Me and the Olympics

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 profitableScreen Shot 2016-08-03 at 5.08.42 PM. 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 okavita_jumpern 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.

600220_839847210048_1528390216_n 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 spSaturday Word Cloud 12thent 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.

Mascot Song Launch 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.Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 9.19.42 PM
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 Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 10.00.38 PMand 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 andScreen Shot 2016-07-24 at 9.15.52 PM 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.

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 10.07.10 PMOrganised 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.The wrap party

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.

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 5.02.11 PMIt 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 froScreen Shot 2016-07-24 at 9.43.12 PMnt 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.

 

MyKitaab Podcast

At the end of last year I was interviewed by MyKittab which was published during the Jaipur Literature Festival. For some reason we talked about the TV show Big Brother or Big Boss as it is known in India.

Official Episode Info
Kavita’s journey has taken her to London 2012, a stint in Gurgaon, India, and now into entrepreneurship, where she runs her startup What’sMySize. Her book, Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Kham, is about working in India. In this episode, Kavita discusses the motivation behind her book, how she chose the title, cover design, and we talk about finding a printer in India and getting ISBN. When she is not writing, she is a speaker at forums such as TedEx, and she is a filmmaker. You can get the links and the resources mentioned in this podcast episode at mykitaab.in/kavita

Ensuring that your Companies Glamorous Away Day in Goa Sucks

Ross and Russ
Fifty – Prague 2014

One of the most exciting things about working at Fifty is meeting up with our international diaspora once a quarter. Our most recent meet-up was in Prague, the next is in Barcelona. Reykjavik is the one after. Obviously we are choosing fun, not sucky cities. Its easy, as that is where our team have chosen to live. Ok not Reykjavik, that really is picked for fun.

Functional away days can be incredible, none more so than the ones I have experienced at London 2012. We have learnt to sing, dragon boat race and walked over the Millennium Dome looking like super heroes in blue jump suits. They stick in my memory more than the Games themselves. Sadly one had Boris Johnson banging on about being the murder capital of the world, so even the best organisation can get it wrong.

Yet, Boris was not as jaw dropping or sucky as the off-site that I attended in Goa.

Here is a summary of what I learnt on how to royally screw up.

Subdiffusion: “Tell nobody what is happening”

No one was formally told about this away day. Unless you count office gossip. The one formal email explaining the travel arrangements was sent the night before by the office manager. None of the leadership team explained the plan or issued an agenda. This was a great way to create a sucky start to the experience and let rumours fly. It was only when I saw people from the office at Nizamudean train station did I actually think I might make it to Goa.

Continue reading “Ensuring that your Companies Glamorous Away Day in Goa Sucks”

My London 2012 for Bupa Digital

Today I was kindly invited by Bupa Digital to come talk about London 2012.

After a little Olympic recap we went on a journey around Mascots, Travel, Digital Security and Social Media some of the most hotly debated topics in the press.

When you have CNN asking if the Mascots were creepy, how do you focus on your job, to give them a voice digitally ? Or when the Daily Mail is convinced that a ‘perfect traffic storm’ will bring Olympic chaos, how do you create a digital campaign to ensure it doesn’t happen ? Borrowing from Matt at Berg we talked about understanding 21st Vertigo and how to focus on the task in hand.

 

We finished by debating the social media game produced by Jacob and then turned our attention to my favorite* marketing manager

*bbc spoof

London 2012, Rio 2016 and Digital

I was recently interviewed by Ashley for his Masters thesis…

Q1: In the years leading up to the games how hard was it to plan New Media strategies for channels such as i.e social/mobile as these channels were still in the infancy?

For content strategy it was actually easy. Finn Concannon our Social Media Lead was clear from start we would focus on key social/mobile channels and we had a consistent set of channels on which our campaigns could run. So planning became a matter of understanding the channels and the audience reach. For example when I launched each new Mascot Game online or a new Mascot Movie was released in the cinema we knew we could only plan around twitter and facebook campaigns as that is where we were building the audience.

