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Introduction and Thanks

Peter Ward, Managing Director at WeTrack

We are pleased to have produced this white paper for National Olympic Committees as you prepare for Tokyo and Beijing over the next year. In this compressed calendar, it is vital to have even clearer oversight of the milestones, risks, test exercises and more that you'll be delivering. We won't pretend to be experts on your operations, but we hope the pieces in here will prove useful where our areas of expertise do overlap!

If you'd like to discuss any of the themes in here any further, feel free to email me at - I'd be very happy to hear from you.

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Amelia Ashton-Jones, Head of Programme Management at Team GB

I was happy to share my experience with WeTrack for their paper discussing the planning and operations of NOCs as they enter an intense twelve months. Preparing to take a team to two Olympic Games just half a year apart is a complex challenge but the result will deliver performances to bring the world back together in competition and celebration.


Planning for multiple Games: Risks

In a compressed calendar, you need visibility across both the next and future Games. You need an even stronger oversight of which risks are impacting or might impact you, as well as a timeline for dealing with each uncertainty.

Managing risk is one of the most important things you can do in your programme management

To do it successfully, it is vital to have an understanding of the different types of uncertainty that you will be faced with and the strategies you can employ to deal with them.

The cost of dealing with a risk can increase exponentially over time - plan ahead


The difference between a risk, an issue and an opportunity

difference between risk issue opportunity graphicStrategies for dealing with uncertainty

As seen, a key difference between risks, issues and opportunities is the strategy you deploy to address each type of item. You're probably already familiar with mitigation steps and contingency plans, but it's important to have a full grasp of the strategies available to you when faced with uncertainty.

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  • Mitigate: a mitigation plan is a series of actions that you take in advance of a potential event that reduces the probability and / or impact of that event.
  • Contingency: a contingency plan will identify the likely actions needed to resolve a potential issue, including who is responsible for enacting them. The plan will be actioned if the issue does actually occur.
  • Exploit: opportunities arise when you have the chance to benefit from an uncertainty. It is therefore wise to pursue a strategy that allows you to make the most of the opportunity for your positive gain.
  • Avoid: this involves removing the risk entirely, in taking some action that results in the uncertainty no longer posing the same threat to your project(s) or event(s) that it previously did.
  • Insure: this strategy might apply when you are able to take out some sort of insurance that eases the impact of the risk becoming an issue. It allows you to pass the risk onto a third party.
  • Share: this lets you spread the risk or opportunity amongst a supply chain, taking actions that acknowledge that this is a risk that is not solely up to you to deal with and that is not solely yours to be harmed by.
  • Accept: a risk can be accepted after all other viable strategies such as mitigation or insurance have been enacted; the risk still exists, but there is an acceptance that no more action can be taken to manage it.

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The key to dealing with uncertainty in your programme and event management is to meet it head-on.


Planning for multiple Games: Milestones

The need for better visibility in a compressed international sporting schedule extends to milestone management too. Milestones set at different levels and across different departments need to be tracked properly.

Use tasks and milestones together to create your programme

A task represents a specific piece of work to be accomplished during a project, while a milestone is a marker of significant achievement during a project, or a key point in time where an objective is expected to be met.

Typically, you would have a series of tasks leading into a milestone, like so:

tasks leading to milestone-2

If you are using a Gantt chart or dependencies to track the progress of your projects, you can achieve an even more visual look at your tasks and milestones.

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Not all milestones are born equal!

Not all milestones are as important as each other. Use different levels such as Project, Portfolio, and Executive, to ensure that the right people are aware of the right milestones.


Best practices in Reporting

This is vital with remote working in 'business-as-usual' programme management, and even more important with remote control rooms and Games-time operations.

Decide the information that matters on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and report on that specifically. Ensure that reports are as useful and as concise as possible, otherwise it will just be too much information at a time when heads are already full!

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6 essential reports to track in your programme management

  • Weekly status reports for each Project Manager;
  • Monthly leaderboards for each department, including possible gamification;
  • Monthly milestone reports: with different levels of milestone going to the right people;
  • Resource allocation as a monthly (or, occasionally, even longer-term) lookahead;
  • Daily knowledge of what has changed, if any tasks have slipped: this does not need to be in the form of a report (probably too unwieldy for a daily report) - but does need to be known;
  • Risks of a certain severity going to the right people, monthly. It's not appropriate for everyone to see the whole risk register, but it's essential that the right people see the right risks at the right time and can manage them accordingly.

Programme Management: you need a single source of truth

You are probably currently operating with a plan A, plan B, plan C and more which all require your attention; overseeing everything from accreditation and commercial to fan engagement and kit procurement. Whatever systems and methods you use to manage your complex programme, make sure it does the basics right.

5 basic needs for your programme management

  1. A means to collaborate: Communicate and share responsibility for your projects and tasks.
  2. A single source of truth: Make sure your team knows where to go to find up-to-date information.
  3. A means to automate reporting: This will save you time and improve the quality of your work.
  4. A series of different views: Some of your team will prefer a Gantt or calendar view to a list of tasks.
  5. A means to track tasks: The most basic but crucial requirement - to know if something is slipping.


