Aussie project management

the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

In the area of event project management, the Olympic Games rank as the premier achievement; all eyes will turn Down Under when Sydney, Australia, hosts the Games in September 2000.

by David Eager

AH, SPRINGTIME IN SYDNEY! Well, actually, it will be September, but Australians pride themselves on doing things a little differently. When the Olympic Games convene in New South Wales between Friday, 15 September, and Sunday, 1 October 2000, the world will be watching closely, and if all goes well, good project management practices will be entitled to take a bow.

Australia's bid, prepared by Sydney Olympics Bid Limited in close cooperation with the Australian Olympic Committee, centers on the theme “Share the Spirit.” It included a comprehensive set of environmental guidelines recognizing the principle of ecologically sustainable development. The guidelines promote energy conservation, water conservation, waste avoidance and minimization, protection of air, water, and soil from pollution, and protection of significant natural and cultural environments. It is estimated that during the period 1994–2004 the Olympics could add A$7.3 billion to Australia's Gross Domestic Product, create 150,000 full- and part-time jobs and bring an extra 1.3 million visitors to Australia.

Given the complexity and vast scale of the project, application of sound and exemplary project management techniques and principles is essential for the success of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Strict time constraints increase the difficulties of managing cost and quality. Finishing on time, keeping within budget, reaching the required quality will be the measures of success.

In preparation for the 2000 Olympic Games, refurbishment of existing facilities and construction of new sporting facilities is moving ahead at a rapid pace

In preparation for the 2000 Olympic Games, refurbishment of existing facilities and construction of new sporting facilities is moving ahead at a rapid pace.

Project Definition

Objective: To stage the Year 2000 Olympic Games at specified locations in Sydney.

Client: No clearly defined client. Activities are underwritten by the NSW Government. Many stakeholders and customers, e.g., citizens of New South Wales, the New South Wales Government, the Australian people, the International Olympic Organization, the international community as a whole, the athletes and Australian and international business communities.

Scope: Organizing all Games and ceremonies. Putting in place all technology and resources required to stage the Games. Handling public relations and fundraising.

Criteria for success: Trouble-free performance of Games. Level of public enthusiasm and enjoyment. Economic activity generated within NSW and Australia. Continued interest in future Olympic Games.

Project team: SOCOG was appointed as the project managers by legislation. Other organizations directly contributing to the success of the Games, such as the International Olympic Committee, Australian Olympic Committee, Sydney City Council, and Olympic Coordination Authority (New South Wales Government) have been made party to the Host City Contract. Olympic Coordination Authority is responsible for all the infrastructure projects, most of which are either already under way or are being reprogrammed to accommodate the Games. Completion of these projects on time is vital to the success of the Olympic Games.

WBS: The work breakdown structure for the project includes the following major areas: events; venues and facilities including accommodation; transport; media facilities and coordination; telecommunications; security arrangements; medical care; human resources including volunteers; cultural olympiad; pre-games training; information technology projects; opening and closing ceremonies; public relations; financing; test games and trial events; and sponsorship management and control of ambush marketing. Each of these items could be treated as a project in its own right. Precision coordination will be necessary to ensure that these, and therefore the entire Games project, are delivered on time.

The New South Wales Government underwrites the Games and is responsible for the provision of new permanent venues and facilities needed for the Games and support services, particularly in the areas of transport, security and health care. Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG), the state government's Olympic Coordination Authority, is undertaking the construction of new sporting facilities and refurbishment of existing facilities for the Games and is also responsible for staging the Games.

Sydney's Olympic plan is based on a commitment to provide the right conditions for athletes to perform at their optimum level. For the first time in Olympic history, all athletes will live together in one village, and many will be within walking distance of the venues for their events, which will take place in two main Olympic zones: Sydney Olympic Park at Homebush Bay and Sydney Harbor. Both zones are well serviced by public transport.