The ever changing landscape of platforms technology platforms were more of a challenge. We ended up having to deliver a number of platform refreshes as suppliers pulled technologies or changed strategies. A small example, the programming interface allowing users to tweet and or facebook post from the Mascot Games changed twice after the launch of the website.

Q2: What were your main challenges with New Media campaigns at London 2012?

For me the main challenge was ensuring that each campaign stakeholder had their requirements met while still delivering world class products that engaged users. The stakeholder group grew rapidly, LOCOG itself grew 10 times larger from the time I joined. The organisation were diverse in their culture from sports governing bodies, government agencies, the mayor’s office, management consultants and sponsors. To give another example. Mascots online could be dressed in various sporting outfits. Each accessory needed 14 different sign offs from three different organisations before it could be included.

Q3: Can you share your view on how you feel the role of New Media has evolved at Olympic events? The success of London 2012 shows clear demand for apps and social media means Rio must take it to a new level surely?

At LOCOG we had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented people to ensure our deliveries were are success across all aspects of the Games communications not just digital . In my opinion what made London 2012 different was having New Media firmly part of the Communications team which meant that our content strategy was always relevant. Campaigns such as #savethesuprise was the direct result of being firmly in Comms, understanding digital as well as the motivation of the audience.

At the end of the day the Olympics and Paralympics showcases the emotions and capabilities of the host nation to the rest of the world. My advice to Rio 2016 and all future Games with regards to digital is to define the campaigns and engage the relevant audience on their terms. That might means Spectators require more mobile channels in the future but Athletes will always need an email campaign. What underpins it all is the right content strategy.

Q4: How do you think London 2012 New Media campaigns performed against traditional media channels such as TV, Press etc?

I don’t have hard numbers to hand to answer this question.

During the Games. I don’t think I fully appreciated how the behavior of the UK would change. I had expected the UK to stop as it does in England during an international football match but what surprised me is to what extent people were watching coverage live on television at home – rather than in the office or in the pub. In terms of digital this meant a huge amount of family related dual screening. Although the biggest day for the main website was Monday after the Super Saturday weekend. The Mascots biggest day was during the Opening Ceremony, which suggest to me that families got together to watch and younger members controlled the digital screen. Not something that I had predicted or planned.

Essentially the summer Olympics is a TV event and Digital is a a supporting media. This will continue till the broadcast rights change. At that point a range of fascinating new range of opportunities will arise around real time engagement.

Q5: Can you share your views on the LOCOG sponsors and the influence these may/or may not have played in your campaigns? Do you think Sponsors could have done more/less to deliver a successful games?

The range of sponsors makes it impossible to comment on them as a group. There are several tiers of sponsors. Global sponsors are the heart of Games consistency. They create products that move from Games to Games. They regularly re-employ people from one Games to deliver the next. For me these were the easiest Sponsors to work with as they had processes in place to adopt.

Q6: Which New Media channels or strategies do you think Rio will use to deliver a successful games?

Each nation is different the New Media strategy that worked for London 2012 can’t be translated like a cookie cutter. Digital engagement is similar across the UK and primarily working in English gave us an advantage. Rio 2016 will benefit from a staying true to a single unified Content Strategy delivering its message.

I am expecting the people of Brazil to show the last two summer Olympics and Paralympic hosts how a nation actually parties. Impromptu carnivals and street parties, this won’t be nation watching sports on TV. I expect much more use of location based digital applications and short video sharing by the people of Brazil which will outstrip any digital campaigns by official channels.

Big Data in everyday project governance (Spectator Journey Planner for London 2012)

This month I attended the close down meeting for the London 2012 Spectator Journey planner (SJP or more affectionately known as Sarah Jessica Parker) and we determined what we had learnt.

The learnings included the comical, like not including my personal handset on the mobile testing list, which resulted in some serious retesting at the eleventh hour. As well the hindsight moment of knowing that we planned well for Olympic scale but had to define processes respectively for reducing capacity. One for all cloud architects everywhere.