Testing and Exercising: running Tabletops

Some sort of testing and exercising programme is essential to rehearse key processes ahead of a Games. They will help to inform on your last-minute planning and your event-time run sheets and checks.

6 areas to consider when devising a tabletop readiness exercise

  • Live risks. Identify risks that still remain 'live' and could become issues. Consider both how you will transfer information about them from planning to operational phase, and how you will deal with them if they do become issues.
  • Responsibilities. Clarify roles and responsibilities within your team, including the team on-the-ground at the Games. This is even more important in Tokyo if your team are remote / more disparate.
  • Big changes. Consider the big changes that have taken place since the last Games that will impact your operations - re-situate your plans in the current context while learning from past experience.
  • Emergency planning. Plan for what could go wrong: where does information need to go and how will you communicate efficiently and effectively? Sharpen your problem-solving without the pressure.
  • Deal in specifics. The more specific and comprehensive your plans are, the more valuable your tabletop exercise will be. Make sure your plans are ready to be tested before testing them!
  • Recording the exercise. Make sure that actions can be actioned and lessons can be learned! Record the exercise diligently and then develop a work plan afterwards with specific actions, timelines, responsibilities and tracking included.

Perfect the transition from programme management to Games-time

Your complex planning and operations are set apart by the fact that you will soon be sending athletes, staff and volunteers across the world to compete at an Olympic Games.

Which information needs to be transferred between planning and delivery?

Active risks

Make sure that the relevant individuals are aware of any mitigating actions that have already or can continue to be taken; and make sure that contingency plans are shared and understood so that your Chef de Mission and team on-the-ground can respond to issues effectively.

Incomplete projects

Many of your projects will include tasks that end in Tokyo! When you are in situ it's not the time for business-as-usual programme management, but it's also not the time to ignore all existing projects. Make a transition plan that allows you to build on the work you've already done while readying these projects to be moved onto site.

Milestone plans

Similarly, it is vital to respect planned timelines for your crucial milestones. Hit those final few targets to make sure your Games-time operations continue from where your programme management left off.

Testing results to produce run sheets

In readiness planning you'll have really got your head around how your event operations will look. Use this knowledge to draw up daily run sheets for your staff, including an understanding of what daily checks need to be carried out. Read on for greater depth on run sheets and checks.


Give your Chef de Mission confidence

Run sheets and checks give your team clarity and give your Chef de Mission peace of mind.

Across the scope of the Olympic site in Tokyo, you need to have that peace of mind. As Chef de Mission a lot of responsibility falls upon you, so respond to that with clear processes, visibility of what is going on, audit trails, and open and effective lines of communication.

Run Sheets

Run sheets exist to make your life easier, making it easier to follow plans, easier to change plans, and easier to communicate changes to plans! Make sure they give you:

  • Clarity: clear daily schedules
  • Collaboration: get your teams working together
  • Accuracy: send automatic updates in case of delay


Here is a list of checks that you'll definitely want to consider as you build up to the next Games.

  1. Pre-Games site visits: set up checklists of your NOC requests / requirements to verify during a pre-Games site visit. Update issues in real time to the team back home.
  2. Rate card confirmation: set up checklists of all rate card purchases to ensure requirements have been met by the organising committee.
  3. Pre-Team arrival accommodation checks: set up checklists for mission staff to ensure that accommodations are acceptable before athlete arrival.
  4. COVID-19 testing: obviously the big one this year. Set up checklists to ensure that all athletes and team staff have attended their required testing every day.
  5. Daily hygiene checks: set up checklists of daily hygiene measures being used by your team to confirm that they are being carried out.

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Create a virtual control room for incident and issue tracking

Incident management always falls under great scrutiny, and at the Olympics there is nowhere to hide if something goes wrong. Follow best practices when responding to incidents will help you avoid this fate. Even though you might be operating remotely, focus on giving yourself and the rest of your team the tools they need to respond to incidents effectively.

Three crucial steps in your incident management

Prepare thoroughly

Map out incident categories for better understanding of how to improve responses to specific incidents, and make communication more effective by fully involving agencies, teams and individuals.

Respond consistently

Build out contingency plans and response checklists, align responses with incident categories and make them readily available to team members.

Ensure accountability

Keep separate lists of general log items and incidents to allow for everything that happens to be recorded, and use event logging software that allows for complete recording and easy review of logs after the event.




Being the best means being the best prepared

You're part of the Olympic sphere, so you exist to be the best. If any industry knows that every 1% matters, it's yours! That attitude is how you create a culture of success that allows your athletes to flourish.

Being the best means being the best prepared, and that is where we have tried to help you in this white paper.

We hope that this has been useful in exploring the areas of your operations as you build towards Tokyo and Beijing. You know a lot more about the work of an NOC than we do, so we have just given our thoughts in the areas where our work crosses over with yours. You can find a lot more on those areas in our blog.

Thank you for reading and feel free to get in touch if you'd like to discuss any of these areas further.


Get your operations ready for Tokyo and Beijing

  • PDF download for you to refer to and share with your team
  • Full cover, images and graphics
  • Thank you for reading!

Download a PDF to keep