Thursday, 7 July 2005

Higher, faster, stronger

So London has won the right to stage the 2012 Olympics. This is stupendous news, and I am already looking forward to getting (or trying to get) tickets for anything and everything.

Of course, if you're a regular reader of this 'blog, you'll know I have a tendency to be a bit pessimistic sometimes. So as not to disappoint then, what worries me about the Olympic bid? Well, this is the country that built the London Eye (well worth a trip) but couldn't have it ready to take passengers by the somewhat immoveable due date of 31st December 1999. We're the country whose plans for a new national stadium at Wembley are stuttering forward, fantastically over budget. We're the country who built the Millennium Bridge over the Thames, then had to close it again because it wobbled. We're the country that designed and built a fancy Diana Memorial Fountain, then had to close, redesign and finally restrict its use because no-one foresaw that water running over smooth concrete might be a tiny bit slippery...

So do you see what I'm getting at? It was all very well last year pouring scorn on the Greeks as they desperately tried to get everything ready in time for the Athens Olympics. It may well be a very different story in seven years time when the microscopic scrutiny of the world is upon us instead. Maybe I'm conveniently forgetting a whole host of national project management successes, but it just seems to me that we don't have a very good track record of delivering big projects on time, to budget and completely to specification.

Still, you have to admire the way Seb Coe and his team have turned the London bid around. When he first got involved, we were third or even fourth favourite to land the Games, yet look how things turned out. Maybe there is hope then, that just this once we Brits we be able to organise the proverbial excessive-consumption-of-alcohol in a brewery. If I'm still 'blogging in seven years, I'll let you know.

And finally, let's hope that the London 2012 team have a detailed post-Olympics plan in place too. Many of the Athens facilities have not been used at all since the closing ceremony there, which is especially depressing since the Greeks are saddled with huge debts from staging the Games in the first place. Maybe we should take a look at Sydney to see how this should be done: what was the Olympic village in 2000 is now a residential suburb rather than the husk that the Athens site threatens to become. Fingers crossed for Stratford in London's East End then - it could certainly use the regeneration. You can't help but feel that if the Olympic Commission parked their chariot of fire there at the moment, when they returned to it they'd find a couple of the wheels missing.

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