A Cultural Event Informed

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A Cultural Event Informed By The Context Of The Olympic Games 2012


With so many government sponsored mega-project failures exposed in the press, this paper describes the ongoing project management of the largest construct project of its kind in the UK for over 150 years. The mega-project is twice as large as the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, and has to be delivered in half the time it took for T5 to be built. Important issues are discussed that should ensure the London Olympic Games is ready on time, within budget and will deliver world class sporting facilities as expected by the 11,000 professional athletes, 1 million visitors expected and a television audience expected to exceed 4 billion viewers.

A cultural event informed by the context of the Olympic Games 2012


The British government has a history of failed projects, and this notoriety is driving a culture of 'get it right' this time - especially with the world watching. A recent example of large scale failure was the Dome which was built for celebrating the new millennium. It was built on time and to requirements, but was over budget and empty for seven years after the millennium party. Even whilst empty, the Dome cost the UK taxpayer thousands of pounds extra every month in security and maintenance costs. Although relaunched as the O2 under new management and now operates as a successful pop concert arena, problems continue with, for example, a recent gas leak resulting in the evacuation of 600 people and 27 staff being taken to hospital. Other failed projects include the Scottish parliament building, Airbus A380 and Wembley Stadium - the same construction company for Wembley is now building some of the Olympic venues.

A nascent drive for professionalism now exists among the UK's 260,000 project managers, partly motivated by fear of failure and caused in part by enthusiastic amateurs. Alistair Godbold from National Air Traffic System (NATS) explained that the senior management's attitude towards project management was until the public embarrassment of the failed delivery of the Swanwick Traffic Control Centre: 6 years late and £250m over budget. 'If you could get out of bed in the morning then you could be a project manager'. Godbold explained that the CMMI model is now used to facilitate project success, as recommended by the Association of Project Management (APM). In addition to the enthusiastic amateur approach, fake business plans were created to justify a project to satisfy the internal finance requirements, and those responsible then enabled projects to proceed knowing they were unrealistic (Harrin, 2007). Not all projects are genuine failures though, with some cancelled due to changing needs of an organisation rather than a failure usually related to severe delays, over spend or poor quality. These projects are often perceived to be failures and reported as such whereas they may have been controlled close downs. Under the PRINCE2 methodology, these are called premature terminations and bear no reflection on the ability of the project manager ...
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