How the 2012 Summer Olympics Will Put Event Planning to the Test

The Summer Olympics are still a ways off, but already there is buzz, buzz, buzz…about athletes (Michael Phelps was on “60 Minutes” already this week!), sponsors (is it really sending the wrong message for McDonald’s to be sponsoring?), and favorite events (synchronized swimming, gymnastics, rowing, or basketball?) I’ll admit I’m looking forward to seeing the costumes the countries choose for the opening ceremonies. All exciting, newsworthy, even water-cooler-worthy topics.

But my mind is stuck somewhere else…as an events management expert, I can’t help thinking about all the logistics, the legions of staffers charged with managing and executing those logistics, and the countless contingency plans that must be crafted.

Security, travel arrangements, media requests, audio/visual, website presence/uploads/streaming, social media monitoring and execution, seating arrangements, Politics and political maneuvering, permitting issues, presentation materials, talent management, event flow, vendors, caterers, contractors, printers, transportation management, information management, decor, wardrobe, hair and makeup, scripting, community relations….oh, the list goes on.

We managed three events in the past week, and while we execute as if the world is watching, let’s face it, they were stellar corporate and nonprofit events, but they weren’t the Olympics. At the same time, we have to manage similar lists of logistics every time we run an event.

So when you sit down to watch a volleyball match, gymnastics performance or triathlon, I will be paying attention to a whole other subtext. You might gasp if a gymnast falls off the beam, but I’ll be gasping if a mic isn’t turned on, an athlete is late for an interview, hotels are overbooked or staging isn’t working. I’ll be watching the broadcasts and social media channels to see how smoothly all those logistics are running. The Olympics definitely test our athletes, but they also put event planning to the test.

London 2012