6 11 2011

I make no apology for returning to the theme of the Olympic Games and poor strategy. In the past it has been sport which has failed to live up to expectations and promises by hoping instead of planning. Now, it appears that tourism is following suit.

I would far prefer to be writing of the great example set by the strategies used to deliver our Olympic bid promises but sadly that is not the case. Instead I hope that others will look at the mistakes made and learn from them; at least that way the failed promises will serve some positive purpose.

It never ceases to amaze me how many apparently intelligent people, how many supposedly sharp business minds feel that by crossing their fingers and hoping that success will be delivered.

And yet, without strategy that is exactly what many do including, it seems, those tasked with delivering the promises on which our hosting of the Olympic Games in London next year were built.

I have previously covered (several times) in this blog the lack of strategy to deliver the two legacy promises on which the bid was based (and won) in 2005. The legacy promise of an increase in people taking part in sport across the UK has been shown to be hollow. Indeed, having assured us that the strategy for delivering this legacy does exist, Hugh Robertson the Minister for Sport and the Olympics was asked to show us that strategy as long ago as July 2010. Thank God we didn’t hold our breath waiting as he is still to produce any evidence that it exists.

Then there is the long running farce that is the stadium legacy, one that now looks nothing like that originally promised. If there ever was a strategy for delivering the plans we were promised, again we never saw it and it has been changed on the whim of Ministers, football clubs, UK Athletics, Newham Council and others on such a regular basis as to make any strategy which had existed meaningless.

The promised participation and stadium legacies were written into the bid which won the Games for London in 2005 making the lack of strategy to ensure their delivery all the more puzzling, as is the latest demonstration of poor or no strategy. Not part of the bid promise but nonetheless part of the long-standing promise to the British public was the boost the Games would provide for tourism.

True to form it appears that promise was also made with fingers well and truly crossed behind backs for no strategy to make that tourism boost appears to exist and now the European Tour Operators Association are telling us that tour operators to the UK have seen an average 90% downturn in bookings for the period of the London Olympics (BBC News 6th November).

Back in 2005 leading voices in the campaign to bring the Games to London, including Sebastian Coe and government Ministers Tessa Jowell and Richard Caborn, were rightly pointing out that no Olympics had ever seen an increase in sporting participation simply because they were held; for that to happen we would need a strategy to ensure the promise was delivered.

The same people were also pointing out that too many previous Olympic stadiums had become ‘white elephants’ once the greatest show on earth left town. Not London they told us as they showed us plans which bear no relation with today’s version.

And the same people were telling us of the boost to both the London and the national economy that tourism brought about by the Games would produce; despite the fact no previous host city could point to the same they assured us that London was different because they had a plan.

Now, the lie has been laid bare. There was never a realistic strategy for increasing sporting participation, neither was there a plan for ensuring tourism met expectations. There was a stadium plan (we saw it) but that has long since been thrown in the bin.

But there is a very positive side to this tale. It is in the lesson it provides to those staging events, running businesses, leading local authorities, managing charities and, in fact anyone who has great dreams of a future to come. It is simply this; if you want your dream to become a reality, crossing your fingers and making promises will not do.

If you genuinely want to pursue excellence, if you genuinely want to achieve whatever you set out to do, make sure you have a proper, functional strategy in place. Alternatively, don’t be surprised when you fail to deliver.

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, November 2011

Read more blogs by Jim Cowan

Twitter @cowanglobal



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