Project Management Institute

The story behind the games

the XV Olympic Winter Games and the X Pan American Games.

Showcase Project

The XV Olympic Winter Games and The X Pan American Games

Editor's Note: We are pleased to present reports of two very successful projects in this issue, the XV Olympic Winter Games held in 1988 in Calgary, Alberta and the X Pan American Games held in 1987 in Indianapolis, Indiana. By at least three measures, they were both successes. They each were conducted in accordance with schedule, within budget, and achieved their very different strategic purposes. In many ways these two events were very similar in nature and yet in some ways they were considerably different. (See the table below.)

We look behind the scenes of these two events for an understanding of what must be done to prepare and execute the smooth running spectacle that appears on the television screen.

In the report on the Pan American Games, two aspects are of special interest…the use of rehearsals to develop the project team and the emphasis on the use of volunteers and leadership style required. Perhaps the major lesson learned from this experience is the role of leadership style in motivating people to perform and just how motivated people become when guided by a mission in which they can believe.

The report on the Winter Olympics, while still recognizing the role of motivated people, stresses how the computer can be used to facilitate job completion and simplify the tasks for those preforming the work. It is in this role that computers have such great potential and for which they have often received the least recognition. For example, imagine the problems of maintaining security without computers at the same level as was achieved with computers! Imagine the possibilities of performing contingency analysis and planning without the aid of a modem computer based project planning and scheduling system!

The management of sports events of this magnitude has been changed dramatically by the experiences and successes of these two events. Those involved should feel proud indeed of their contribution to the practice of project management. We are grateful to be able to share their experience. We are also grateful to the authors for providing the reports.

Duration (days) 16 19
Sports 30 32
Nations 57 38
Athletes 1,500 4,360
Accredited Attendees (est'd) 40,000 48,531
Volunteers 10,000 30,000
Spectators 1,500,000 947,000
Buses 600 430

The XV Olympic Winter Games:


by: Robert G. Holland, Managing Director, Project Software Canada, Calgary Alberta.

To the two billion television viewers around the world, the Calgary 1988 XV Winter Olympic Games were “games.” But to those responsible for organizing and coordinating the 16 day extravaganza, the games aspect of the Olympics paled before the massive planning, scheduling and information handling requirements.

The XV Olympiad engaged nearly 2,000 athletes from 57 countries in 129 competitive events, attracted over 1.5 million spectators, was covered by over 5,000 journalists, and was run by a staff of 600 professionals complemented by 10,000 volunteers. “The project was very complex, but our approach was simple,” reports Frank King, chairman of the XV Olympic Games Organizing Committee (OCO'88). “We ran it in an organized business-like way. We hired good people, we planned extensively, and we had sufficient resources.”


The spectre of Montreal's experience was on everyone's mind when Frank King came on board as full-time Chairman in 1986. Rumors were circulating in the press about the staggering debt Calgary would be forced to assume after the games were over.

King, who spearheaded the successful drive to bring the Games to Calgary, and Bob Niven, who subsequently became vice chairman of the OCO'88's Board of Directors, were committed to make the Calgary Games the best ever, and to ensuring that no cost overruns—not even one dollar—would occur. Rather, they wanted to leave splendid memories and sporting facilities and a legacy to fund the facilities' maintenance.

A skier checks the time clock before starting down the slope during a preliminary race at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games

A skier checks the time clock before starting down the slope during a preliminary race at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games.

PSDI Supports Calgary Olympics

The OCO'88 project team included a number of engineers who had considerable experience with and understood the potential of modern project management scheduling software. Therefore, a request for proposal was issued to providers of project management services. The winner of this competition was Project Software & Development Inc. (PSDI) of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Under the arrangement PSDI provided OCO'88 an estimated $1 million (Canadian) of products and services. In turn, PSDI was designated, and could promote itself, as the official supplier of project management services to the XV Olympic Winter Games.

It was a classic opportunity for PSDI to demonstrate the versatility of their product as well as modern project management planning and scheduling software on this non-traditional project and, by implication, its applicability to a wide range of other project endeavors.

PSDI provided Project/2 for the mainframe computer application and multiple copies of QWIKNET Professional for use on the PCs used by the various functional and venue managers. The inherent compatibility of these two packages made it a simple matter for the individual managers to plan their part of the action, status their sub-project, conduct “what-if” scenarios for contingency planning, and transfer their data into the Project/2 environment for analysis and reporting across all elements of the entire project.

Experienced, highly successful businessmen, King and Niven had brought their organizational skills and expertise in developing a sound business plan to bear on the extremely competitive process of winning the bid. Their approach also included an emotional appeal to athletic associations to “Share the Dream.” After winning the bid to the International Olympic Committee, they turned their attention to the execution of this major sports event.

Gordon Coates, general manager of engineering and construction, recollects that “for a while, we just had a bunch of able dreamers. Computer Based Project Planning and Scheduling (CBPPS) as a scheduling tool brought in the practicality. We could see what people were doing versus what they had promised. CBPPS gave management the comfort they were looking for.”

“Planning was a big part of the success, no question,” explained Chairman King, “The more complex the project is the more essential the planning is.”

King said, “The first item of business at our weekly executive team meetings was looking over the planning reports. We examined what milestones were missed and discussed what we were going to do about them.” When the organizing group members saw the milestone reports, they “felt in control of the ship, and it was doing just fine.” In fact OCO'88 raised $930 million, almost four times their original projection. After all expenses, OCO'88 left legacies to Calgary of $500 million in world class sporting facilities all paid for, including the Olympic Oval and Canada Olympic Park, and $250 million in sports contributions to maintain the facilities.