Test events in the years preceding the Olympic Games will allow venues to be tested; accreditation, transport, security, broadcasting, media and other services to be trial-run; and technical officials and volunteers to be trained.

Infrastructure Preparation for the Games

A significant number of Sydney's Olympic venues already exist. Additional facilities required for the Games will be constructed as part of the Homebush Bay redevelopment program. These include the construction of new sporting facilities, establishment of a new showground and major exhibition center, development of residential and retail areas, the establishment of a commercial center for high-technology industries, construction of an Olympic village to accommodate 10,000 athletes and team officials and a press center.

Recently completed major transport projects such as Sydney Harbor Tunnel and Glebe Island Bridge and major projects currently in progress such as a light rail system and a railway loop line to link the Olympic Park with the Sydney rail network will ensure an effective transport system for the Games.

Telecommunications infrastructure currently being established are considered sufficient to successfully service the international and domestic demand of the Games.

Sydney will require a volunteer workforce of 35,000 people for the smooth running of the Games.

The infrastructure construction, overseen by the Olympic Coordination Authority, is the responsibility of the government, while the scope of work of SOCOG is restricted to organization of the events. The Games budget in nominal terms is over 1.8 billion Australian dollars. ($US1.4 billion). There is an explicit need to control the cost of all its activities very carefully. Any major cost overruns will alienate the public and will have adverse effects on the success of the Games.

Critical Project Dimensions

Time, obviously, is the most critical dimension of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games project. Any shortcomings in the time dimension will have to be offset by sacrificing either cost or quality. However, performance on all three dimensions is vital for success.

Time Dimension. Delays in completion of infrastructure projects can be accommodated easily, as Sydney has sufficient infrastructure capacity either existing or under construction to cater an event of this magnitude. The criticality of the time dimension applies mainly to other activities and to timing of individual events, opening and closing ceremonies, and so on. Strategies adopted by SOCOG to ensure that the time dimension is achieved include frequent coordination meetings with the organizations and parties responsible for delivering the required items; setting target dates well in advance of the main event; designing test events; and trialing events as milestones for the critical items.

For the construction projects, estimation of the time dimension should be relatively straightforward. Critical path methods, precedence block diagrams and program evaluation and review are employed to control the uncertainties in the time dimension. Proper plans must be prepared for these construction activities and all persons affected by these programs should have an opportunity to comment on the plan. Instruments should be put in place to continually monitor the progress against the program. The program should include enough leeway, or float, to allow minor problems to be accommodated without causing major changes to the timing of the overall program. Elements that are expected to have the most impact on the program must be identified and defined as early as possible and an adequate series of milestones must be established to allow monitoring of the progress of the program.

Some nonconstruction projects such as developing the software program for monitoring the Games, progress and establishing the Games' database, and for dissemination of the information to general public have larger uncertainties inherent in the system.

Some new technologies for disseminating information to the public and the media may have to be developed. For example, the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games had a dedicated Internet facility to give public access to Games information. Rapid changes in Internet technologies make it difficult to predict possible technological advances until much closer to the event. It has been said that one Internet year is equivalent to seven Earth years, hence the two years ahead for Sydney 2000 Olympics is equivalent to 14 years of Internet development; quite a daunting time scale to anticipate. But anticipating and facing this is nevertheless necessary.

Cost Dimension. The cost estimates do not include infrastructure projects.

Sydney's Games budget is based on conservative assumptions and estimates of Games receipts and payments. Receipts are mainly from television rights and international and local participation. The financial planning process included:

Consultations with both national and international experts in the fields relevant to both receipts and payments

Consultations with the Barcelona Organizing Committee, the International Olympic Committee and the Australian Olympic Committee

Review and analysis of results and budgets from previous Games and bid candidature

Independent analysis of construction costs by quantity surveyors Rider Hunt

Independent review of the estimates by auditors Price Waterhouse.

