opinion as a consumer, terrible service. The favourite bit of being told I can’t speak to them is that my mate who in effect put in me touch to get this job is on site and is a key part of the BT team.
I finally get to talk to BT and the Chief Architect spends 25 minutes explaining how a browser downloads flash applications. Internet 101. Proudly I didn’t lose my cool. Especially when told it would take 3-5 weeks to write a single document detailing the infrastructure I need built. Remember that this is just for writing the document, they want another 5 weeks to build the thing, which is just a straight copy of a standard environment. I sit there firing questions about the document looking for a way to speed up the build process. As we approach 4:45 (their home time) they relent.
Also bumped into my BT friend who I have known since I was teenager. He panicked upon seeing me and said “so they finally hired a delivery person?” This is going to be weird. Time for me to get out”. With 612/645 days is it already too late for delivery people to get their head around what needs to be done ?
The budget holder for my project said I was doing a fantastic job and then rewarded me with a Mandeville badge and Wenlock keyring. I think this fair payment and wear the pin with pride for several months.
It is December and on my desk the Cadbury gods have left me and my co-workers an advent calendar stuffed with chocolates. Few days before Christmas and McCann send the team champagne bottles. Each bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte has its own coat and key rings.
It’s a few weeks till that failed 2018 Football bid thing. David Beckham walked passed my desk while hanging out with Seb. I am busy doing a transaction model for traffic for my Mascot games trying to impress BT. I don’t notice. Alex asked had I not heard the squeal? I pointed out that the Communications team squeal with some regularity, I am learning to block it.
Adapting to being in a Communications department is interesting. It means far less paperwork. Risks are not registered as they are in the technology department. Instead I draft a press release explaining to the public who screwed up, should the screw up happen and it’s placed on file. Each Monday morning we have a standup. On one particular cold 2010 pre Christmas meeting we are told by JBD that should we be the ones to screw up, we would be up before government select committee meetings. For life.
Away days are amazing. Communications Away Day One – learn to make cup cakes. Full company Away Day – we learn to sing. Communication Away Day 2 – learn to Dragon Boat Race. New Media Away Day 1 – I drown on the Olympic Kayaking Slalom course while White Water Rafting. New Media Away Day 2 get to see Basket Ball Test Event on the Olympic Park followed by Liz’s Hen Night. New Media Away Day 3 Get told off by the MCC for taking pictures at Lords Archery Test event. Communications Away Day, sing the 12 days of a New Media Christmas. New Media Away Day 4 walk over the North Greenwich Arena (The Dome) and try out the new gondola over the Thames.
1 Year to Go. I would like to be more part of the action everyone is busy but my projects don’t contribute and so I watch from the sidelines. The BBC show is terrible made worse because I chose to watch it almost alone in the office.
It is the august Test Event weekend. Saturday start with a picnic breakfast watching Marathon swimming in the serpentine after which we get to spy on Clare Balding working on a show. The afternoon is spent with tons of cake while watching Beach Volleyball test events. London is strangely subdued but perhaps this is due to the riots. Sunday and its back to earth as I watch Mark Cavendish race his push bike on the Police screens in Transport for London Traffic Control Centre over in and figure out if anyone is angry about road closures on twitter.
It is coming up to my personal 1 year anniversary. Nov. Uniform Unveiled. This week McCann who earlier in the summer tried to tell me they had spent 20K scoping for a project whose budget was set as 35K has forget to show HMS Belfast on the Festival Poster Campaign. It make all the news bulletins. It still takes BT 14 weeks to source and deliver a machine. And my work load appears to be 4 times the size than a year back. The new media team has grown and we are still understanding the dynamics. Each week is quicker than the last. Yet weekends don’t arrive fast enough. Friday evening. Finn, Fiona, Tom and I play Table Football for hours in Whahaca. For one rare evening the Olympics seems very far away and that is a good thing.
What causes my nerves to be set on edge isn’t the potential 4 Billion world wide audience for the games. It is a 100 children, celebrities Tom, Carrie, Zoe and co-workers expecting me to run VT at the correct point as we launch the Mascot Song. Thankfully the Mascots provide the drama by missing their entrance cue and Blue Peter presenter Zoe covers.
Just gave my first stage presentation for London 2012. I hope to be invited to address the 10 thousand volunteers in Wembley for my Volunteering projects. Therefore I am taking all practice I can take. Here I am at BAA Stanstead conference talking about social media sharing a stage with Steve Cram. Totally odd combination.
I can easily fire off our brand guidelines now. Yet I honestly don’t understand a word. Games Makers campaign can’t use the Games time green, only two bright colours on a page, Wenlock on the left. Mandeville bottom and therefore its logo needs to be on show. It costs Marketing 6K to fix the mascot games which both conforms and contradicts the rules at the same time. We never fix the fact that the London 2012 white on blue or white on pink completely inaccessible online.
On the way to the Christmas party. Coaches move the entire company to a venue in Battersea from our various offices. I find myself sitting next to a lass who has been working on our redundancy letters. By the end of the week Morag has handed me mine. Every plan I had (and there are a lot of them) went out of the window. I am left with overwhelming sadness. This is easily the best job I have ever had.
It is the end of year and everyone (in the nation) appears to be holding their breath.
Much needed, Christmas arrives. When later Seb ask me what I did, I am surprised to say I did nothing. He laughs saying that was everyone’s answer. Do nothing means listening to the Radio 4 relentlessly, which means the Archers. Boxing Day episode and I am floored. Alistair has given Shula a set of Olympic tickets. About a month ago in a deep dive on Volunteering (Games Makers) with JBD we ended up discussing Eastenders and Coronation street story lines. I made the throw away comment that I was hoping the Archers would have a story line. JBD picked it up and said yes they were going to do something and tasked JMC with making it happen. Result.