CBPPS experience in previous games. While the use of computer based network approach to project planning and scheduling seems to be a logical approach to managing a project of the magnitude, complexity, and resources of an Olympic games, the Calgary games represent the first time such a system has been used successfully from planning to completion of the games.

Graphic demonstration of Project/2, a computerized project management system used to schedule the Olympic Winter Games in Calgary

Graphic demonstration of Project/2, a computerized project management system used to schedule the Olympic Winter Games in Calgary

“They tried project management in the 1984 Los Angeles Games,” reports John Rickards, Olympic Supervisor of Scheduling. “But when they applied the software's logic, it showed that the games would occur two years later than the scheduled date. The Committee retained the list of activities, but instead of finding out which ones could be done in parallel, the organizers manually put in dates for the activities that would meet their deadlines.”

“In fact, they threw the baby out with the bath water. The experience of the project being calculated late is not new to any project manager. The trick is to assess die durations to make it come out where you want.”

“If we had tried to plan the Olympics as a singular task, we could have failed,” Rickards believes. “By breaking down the games into several areas that could be planned, scheduled and managed with the help of a computerized project management system, we were able to control the project and not have it control us.”

CBPPS played a vital role in the planning stages of the Olympics,” recalls OCO'88 President Bill Pratt, who was in charge of day-to-day implementation. “I admit I was skeptical about computerized project management at the beginning, but the games made a believer out of me.”

Not a Traditional Project

Planning and scheduling played a major role in the Olympics, but not necessarily in the customary way. “The philosophy was that each manager should plan ahead, but should do it his own way,” scheduling supervisor Rickards recalls.

Fearing that putting plans on paper could breed a slavish adherence to them and stymie creativity, financial vice president Peter Bradbury was among the top managers who initially resisted too much reliance on CBPPS. He, too, became a believer. CBPPS contributed resoundingly to the success of the Olympics.

“We believed that the 50 program managers were responsible for planning,” Bradbury relates. “The staff schedulers were catalysts, but the managers did their own planning. We got a lot of mileage that way in terms of commitment and involvement from the managers.”

Using both PCs and mainframe computers was significant. “If you can induce a manager to use the software to create his own plan himself on a box on his desk, then you have it made,” continues Bradbury. Planning done on the managers' PCs could be uploaded to the mainframe system to integrate schedules and resource requirements.

According to Rickards, “Every manager that came aboard had a visit from me within the first week. I would explain what our services were, and that we were here to help them make things happen.”

Bradbury and Rickards agree that the key to success for project management at the Calgary Games was being flexible, doing for each manager what needed to be done. At the initial briefings, Rickards would help the manager look for a convenient way to break down the projects and to think about what reports and considerations would be needed. “It was like running 50 projects, all with different styles. If we had been running a program with 45 different sub-networks in the normal manner, we could have pressed a button at the end of the month and come up with an integrated summary report. We made a lot of work for ourselves. We had to update all 50 program reports individually and at different times.”

No Hidden Agendas

John Russell, vice president of technology, found that two features made planning and implementing the Olympics easier than other projects he has worked on. “First, there was a realization that it was going to come off on this date, whether we were ready or not. Second, it was a little like putting a man on the moon as far as the ability to focus the team on the objective: the best games ever within budget constraints.”


Whenever there are as many people involved in an event as are in the Olympic Games, including athletes, officials, team support members, Games support people, and spectators, the number of things that can go wrong are many and varied. As the time for the Games approached, more and more time was spent in contingency planning. “What-if” scenarios were examined to anticipate a variety of likely, less-likely, and downright unlikely happenstances. What happens, for instance if high winds force a rescheduling of a ski jumping event? Plans to deal with this and about every other conceivable eventuality were developed.

The Chinook Winds

The biggest concern was that a major snowstorm would close off access to Nakiska, the site of the Alpine skiing events. In fact, as the world watched, Calgary experienced balmy temperatures and some of its windiest February days in over 20 years. The weather caused the rescheduling of over 20 events, some of them twice.

“We all knew at the end we'd have crisis management,” said Peter Bradbury, vice president of finance, to whom the scheduling department reported during the Games. Our objective was to plan as much as we could ahead of time so that we weren't putting out fires.”


Supervisor of scheduling John Rickards recalls that “we had a print out for every day by venue, minute by minute, and a complete set of drawings of every site, building and room.” Using a giant computer plot, the team made the necessary decisions after assessing the impact of each change.

The unflappable city of Calgary with its positive-minded organizing committee took the Chinook winds in stride—and the games went on.

Extensive Research

An undeniable factor of Calgary's success was the extensive research the organizing committee undertook on every facet of the Olympics.

To schedule the entire Winter Games, the 129-event, 16-day Olympics was broken down into 15-minute periods. OCO'88 sent people to similar types of competitions all over the world for the timing of events, award presentations and such maintenance activities as flooding rinks. Short track speed skating was even segmented into 1-minute intervals for planning purposes.

Meticulous scheduling was necessary to ensure that 2,300 to 2,600 competitors, members of royalty and government officials were at the right place at the right time. Royalty could not be kept waiting! Nor could the two billion television viewers who tuned in to such exciting competitions as alpine and nordic skiing, ice hockey, luge, and ski jumping.

It was also important to plan for support staff at each event and for sufficient medical and security personnel as crowds shifted from competition to competition.

In fact, more than 30,000 activities connected with staging the Olympics were planned, scheduled and managed with the help of computerized project management.

CBPPS System Selection Criteria

There were a number of criteria involved in specifying the CBPPS system. It was estimated that the entire project would result in excess of 30,000 activities being defined. Turnaround time had to be consistent with processing this number of activities quickly for both “what if” analyses and the anticipated schedule change analysis to resolve operating problems during the conduct of the games.