Although the NSW Audit Office cost estimates appear to have been produced using appropriate methodologies it is still necessary to develop strict cost control mechanisms in order to keep the overall project costs to the minimum, especially since there are considerable uncertainties inherent in the nature of programs, such as events and ceremonies, which form the major portion of the Games budget. Tight interrelation of time and cost dimensions of these events means that any slippage in timing of the programming, training and testing of these activities could lead to large cost escalations.

The predicted rapid change in technology is highly likely to result in variations in requirements or design. While in some rare instances variations may be to a cost advantage, in general too many such changes are a major source of cost escalation and therefore undesirable.

Cost escalations would lead to disillusionment amongst the public and would diminish the public appeal of the Games, thus affecting public support and a vital source of volunteer Games staff. Any cost overrun will have to be met by the taxpayer, as the New South Wales Government has underwritten the Host City Contract. This could also become a major political issue. Maintaining the costs within budget is vital to the Games' success.

Quality Dimension. Wherever there is public involvement in large projects, there is demand for very high quality standards. “Good” quality is simply insufficient. The quality of the Games events will need to be “fit for purpose” and be will judged by absence of delays, precision timing of events, absence of traffic jams and holdups, and by perceptions of public safety and absence of incidents such as terrorism.

Unlike construction projects where quality can be clearly defined as, for example, conforming to strict environmental guidelines, projects such as the Games present difficulties in defining quality, particularly in the early stages of the development cycle. For example, quality of performances and ceremonies are likely to be measured on qualitative criteria such as audience appeal, precise orchestration or how spectacular they are—criteria which are not easy to quantify or to monitor in the early stages of the development cycle.

Quality requirements have been specified by the Intenational Olympic Committee in the Host City Contract. Environmental guidelines have been set down by the NSW Government. There are also public expectations about the quality and excellence the Olympic Games should achieve. In addition, SOCOG will set quality standards mainly in performing its duties and sponsors will demand certain quality standards. Some of these standards are at a conceptual stage, but will emerge as the project progresses. Each program component will have its own definition of quality and standards.

Closely controlled quality management processes and early identification of the possibility of failure are crucial to the success of the program. Several safeguards have been put in place both by the International Olympic Committee and the New South Wales Government to ensure that delivery of the Games is to an acceptable quality.

THE SYDNEY 2000 OLYMPIC GAMES is a venture that, by virtue of its large scale and nature, requires good time management and the control of all three project dimensions; namely, time, cost and quality.

All three dimensions of the project are interrelated and careful monitoring is needed at every stage of the project life cycle. The estimates of the initial bid were prepared carefully and thoroughly, with adequate checks and safeguards. During the bid stage and subsequent stages there was no leeway for varying the time dimension. This restriction, however, applies only to the delivery of the overall project. If the program is broken down to manageable items of work, the time dimension becomes something that can be manipulated. Careful programming and identifying proper milestones can improve the time management of the project.

The quality of the Games project is vital for its success. Quality control can be achieved using proven project management delivery techniques. Activities that have a very high correlation of time and quality should be identified early in the planning process and test methods developed. Quality is hard to impose on events such as performances, which involve subjective qualitative judgments. However, excellence can still be achieved with proper planning and commitment of the personnel involved.

The cost aspect of the project is closely interrelated to the time and quality aspects. If a compromise has to be made in the Olympic Games project, the cost aspect will be the first dimension sacrificed.

Trial games and test programs will serve to control all three dimensions. The planned trials in the coming years will be an excellent opportunity to monitor, control or correct any deficiencies in the project. ■

Note: This article is a revised version of David Eager's paper, “Sydney 2000 Olympic Games: A Project Management Perspective,” which appeared in the PMI 1997 Proceedings, pp. 227–231.

David Eager is a senior lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, and the director and subdean of the UTS Bachelor of Technology Programs. He teaches project management in the UTS Graduate School of Engineering, and also is the acoustic consultant for the Sydney 200 Olympic Games “green” bus project. His published works include the Dictionary of Acoustics, Noise and Vibration Terminology.

PM Network • September 1998