New Years Eve. At my Mum and Dad’s watching News 24. Sydney Harbor Bridge waterfall fireworks are jaw dropping. London’s are mesmerising. The feelings of fear, excitement and disbelief takes me to the brink of tears. The mythical status of 2012 can not be denied. The music perfect.
18th of Jan. I have four websites to delivery in the next 10 working days. I am worried about all of them for different reasons and dropping the ball on Games Time Website or my post games projects. After a bit of a panic agreed with Alex that I can extend the days into the weekend and claw it back before my feb ski holiday. We also agree I wasn’t to burn myself out.
To unwind I spot this bbc article. I love how we Brits grumble. Doesn’t London look grim from the back of his cab ? If the cabbie wanted to be part of the Olympics we had hundreds of fleet driving roles.
Before going to bed I check my work email. 33 since 5pm not bad. This time last year it would have been 3. Save an email from Tammy explaining how to spot a female heart attacks. Excitement when last mail of the day arrives, invited by the lovely Andrew Sharret to do two things I love. Meet famous interesting people. Explore a new location. In this case the copper box on the dignitaries tour.
We sit next to to the commercial team and they are louder than usual. I feel sympathy over the Dow Chemicals sponsorship row. Have no sympathy for new parents who hadn’t planed to get the children tickets. Planning is after all what we are doing here.
Having my first ever Sunday night feeling at London 2012 . Week long ski holiday. 10 days working over test event weekend. Then 4 day stacation. Just not enough recovery time. I could do with another week. I want the Games to happen very soon. Everyone is super snappy. It takes a phone call to calm someone after an email accuses me of finger pointing. Complaints of project delivery delays turn into personal performance attacks. My colleagues are feeling it too. Legal tell me they are now in the high courts negotiating. It isn’t pleasant. People who have been failing all year and now shouting hard as they sink into the quick sand. Eventually they resign and leave us to deal with the aggressive tension they have left behind.
A few weeks along everything is launched and my work load is now back to the (crazy) levels when I first started. It’s weird not to be as frantic when everyone around you is crazy. A Games gypsy describes this period as either mania or a long haul flight.
It gives me time to go to seminars on finding work afterwards and investigate how the ODA is structured. I join the Transport Demand Management team on Parliament Square. They have invited the UK women’s beach volleyball team and we stop traffic, grab the headlines and end up as BBC New’s interstitial played on a loop for 6 months.
100 days to go, anther milestone that I feel slightly detached from. 50 day goes past as a small press release.
The pressure ramps up for CBX. A technology based testing game where we do our day jobs and play our Games time job on a disastrous fictional Games. The fiction includes facebook being hacked. Our CMS being hacked. A cloud caused by a power station explosion drifts over the fictitious Olympic park and rains. Complaints of peoples eye bleeding hit out news screens we deliver the spectator comms to evacuate the park and reorganise 26 events beautifully. We forget to inform our fictitious staff which would have included my own evacuation.
The torch arrives. Unmoved. Two weeks in, Saturday and I laze in bed drift over to our Torch week 2 video and find myself crying without control. So moving. Torch reaches Scotland. Tried to watch Ruth carry the torch in Luss. Instead I get the BBC black screen. Was already to cry. Didn’t.
Organised our pride participation to find that Pride had failed to organise itself.
Internet Buzz. Find chips can’t be sold without fish unless its McDonalds.
12th July. Rumour circulate of Games Makers misbehaving and the worries mount about how this could all go wrong.
13th July Mascots reach 100K customisations.
16th July G4S replaced by distractingly attractive men and women in military uniform. My Mascots website is threatened with shut down from the security team and we have 3 days with Owen rebuilding the systems to make it secure.
Opening Ceremony Technical Rehearsals. Amazing. Took Jeanette and enjoyed every minute of dancing in our seats. Goose bumps for some magical tunes. Went again.
July 24th personalised email from Paul asking us to do our best work as ever.
Middle of the Olympic Games and I am recovering from burn out caused when TOC threatens to shut down the mascot website.
The Games were painful. I haven’t been able to write. I cried on Sean and followed it with a long chat with work. My role is isolating. 14 nights straight spent in the MPC. If I had to do it again I would find more fun and energy to inject to proceedings. If I had it to do again I may have not bothered. Months later and I know that would never have given this up for the world.
After the stress of the first very difficult week. The rest of the Games pass in a dream. A tired haze.
“A Paralympics console game would be amazing #lastleg” If only they knew how many exciting conversations I had on this subject with the IPC and how many times I pitched a Mandeville games to the team. No interest.
Then its over.
The post games drinking has lasted two maybe three weeks. Each morning I find my way home around four am. Wake, cry get myself to work and then attend another legacy party. Just when I thought I was over the Games. But no. Not talking to anyone from ceremonies again till I can keep it together.
It is the political party conference season and we are watching TV in 1CP wondering if it is all truly over. When Seb and Paul Deighton appear on the TV screens while the script writer stands next to me mouthing their words. Work continues to spill into all corner of UK life.
Finn and Debs come over and say hi having moved on from the Games 2 months
earlier. For a year later my recurring dream is that Finn comes back to visit, the Games are very much over and we can’t find the front doors to any of the skyscrapers in Canary Wharf.
I do have work. Closing down everything (including travel). My last project, eCommerce platform selling every thing left behind by those Games Makers. We make 8million.
After relentless form filling on my part we receive a deluge of awards.
Dec 2012 and its 3 weeks till I am done. Now I am panicking over my future like everyone else was back in Aug. How will we ever find something this incredible to work on again ?
I don’t want to leave I want to do it all again.