Flexibility of coding was essential to permit identification of each of the sports, the venue involved and the person responsible. Alpha-numeric coding was desired to keep the number of coding digits to a minimum.

Customized reports were important to permit individual managers to extract reports relevant to the specific problem they were trying to resolve, such as cross-country skiing at the Kenmore Nordic Center.

John Rickards, supervisor of scheduling for the Olympic Winter Games in Calgary

John Rickards, supervisor of scheduling for the Olympic Winter Games in Calgary

A combined PC/mainframe compatibility was desired to permit the various managers to develop and analyze their own networks at home or at a remote site and yet permit them to be uploaded into the mainframe system.

In addition, it was desired to have activity tracking capabilities and quality graphics presentations of the data. Charts were able to communicate more information, in a more understandable manner, to the large number of persons involved in this project.

As a result of these capabilities, says Rickards, “We could get answers in one to two hours, depending on the complexity of the question, and we were making more informed decisions.”

The software that was selected was PSDI's Project/2 for the mainframe and QWIKNET for the PCs. The main frame computer used was an IBM 3081 owned by Imperial Oil LTD in Calgary.


It is generally agreed that project planning and scheduling via network based CBPPS is at most 10% of the job of managing projects. This was well recognized in the Calgary Olympics' success. Both Pratt and King put people first. “There's no doubt in my mind that all the modern management tools are important,” Pratt says. “But people using their brains is more important. The combination is what made the Olympics work.”

In addition to the CBPPS system, OCO'88 installed an extensive network of computer support which assisted the “people using their brains” in many ways. This system was called INFO'88. The objective for this system was to operate with a three second response time window. It consisted of an IBM 3090 mainframe serving as the hub of 625 IBM PCs located at virtually all venues. An IBM 3081 was provided as a backup unit. The software, with the exception of the E-mail system, was also provided by IBM, also an official sponsor of the Winter Games. They provided a team of 60 engineers to support this operation.

All of these computer systems were connected via a broadband network and carried TV images as well as data. The television footage for the entire program of the XV Winter Games was produced by the Canadian Television Network and sold to TV networks around the world. They in turn edited the footage, added commentary and other audio, and transmitted it on their own time schedules to viewers around the world.

Users unfamiliar with the system's operation were able to obtain assistance from volunteers stationed at each terminal. Access to the network was available to all accredited people including media representatives, members of the various national Olympic committees, staff, volunteers, and officials.

INFO'88 was a multifunction data distribution system providing up-to-the-minute information in several major areas.

Results reporting. Information on the order of competitors in each event; intermediate, unofficial, and official results; and a report on medal winners for all 14 sporting events. Unlike the Summer Games, where head-to-head competition is the norm and winners and losers are usually obvious, the Winter Games tend to emphasize individual performances. Competitions such as skiing, figure skating, sledding, and ski jumping depend heavily on computers to track and report performance figures, scores and rankings.

Athlete profiles. Biographical information, prior competitive history (Olympics, World Championships, World Cup, and National Championships), color commentary, and interview notes.

Security. Using bar-coded identification badges, access to all controlled areas by the some 30,000 accredited members of the Olympic Family was limited to those authorized to be in that area at that time. The information on which access to an area was permitted was downloaded from the central computer to each reader permitting access to be changed or extended at any time. Lost passes were invalidated for all areas as soon as the loss was reported. This type of security was especially vital to minimize the chances of another occurrence such as happened at the 1972 Munich Games.

E-Mail. A messaging network, developed by Sytek, provided E-Mail communications and electronic bulletin board facilities for all participants involved. The system featured a virtual port architecture, making it much simpler to handle the changing patterns of user needs and locations as the Games progressed. A Motorola paging system was interfaced with this system to gain the attention of key personnel wherever they were.

“Smart” telephone directory. A system through which some 350 telephone operators were able to locate athletes, media representatives, staff, or volunteers by name, job description, and scheduled activity.

Schedule information. Current schedules for all events, an essential capability due to the possibility of schedule changes.

Weather conditions. Vital information for participants and spectators alike to be able to dress properly and make other preparations that were weather dependent.

Transportation scheduling. Since the Winter Games took place at venues over a wide area and event schedules were subject to changes due to weather, delays in the events, and many other factors, this was a vital function. Some 600 buses were interactively scheduled, often to meet special requests of members of the Olympic Family.

Administrative applications. In addition to these “dramatic” applications, the computer system was used for a variety of administrative applications including accounting, supplies inventory, accommodations assignments, ticket sales, reservations, and many others.


Olympic Organizing Committee Chairman Frank King and his staff deserve a gold medal for their superb application of organizational and planning techniques. While King is credited with almost magical motivational skills, he demurs. “The project itself was the motivator. There is no other 16-day event in the world that generates the kind of powerful and positive feelings that this project does. You can rally the world around this project. People came together. They lit candles and hugged each other.”

International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch had promised the Winter Games would be the best ever. And that's exactly what the City of Calgary delivered—on time and under budget.


As impressively as computerized scheduling contributed to the success of the XV Olympic Winter Games, the last year—the “crunch” time—would have gone more smoothly if the formal CPM planning process had received more emphasis by top management earlier than it did. When Frank King came aboard full time, this formal planning across all departments and levels of management, received much more attention than previously. Although scheduling supervisor, John Rickards was one of the first 20 employees hired, top management commitment to detail planning did not materialize until much later. Defining activities in more detail in some areas may have helped to avoid a number of mini-crisis that cropped up in the harried months before the Olympics actually started in February 1988. Additionally, formal resource scheduling or estimating could have been effectively used.

