London’s successful bid for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games created the need for a major regeneration and construction programme to provide the venues and infrastructure needed to stage the Games.
The programme of construction was extensive, technically and politically challenging, and up against a fixed deadline of the Opening Ceremony of the Games in July 2012.
Turning the vision of the Olympic bid into the reality of roads, bridges and stadia was the job of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), a new publicly funded body established by an Act of Parliament in April 2006.
The ODA had five years to staff up, procure and deliver around £6bn of major construction works, mainly built on a largely derelict and polluted site in Stratford, East London.
At the same time, the ODA needed to satisfy a plethora of stakeholders including the government, media, local residents and the public. It needed to guarantee that it was providing value for money and was on track to provide both the infrastructure required to stage the Games and a lasting legacy for a relatively deprived part of London.
The ODA’s programme of works included the deconstruction and land remediation of a 400-hectare site, the construction of around 20km of roads, 13km of tunnels, around 30 bridges and new utilities infrastructure.
It also oversaw the construction of 14 permanent and temporary sporting venues, a broadcast centre, media centre – for commercial use after the Games – the construction of the Athletes’ Village, the creation of 80 hectares of parklands, gardens and public open space as well as huge transport improvements, including station and infrastructure works.
The ODA budget (part of the overall public sector funding package agreed for the Games in March 2007) was set at £8.1bn.
The ODA documented the programme scope and submitted it with detailed budget assessments to the Ministerial Funders’ Group (Funders) and Olympic Board for approval. The resulting Programme BaselineReport – a detailed 500-page description of aligned scope, programme, budget and risk – was published in November 2007.
It identified the items the ODA planned to deliver, the allocation of risk between the ODA and Funders (to govern any subsequent contingency allocations) and, importantly, those items which were out of its scope.
The development of this document was crucial in bottoming out areas of scope uncertainty at an early stage in the programme and gave the ODA a firm footing for delivery of the programme.
The ODA understood at the outset that there would be huge levels of public interest in London 2012. It also recognised the project could only be delivered in partnership and with the support of a large coalition of organisations, many of whom had differing interests. As a result, the ODA adopted a highly proactive and systematic communications and stakeholder management approach from community and political engagement, through to daily public site visits and media opportunities.
Firstly, the strategy was to embrace transparency and ensure complete alignment between internal and external objectives.
Secondly, it was designed to maintain a drumbeat of progress with intense focus at big moments.
Finally, the ODA wanted to recognise that “seeing is believing” – let success speak for itself and allow as many people as possible to see the Park for themselves.
From the outset, the ODA instituted processes, meeting structures and delegations to ensure strategic direction was clear, performance management was active and value for money was achieved.
CLM, the delivery partner – a private sector consortium comprising of a partnership from the three parent companies of CH2M Hill, Laing O’Rourke and Mace – was fully integrated into all aspects of governance, from the Executive Management Board downwards, and was responsible for leading programme and project delivery review meetings, with participation from the ODA.
Stakeholder meetings were also held on every project and for each priority theme to ensure that key stakeholders remained engaged as projects developed.
The ODA has successfully achieved its objectives, both for the delivery of the physical infrastructure of the Olympic Park, and also for significant achievements in its priority themes, such as health and safety and sustainability. It has worked closely with the legacy bodies to ensure that the platform left for future development is fully supportive of their legacy plans.In delivering this successful outcome, the ODA’s approach to programme management and organisation did not contain any one magic ingredient; rather it concentrated on the establishment of a clear delivery strategy, maintaining a high level of transparency to all stakeholders, clear definition of scope and focused delivery.