I am a big advocate for defining interfaces including full UI designs upfront. Our DFD was very comprehensive as it took guidance from me as well as ODA, TFL, DfT and the supplier ATOS. We all agreed that this contributed to the success of the project. Which considering the 50 point review I submitted at 11pm before leaving on a disastrous ski holiday I am super delighted it was useful.
Continue reading “Big Data in everyday project governance (Spectator Journey Planner for London 2012)”

Olympic and Paralympics Games Makers wins a Special IOIC Institute award

IOIC Institute award

The Games Makers were given an award by the IOIC Institute and I was bought a very nice three course lunch as a result.

‘The Games Makers deserve recognition alongside our Communicator of the Year because of the way they transmitted the spirit of the Games so successfully and consistently to the people who came,’ says IoIC chief executive Steve Doswell.
‘They epitomise what we have to say in internal communication about being ambassadors, brand advocates and putting in effort above and beyond the call of duty.

IOIC

My products that made it to delivery included the Games Maker Sale (e-commerce solution selling left over uniforms) and recruiting the 2,000 Young Games Makers.

The key digital campaign predates my time at LOCOG. We attracted nearly 250,000 applications via the Kitsite CMS and the ATOS systems that managed the process of interviewing 100,000 people at selection centers across the UK and recruiting the final 70,000 Games Makers.

Wrap up: closing ceremony – we are going live to the world – photography exhibit 8th Nov 2012

On the 8th Nov Avi and I held a photography exhibit at The Black Heart. The full catalog is available or below is a little reflection of the evening.

In a digital age where connection possibilities are endless it can be hard to actually ‘feel’ connected. So it was a surprise, that the purchase of my first digital SLR made me feel very much part of the world again. Having a camera in my hand at all times I was now part of the story. Part of the event.

Continue reading “Wrap up: closing ceremony – we are going live to the world – photography exhibit 8th Nov 2012”

We are Lovies

The London 2012 New Media team, which I am privileged to be a member, were given Lovie status today. The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences awarded us;

Gold for best Sports Website London 2012 website
Silver for (my beloved) Mascots dressing up and web cam games
Shortlisted for Best Practice on the London 2012 website
Shortlisted – Social Game Tweet/Support Your Team

There were over 1,000 entries from 20 plus European countries. So their maths suggest that to make it to the Shortlist alone means we were in the top 15% of all work entered.

www.lovieawards.eu/winners

The Spectator Journey Planner for London 2012 – Open, Big and Evolving Data

London 2012 stated aim from the outset was to stage a ‘public transport’ Games. In the city that has the oldest underground network this was always going to be a challenge. As the press were keen to debate with one year to go.

Part of the challenge was to ensure that ticket holders knew where they were going and how long it would take. When I was assigned this project, as part of my Product Manager role at London Olympic and Paralympic Organising Committee (LOCOG), I randomly polled a few friends. Most knew that the Olympics Park was being built in Stratford East London but few had ever been.  Continue reading “The Spectator Journey Planner for London 2012 – Open, Big and Evolving Data”

Londinium MMXII Hackathon.

As the Olympics opened its crazy schedule of sports Hackathon was taking place at http://centralworking.com near Tottenham Court Road in London.

Just in case you are wondering I couldn’t possibly attend as I was mostly sleeping, working or watching beach volleyball that weekend. In fact I was mostly sleeping, as at that point I had worked five nights straight.

I digress, details on the Hackathon can be found at;

http://blog.new-bamboo.co.uk/2012/07/30/web-makers-gather-for-24-hour-app-making-marathon-for-the-summer-of-sport

And the result web page http://hackathon.new-bamboo.co.uk

I was a bit disappointed that non of my lovely travel data. However I think there are genuinely a couple of great ideas here for future sporting events.

 

Travel, Open Data, London 2012, Wired Magazine

Working with the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) it seemed important to ensure that as much road and travel changes due to staging the biggest sporting event in the word made it into the public domain.

For spectators this means a dedicated website with travel information organised by the rail operators a year in advance on the web and mobile.

Road data has been released under an open data structure as part of an agreement that has seen the ODA’s Travel Demand Managment team working closely with Transport for London. Wired Magazine explains more.