Twenty-twenty hindsight also allows us to observe that the XV Olympic Winter Games were an enormous success by all measures. Knowing that good planning methodology and Project/2 contributed to this success is very gratifying.


Robert G. Holland is the Managing Director of Project Software Canada, a sister company of Project Software & Development, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts. Based in Calgary, Bob was responsible for ensuring that the project management information system needs of the ’88 Olympic Winter Games management team were met with PROJECT/2 and its associated support services. Bob has been a member of PMI since 1975. He is a past president and a founding member of the Southern Alberta Chapter of PMI. In 1982 he was recognized by PMI as an Outstanding Chapter President.

The X Pan American Games

by Lee Peters, PETERS & Company and Ray M. Shortridge, Ernst & Whinney


The Pan American Sports Organization (PASO), an arm of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is responsible for staging the Pan American games every four years. The Games feature the finest amateur athletes from thirty-eight countries in the Western hemisphere and is the largest international amateur event in the world second only to the Olympics.

PASO, headquartered in Mexico City, reviews bids to host the Games from interested cities/countries. The selected city/country forms a local organizing committee for planning, organizing, and operating the services and logistical systems necessary for the competition. The technical officials from the International Federation (IF) for each of the sports conduct the competition.

To provide time for the necessary planning and preparation required for an event of this magnitude, PASO grants the Games five years prior to the competition. The IX Pan American Games were held in 1983 in Caracas. In the preceding year, following a norm, PASO accepted Chile's bid to hold the X Pan American Games in 1987. Because of economic and political conditions, two years later, Chile notified PASO that it could not carry through with the project. PASO, then, granted the Games to Ecuador. After a few months of work, Ecuador also notified PASO that it could not possibly host the Games.


IF International Federation
IOC International Olympic Committee
MPC Main Press Center
NOC National Olympic Committee
PASO Pan American Sports Organization
PAX/I PAX/Indianapolis, The X Pan American Games/Indianapolis local organizing committee
USOC United States Olympic Committee


Games Year Host City/Country Nations Sports Athletes
I 1951 Buenos Aires, Argentina 21 19 2,513
II 1955 Mexico City, Mexico 22 17 2,258
III 1959 Chicago, IL, USA 24 18 2,263
IV 1963 Sao Paulo, Brazil 22 19 1,165
V 1967 Winnipeg, Manitoba, CA 29 19 2,361
VI 1971 Cali, Columbia 32 17 2,935
VII 1975 Mexico City, Mexico 33 19 3,146
VIII 1979 San Juan, Puerto Rico 34 22 3,700
IX 1983 Caracas, Venezuela 36 25 3,800
X 1987 Indianapolis, In, USA 38 30 4,360

At this point, PASO turned to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and queried whether a US city could successfully plan, organize, and operate the Games within the critically short time remaining. The USOC, because Indianapolis successfully hosted the National Sports Festival, a USOC-sponsored event, recommended the city to PASO. With only about two and one half years to prepare, PASO granted the X Pan American Games to the Indianapolis local organizing committee, PAX/Indianapolis (PAX/I).


Indianapolis wanted to host the Games because its economic development strategy highlights amateur athletics. Almost a decade ago, the city perceived that amateur athletics was a growth sector and that hosting such events would benefit its entertainment and tourism-related industries. Moreover, the media attention devoted to those events would serve to promote generally the reputation and image of the city and provide an advantage in competing with other cities in attracting new businesses.

The strategic purpose, then, in hosting the X Pan American Games was to promote Indianapolis. Following from this strategic purpose, the mission for PAX/I was to conduct the Games and manage the services for key client groups in order to reflect creditably upon the city. (Table 3)

PETERS & Company Engineering and Management Services, Inc. is a consulting firm with more than a decade of serving a variety of clients on commercial, industrial and military construction projects including multi-million dollar papermills. The story of one of their clients, the Tenth Pan American Games, is reported in this article. They consult with all levels of management in the areas of leadership, innovation and change, frequently addressing such issues as quality, growth, productivity, systems, projects and costs. PETERS & Company is located in Indianapolis, Indiana.


The Strategic Purpose

…. to promote Indianapolis!

The Mission

…. to conduct the Games and manage the services for key client groups in order to reflect creditably on the city!

The Strategic Objectives

…. to ensure:

1. a favorable print and electronic media presentation of the games and the city;

2. a favorable impression of the city and its sports industry by dignitaries who control international amateur athletics; and

3. an efficient operation of the services and logistical systems that supported the competition.

For the PAX/I planners and managers, the strategic objectives were to ensure (1)a favorable print and electronic media presentation of the Games and the city; (2) a favorable impression of the city and its sports industry by the dignitaries who control international amateur athletics; and (3) an efficient operation of the services and logistical systems that supported the competition.

To fulfill these objectives, PAX/I needed to cater effectively to the needs of three essential groups of attendees—the print and electronic media, the dignitaries, and the participants.


The most critical population attending the X Pan American Games was the print and broadcast media. They would publicize the Games and the city to the rest of the world. PAX/I accredited 2562 media people with 700 coming from other countries.

The Main Press Center (MPC), containing 75,000 square feet of floor space, housed services for all print media. PAX/I's strategy entailed modeling the MPC on the Press Center for the Los Angeles Olympics, adjusted for the fewer number of correspondents who were to attend the Pan American Games. Accordingly, PAX/I accredited all media representatives at the MPC and provided the following services:

  • private work areas for the wire services and large news agencies, such as U.S.A. Today and USOC media relations team;
  • a public work area for other correspondents, equipped with typewriters, telephones, and telex;
  • film development and printing services;
  • camera rental and repair;
  • media hospitality with food and refreshments;
  • a video tape library and viewing area;
  • personal services such as travel, rental car, vending, refreshments, and luggage checking;
  • distribution of results;
  • conduct news conferences; and
  • release extensive copy about the competition.

