top of page

Michael R. Payne

  • Grey Twitter Icon
  • Grey YouTube Icon
  • Grey Amazon Icon

Evening Standard – How London has raised the bar for the Future.

When Mo Farah crossed the line to win the Olympic 10,000m and clinch the first of his two gold medals of the Games, his feat was met with a blast of Madness belting out Baggy Trousers.

As the beaming Farah set off on a lap of honour with a human-sized Wenlock mascot in hot pursuit, the choice of soundtrack only enhanced the moment of fun and jubilation.

It is one among countless examples of how London 2012 organisers have paved the way in presenting Olympic events, preserving tradition for the die-hard fans but boosting enjoyment for those relatively new to Olympic sport.

Apart from the soundtrack, there was in-venue television and a better explanation of the rules as Locog grasped that for sports such as modern pentathlon and judo — and almost every Paralympic event — spectators needed to be guided through the action.

It is this flair for what is termed "sports presentation" that is most likely to be copied in future Games.

Mark Adams, director of communications at the International Olympic Committee, said: "London has changed the way non-sports people understand events and enhanced the general enjoyment. It's about lightening things up; changing the climate.

"But it's a fine balance between not taking yourself too seriously and upholding traditions — for example there were some complaints about the music on the first night at the stadium [organisers subsequently toned it down]. This was pioneered to some extent with the Youth Olympics. Rio will build on this because they are more in touch with their emotions."

He said the IOC had been impressed by the way the venues in the Olympic Park were "joined up" for visitors, with picnic areas in mature parkland, live bands and street performers. It is an experience that Locog may have taken for granted for people going to their first Games — but it is a world away from the bleak Olympic parks of Beijing and Athens.

Michael Payne, former marketing director of the IOC, who still acts as an adviser, said: "The whole entertainment, music and in-venue presentations were taken to a new level in London. This had a remarkable effect on the public's experience and the television spectacle.

"In previous Games there have always been teams assigned to look after the sponsors and the media but I'm not aware that any other Olympics has had a dedicated team looking after the spectators as a client group. It's something we identified eight years ago at the IOC, and Locog embraced it. Rio organisers left London looking at the importance of the atmosphere and the experience and how to keep the momentum going through to the Paralympics."

Payne believes other host cities will be influenced by how London brilliantly incorporated its world- famous sights into the Games — even if that meant suspending business as usual for millions of Londoners.

Horse Guards Parade was widely considered the best ever venue for Olympic beach volleyball, Greenwich Park was a memorable showcase for the city's maritime heritage as it hosted the equestrian events, and TV executives purred over images of Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park during the road cycling and open water swimming events.

Payne said: "London organisers realised that a great Games was not just about delivering on transport and telecommunications — to realise the magical potential of the event you have to work with the backdrop." He also praised the "seamless organisation" between all the key players — Locog, the Olympic Delivery Authority (the Government's Olympic construction agency), City Hall and the Government. This proved crucial in times of crisis, notably when thousands of soldiers were drafted in as G4S failed to train security guards in time.

Payne added: "To pull off the world's biggest sports event you need that partnership. You find that public and private sectors come together in a way that often is never again achieved.

"Although the controversy over G4S and security was something organisers stubbed their toe on, actually it will come to be seen as a positive thing because the problem arose but it was fixed quickly. It's a miracle because you are normally dealing with many more issues. There was the palaver of Atlanta [which was affected by security and corruption problems] and even before Sydney there were a lot more crises.

"The IOC pushes its knowledge-transfer scheme from one Games to another and here the London team understood its complexity. For the IOC it's always a challenge to get all the critical stakeholders on one page."

He added: "London had its whole legacy plan in place from the start — and that's something that didn't happen for Beijing but which we now insist on from bidding cities

"You have to say who is going to own the venues after the Games and, where that's not possible, build temporary venues. Most of the London arenas have their futures mapped out and if it turns out there are some white elephants from the Games, it won't be for lack of trying."

He added: "There is a different legacy from every Games — China is very different from Rio. Rio is a very difficult city to get around and so they have invested huge amounts there, whereas in London much of it was already in place.

"At every Games there's a sports legacy and this is two-fold. Seb Coe has always said the Games is a great shop window for getting people actively taking up sport. There's also the more tangible benefit of London hosting the Athletics World Championships in 2017 in the Olympic Stadium and the community cycling clubs that will move into the Velodrome."

Payne, who was instrumental in improving the IOC's fortunes in the Eighties, as documented in his book Olympic Turnaround, added: " Even though the protocol followed by Jacques Rogge prevented him from saying so at the closing ceremony, most commentators are agreed it was the greatest Games ever."

bottom of page