A Broadcast Center, housed in a separate building, provided feeds and tapes for the television broadcasting companies. PAX/I acted as the host broadcaster and hired a production company to provide feeds for CBS and the international rights holders. CBS owned all domestic rights to the Games. PAX/I negotiated with international television media for feeds on specific events and produced competition tapes for local stations.

The venue press centers served the media on the sports and village sites. These press centers provided results, information, work area, telephones, typewriters, photocopying, FAX, interviews, photography areas, and broadcast coordination. The press centers were also responsible for reproducing and distributing results at the venue and transmitting them to the MPC and the Broadcast Center.

A shuttle bus service operated between the Main Press Center and the venues, the media hotels, and the airport.


Because the media was the most influential of all the populations, PAX/I had to deliver its services efficiently and courteously - poorly delivered services could lead a disgruntled journalist to bias their coverage of the event and the city. Moreover, PAX/I needed to provide the media with the information that PAX/I wanted the world to receive. Other organizations were also competing for the attention of the media, and they frequently manifested great sophistication in influencing the media to obtain favorable coverage.

To ensure excellent service for the correspondents, the MPC and the venue press centers were carefully staffed, planned, and rehearsed. PAX/I managers planned, reviewed, coordinated, and tested every aspect of the services given to the media.

The MPC operated with a high level of excellence in the services provided to the media. The accreditation process worked efficiently. The media accreditation staff pre-processed 2921 applications for credentials and, at the MPC, badged the 2562 journalists who covered the Games. The journalists came from 34 countries and represented 1500 news organizations.

Courtesy of Showmasters

Courtesy of Showmasters

The transportation system provided air conditioned 40 passenger buses although, upon occasion, the bus transported only two or three journalists at a time. The transportation system was over-sized for the population. Most journalists rented cars because the bus system did not allow them to go across venues (it was a radial system) nor did it run at all hours.

When confronted by a controversy, PAX/I executives chose not to make interim statements about the situation. As a consequence, PAX/I released few statements to the media while resolving problem situations. This forced the media to look to other sources for the stories, sources who did not necessarily have PAX/I's objectives in mind when they talked with the media.


The second population targeted for special treatment was the dignitaries who would be attending the Games and the attendant social and amateur athletics governance functions. PAX/I awarded the dignitary status to those who could influence the city's future success in soliciting significant amateur athletic events. The mission was to provide the necessary services that dignitaries expect and to conduct the Games in an exemplary manner.

Accordingly, the leadership of the international amateur sports industry (the International Olympic Committee, the Pan American Sports Organization, the International Federation's for the sports, the National Governing Bodies (NGB) for the sports, and the National Olympic Committees (NOC) of the participating countries) were accorded dignitary status. PAX/I also granted dignitary status to selected high level officials in the city, state, and national governments. In total PAX/I recognized 1361 dignitaries.

PAX/I adopted the strategy of providing the dignitaries with a level of service that was comparable to that provided during the 1984 Olympics. As a result, for the dignitaries, PAX/I coordinated hotel reservations; provided free ground transportation to and from the airport; recognized the people as dignitaries and issued them highly visible VIP accreditation badges; provided free chauffeured ground transportation; assigned interpreters for the elite among the dignitaries; reserved free seats at the competition venues; provisioned hospitality centers at the competition venues; and granted access to the Pan American Village.

Risk Management

PAX/I needed to manage three major risks associated with the dignitaries. First, in providing personal services to hundreds of individuals from international elite groups, there are no well-defined performance criteria for the quantity and quality of the services delivered. Second, the resources available for the services (e.g. the number of sedans, access to the hospitality buffets, number of simultaneous interpreters) were finite so that relatively scarce resources had to be allocated to very status-conscious individuals. Third, the dignitaries were members of organizational networks (e.g. the PASO Congress, the Executive Committee for each IF) which enabled them to communicate formally and informally among themselves and also directly through official channels to the media.

The operating plan called for enveloping the dignitary within the service system immediately upon their arrival at the airport. Volunteers staffed wel-coming stations at the airport and identified the dignitaries, escorted them to the luggage claim area, ensured that they received their luggage (or dealt with the airline procedures for lost luggage), and escorted them to the correct PAX/I bus.


1. Ambiguity of performance criteria
2. Meeting expectations of status conscious individuals
3. Dignitaries' access to media
Courtesy of Showmasters

Courtesy of Showmasters

The PAX/I transportation department operated a bus system which had a depot at the airport. The technical officials were transported by bus to Butler University; and the other dignitaries were taken to the hotel serving as the headquarters for PASO.

The 814 PASO dignitaries were housed in the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Upon their arrival, PAX/I accredited the dignitaries and then assisted them through the hotel registration formalities. PAX/I coordinated the advance registration of the dignitaries. The various IF's and the NOC's as well as the Pan American Congress held numerous meetings. PAX/I coordinated the scheduling of conference rooms and provided interpretation and translation services for these organizations. PAX/I maintained a fleet of 140 sedans in a parking garage adjacent to the hotel. The transportation managers assigned the sedans, driven by volunteers, to dignitaries from an office in the HQ. PAX/I did not have responsibility for providing meals for the PASO dignitaries.

The 547 technical officials were housed in a university dormitory and were fed at PAX/I's expense both breakfast and the evening meal in the university cafeteria. The officials were provided a $5.00 per day cash stipend or a box lunch for the noon meal which was eaten on the competition sites. PAX/I accredited the technical officials and provided language and public information services in the offices contiguous to the cafeteria. The transportation depot for buses and sedans was located in front of the cafeteria.

The Official Village was a marked success. PAX/I conducted two rehearsals for this facility—a manager's exercise that required the senior management team to portray their vision of the village and its operations and, later, a talk-through rehearsal that required the middle level managers to explain in detail how they intended to implement the vision. Consequently, the volunteers had a clear sense of their mission and how they were going to carry out their mission.

PAX/I contracted with Butler University for the maintenance of the dormitory rooms and meal preparation. The PAX/I transportation department planned, managed, and operated the bus and care systems. The PAX/I volunteers accomplished their mission, the transportation system functioned effectively, and Butler University provided it services efficiently and courteously.

The managers of the services provided to the dignitaries had several opportunities to rehearse prior to the Games. PAX/I assisted in hosting the United States Olympic Committee House of Delegates meeting in April, 1987, and the Hemispheric Economic Leadership Conference in June, 1987. As a consequence, the managers and many of the rank and file volunteers were able to refine their procedures in advance and had a realistic view of their responsibilities and how they were going to operate.

The operations of the dignitary services went exceedingly well. The dignitaries were received at the airport and the transportation system conveyed them to the HQ Hotel. PAX/I had sufficient capacity in its sedan fleet to accommodate the demands placed upon it - and the dignitaries invariably lauded the courtesy of the volunteer drivers. Although the city does not have a large Hispanic population, the number of Spanish-speaking volunteers was adequate to provide the required translation and interpretation services. The dignitaries reported that PAX/I furnished a level of service that exceeded that of prior Pan American Games and most of the previous Olympic Games.

Although the operations went exceptionally well, PAX/I was less successful in controlling the communications between the dignitaries and the media. The risk lay in the ability and even eagerness of the various organizations to hold a press conference to express a complaint publicly rather than working with PAX/I to resolve a problem. During the three to four day adjustment period immediately prior to the competition, the PASO Congress, the PASO Executive Committee and a few National Olympic Committees tended to control the media's agenda for news coverage. PAX/I had not fully realized the true measure of this risk and, consequently, received an undue measure of adverse publicity during that period.

Courtesy of Showmasters

Courtesy of Showmasters


The third population targeted for special treatment was the participants of the Games. The mission was to provide the services that are normally provided to the participants in world class sporting events and achieve an outstanding level of performance in delivering those services. “Participants” included the:

  • athletes,
  • delegations' administrative cadre
    • - Chief of Mission,
    • - deputies,
    • - physicians,
    • - trainers,
    • - masseurs and masseuses,
    • - ferriers,
    • - armourers,
    • - fletchers,
    • - public information officers, and
    • - security staff,
  • coaching staff.

Under the terms of its agreement with PASO, PAX/I provided the 6061 participants with housing accommodations and meals. Accordingly, PAX/I negotiated successfully with a cooperative Department of the Army for using residence and office facilities at Fort Benjamin Harrison. PAX/I developed a Pan American Village complex that supplemented the Army's dormitories with a large tented dining facility; additional tents for entertainment; a “main street” shopping district with concessionaire's selling snacks, toiletries, clothing, souvenirs, and personal services; and a track and field practice area.

PAX/I also provided bus transportation for the participants utilizing a fleet that on a typical day amounted to more than 430 buses. Upon the participant's arrival, the bus system transported the participants and their luggage from the airport to the Main Accreditation Center where they were accredited and then to Village. Daily, the bus system transported participants to competition venues, to social events, and to shopping malls near the Village. Sedans with drivers were also assigned to delegations for the use of the Chief of Mission and his staff.

The major risks involved transportation and food. Major problems in supporting the athletes in these areas could jeopardize the competition and would be immediately reported to the world through the media. This would tarnish the city's reputation as a host for significant athletic events. PAX/I sought to minimize these risks by contracting with experienced firms for these critically essential services.

It was absolutely imperative that the transportation system get the athletes to the competition on time. A systemic failure would lead to the disqualification of athletes, acrimonious official protests, frantic rescheduling of events, a last minute shuffling of the television offerings—in short, a general collapse of the Competition.

PAX/I's transportation managers developed a preliminary view of the requirements for the participant transportation system. PAX/I drew upon the congressionally mandated Department of Defense support and requested the assistance of experienced professional planers from the Military Transport Management Command (MTMC). MTMC refined the preliminary view into a statement of work for a contract which DOD awarded to a subsidiary of Mayflower Corporation. The contractor, under the guidance of MTMC and PAX/I transportation managers, provided the vehicles, drivers, dispatchers, and planners and operated the bus system.

The transportation group succeeded in its mission—not one athlete was late for competition. However, two factors created considerable difficulty for the transportation group to carry out its mission. First, the competition schedule dictated the bus schedule, but the competition schedule was subject to change up to the last minute. The causes of these changes (such as, a delegation deciding not to send a team in a certain sport or the decision by the IF to change starting times) were beyond PAX/I's control.

Successful Pursuit of a Strategic Purpose

Did the Pan American Games succeed in fulfilling the expectations of the strategic purpose of the City of Indianapolis? The strategic purpose was to promote Indianapolis as a sports minded community where major sports competitions are welcomed. While no claim is made of a direct relationship between the conduct of the Tenth Pan American Games and the following, they are offered as evidence that the community is perceived as intended.

  • The city is home to national governing bodies for six sports and to the only international sports federation located in the U.S.
  • Indianapolis conducted more Olympic trials in 1988 than any other city in the U.S.
  • Several city leaders have noted the increased international credibility of Indianapolis.
  • The city has been designated a National Olympic Training Center.
  • The factors required to generate a $175 million return on the Games were met or exceeded.
  • The city has hosted or conducted a number of major events during the past three years as follows:
1987 1988 1989
Olympic Trials - 5 -
International Sports Events 1 3 2
National Sports Events 7 7 11
Unique Events 13 21 20

In addition, Indianapolis has been chosen to host the:

1991 NCAA Basketball Championships,

1991 PGA Golf Championship,

1991 World Gymnastics Championships, and

1994 World Rowing Championships.

Second, of the 6061 participants, approximately sixteen hundred were not athletes. In prior Pan American Games, the delegations brought an entourage with a ratio of one non-athlete for each five athletes. Applied to the 4500 athletes projected by the NOC's, this ratio led PAX/I to expect about 900 non-athletes. The operating plans for both the Pan American Village and the transportation system assumed a total participant population of 5400 people, not the 6061 people who actually arrived.

PAX/I's strategy with feeding the participants was also designed to minimize the risk by contracting with an experienced firm in the business. Through a sponsorship agreement, ARA, Inc. planned, managed, and prepared the meals at the Village and the box lunches for participants who would be competing during the noon period. The widespread view at the end of the Games was that ARA and the food suppliers had provided the Pan American Village with superb meal service in terms of quantity of food available, breadth of cultures and types of food in the array, and the attractiveness of the food's presentation.


It became evident that all issues would not be identified and solved before the games started. To handle the unanticipated problems, a multilevel problem resolution system was planned, organized, staffed, trained, and deployed. Moreover, PAX/I utilized a communications system that incorporated telephone, radio, and pagers to link the people vertically and horizontally.

The nerve center of the problem resolution system was a twenty-four hour operation control center staffed by representatives from each PAX/I operations department. A full-time Games Manager ran the day shift while others on rotation covered the nights.

A second tier was Venue Operations Liaisons (VOL). PAX/I assigned each VOL to a specific venue to help resolve any problems that the Sports Commissioner or his staff wanted resolved. The VOL's were trained in PAX/I operations, and they participated in rehearsals of the support venues.

The third tier of problem resolution was the use of Rovers. These people moved from venue to venue resolving problems. They were also detailed to resolve specific problems.

An excellent voice communication system contributed greatly to the resolution of problems. PAX/I volunteers and staff were able quickly to contact a person who had the information and knowledge required to resolve the problem. More than 1300 telephones were installed for PAX/I's use at the competition venues and support facilities. Several hundred key people carried beepers. PAX/I operated six radio nets—executive, site, transportation, medical, media, and security—with more than 1000 radios in use.

An observation about problem resolution throughout the Games was that people would not go on witch hunts for someone to hang with the blame. Instead, they simply wanted to resolve the problem in the quickest way possible and get on with business. Through the rehearsal process, PAX/I management set the example of focusing on solving problems, not finding fault or assigning blame.


PAX/I general management used rehearsals to set a high performance standard for the staff and volunteers to attain during the Games. The rehearsals tested the preparation of the various support venues; accelerated the preparation of all departments; and communicated management's concern about the importance of being ready.

This process put the support venue management staff through a series of rehearsals, each more complex and demanding than the previous. PAX/I rehearsed all the support venues, the material and transportation systems, and tested the information system technologies. (See Table 5)

The first rehearsal was a briefing by one or two senior managers of all aspects of the venue.

The second was a briefing by the functional area managers on all aspects of their operations. An executive group critiqued both rehearsals. Both the presentations and the critiques were video taped.



a briefing by senior manager(s) on all aspects of the venue.

Second      KEY PEOPLE

a briefing by the functional area managers on all aspects of their operations.


a simulation by functional managers resolving issues similar to those that could be expected to arise during the Games.

Fourth      ALL HANDS

a simulation at the actual venue site with the management cadre staffing that venue being confronted with exception-type problems while managers attempted to conduct routine business.

The third level of rehearsal was a manager's exercise. The functional mangers were put in a simulated environment and were given issues to resolve similar to those that could be expected to arise during the Games. Rehearsal coordinators recorded all communications and matched them to the exercise problem. In this exercise, the people critiqued themselves on the video tape.

The fourth level of rehearsal was conducted at the actual venue site, if it were available, with the cadre of people who would be working at the venue. Real people confronted the venue managers and their staffs with exception-type problems while the mangers attempted to conduct routine business. The critique reviewed each functional area's performance and operations using video taping.

The rehearsals accomplished all the goals held by management. The organization learned that being ready required extensive preparation and considerable time. Also, the preparation of the support venues, by touching most operations functions that would also occur on the sports venues, raised the level of readiness for all venues.


Logistics becomes a critical system in a project of this magnitude. However, volunteer organizations are not experienced in dealing with the logistical demands of this scale. The inventory list contained more than 3760 separate line items, most of which were required in large quantity for each of the twenty-three competition venues.

Most organizations are accustomed to retaining a contractor to handle specific logistical functions. PAX/I used this approach for some of the logistical areas, most notably signage, look, tentage, waste disposal, portable toilets, staging EDP equipment and installing telephone lines and sets. PAX/I inconvenienced some contractors by being unable to specify its requirements until 90 days prior to the Games. Also, other contractors found it difficult to comply within the three to four days available for installation at the competition venues but, they performed well despite the time pressures.


PAX/I divided large projects into several smaller projects (e.g., software systems development, opening and closing ceremonies, rehearsals, construction of facilities, telecommunications, electronic information, each sport venue, and each support venue). The smaller projects each had a management team responsible for its success. Scope, boundaries, expectations, dependencies, time, cost, quality; all could be successfully defined. This approach contributed greatly to the success of the X Pan American Games.

The most essential of all the resources is capable management. Just like making a movie is a single-project business, so is producing a multi-sport event. Unlike making a movie, there is no industrial base with existing systems and procedures to use — each event has an inexperienced cast. However, an event such as this can be run like a business in many ways.

A board of directors should define a clear statement of the event's strategic mission and key goals. The board has another critical role—to harness community resources by linking the event organization with private and public entities.

Senior line management should then derive operational, organizational, resource, and major time milestones that will shape the detailed operational plans.

The Indianapolis experience with the Pan American Games confirms that the reward from proficiently conducting a world-class event pays enormous dividends to the host community. The city benefited from invaluable prime-time television coverage at home and abroad and developed first-hand relationships with major business and political figures.

Moreover, the community mobilized more than 38,000 volunteers who worked together more than two years to produce the event—this vast outpouring of community spirit and interaction provided the occasion for strengthening old ties and knitting new bonds within the city's society.

Two sets of people are necessary to produce large events—staff and volunteers. Volunteers will work long difficult hours underadverse conditions. They are bright, independent and diligent. To ensure that the volunteers are well-received by the organization, key leaders should become “volunteers” and walk through the processes for recruiting, accrediting, uniforming, assigning, deploying, and recognizing volunteers. It must be stressed that the volunteers are people with feelings, and that they are to be treated as you would want to be treated. The local organizing committee (PAX/I) recruited college students as interns working for college credit and a small stipend. They were a tremendous asset. They frequently were assigned to missions that required considerable diplomatic and administrative skills.

In addition, a full-time staff needs to be thoughtfully recruited. Quality people are available for six-month to two year assignments. Our economy has enough high-caliber people who are in career transition to staff such an event organization. They are willing to accept finite employment to help them through the transition and to attain visibility while serving the community. Trying to run an event organization too lean can be a major error; 18 hour days during the months immediately preceding the event and 24 hour days during the competition can devastate a staff that is too thin.


Lee Alan Peters, P.E.., is a principal with PETERS & Company Engineering and Management Services, Inc. He has a bachelors degree from Rose Hulman and Masters degrees in both Management and Civil Engineering from Purdue University. He has authored over thirty articles in a variety of publications and conducts seminars and workshops. He is a member of PMI and several other professional societies, especially those associated with the pulp and paper industry. His firm provided management services to the Tenth Pan American Games.


Ray M. Shortridge, PhD, received a bachelors degree from Stanford University and a doctorate in history from the University of Michigan. He has acquired extensive project management experience in social science research and business. He has served as the general manager of a software development venture start-up company, the deputy general manager and vice president of technology for the Tenth Pan American Games, and director of operations for Ernst and Whinney's midwest regional information services consulting group.


Relive the thrill of the most successful Winter Olympic Games in history at Calgary's Canada Olympic Park. Catch a hair raising ride down the luge or bobsleigh runs or take in the view from atop the 90 m (292 ft.) ski jump. Visit the Olumpic Hall of Fame and pay tribute to former Olympians.

Start Planning Now!

October 13-17, 1990 Calgary, Alberta



It was well-known throughout PAX/I that there had been an attempt to apply computerized planning and scheduling on the Los Angeles Olympic Summer Games. It was reported to the PAX/I Organizing Committee that, for whatever reason, this attempt had not been successful. Thus, there was a reluctance to attempt it in the PAX/I. Computerized planning and scheduling services were offered through a national construction firm. Only one division of PAX/I used this service.

“PLAN INTEGRATION” was achieved in PAX/I by the use of a “sticky back paper” system coupled with a data base computer program. The objective was to get different areas to coordinate their needs. A sample “Plan Integration Form” is shown in Figure A. Two more divisions used this “hands on” process.

Rehearsals became the strategic driving force to ensure adequate preparation. These rehearsals required careful preparation. The first step was to analyze the forty-seven functional areas to determine their responsibilities for:

General Support - support given to conduct the games.

Direct Support - activities which took place across many venues, such as transportation.

Venue Support - responsible for assisting in operating several venues.

Venue Operations - running a specific venue which may have multiple sports.

Activity Support - responsibilities to help run one or more activities, i.e., something other than a sport.

Activity Operation - running a specific activity.

Games Support - responsibility to help in the conduct of sports.

Technology ability to master operations which were critical to fulfilling the responsibility.

A partial list of these areas illustrates the nature and level of responsibilities identified.


Figure A

Partial List of Identified Responsibilities


Figure B

A Linear Responsibility Chart (LRC) was used to sort out these responsibilities. From the LRC was derived a detailed analysis of the responsibilities of the various persons who might be interacting at a specific venue. This was done in a multi-column format and included a statement of mission, roles, responsibilities, accountability, authority, and specific tasks for each individual involved. Figure B shows an example of the types of items identified for the Sports Commissioner/Site Operations Manager, the Venue Function Coordinator (in this case the Results Manager), and the Division Function Manager (the Games and Venues Data Base Manager).

The tasks were subdivided by mission, management, methods, manpower, materials, machinery and facilities, and money, again for each individual involved. Figure C illustrates these responsibilities for the same three individuals as in Figure B.

Once these responsibilities were identified and agreed upon at the task level, performance standards and test conditions had to be defined. Figure D is an example of such an analysis for the Medical - General Supportarea.

After rehearsing or testing a team, feedback and critique was given. For large rehearsals, the team critiqued themselves and made plans for improvement. Experience indicated that the quality of these team self-critiques improved if the rehearsal or test was video taped— regardless of whether the tape was shown to them or not. A “Critique Sheet” guided this process with items on it such as shown in Figure E for the Main Accreditation Center.


Figure C


Figure D


Figure E

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

November 1989 pm network



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