Watson Associates on the Olympic 2012 & Commonwealth Games 2014

After 20 years of working in the safety management industry Sue Watson of Watson Associates was approached to take on the safety management of the Olympic Park for the London 2012 Games.

This was the first time that a safety officer was appointed to the Olympic management structure and the initiative was driven by the Sport Grounds Safety Authority led by Chief Executive Ruth Shaw.

The SGSA seconded an Advisor to the Games to assist in the licensing of Venues and the safety management, Martin Girvan worked alongside the Organising Committee offering advice and guidance on English legislation.

Much of the documentation had been written for the Olympic Park, with the safety documentation being generic from previous Games.  The 2.5 km2 of “Common domain” was the task ahead for the Games, over the 23 days of competition we had 8.1 million people visit the venues and the park over the Olympics and Paralympics.

The size of the task was enormous with 3,500 cameras, mostly designed for security, meant that we had some challenges with trying to manage the safety of the venue, as we couldn’t see most of it. The ODA in conjunction with the influence of the Park General Manager planned and erected high-level dome cameras so we could see the movement of crowds and the density of the ingress and egress.

All venues on the Park had a rota of Safety Officers most of whom had been trained and assessed by Watson Associates over the last 15 years, the Park itself had 3 additional safety officers for the games period.

The safety management challenges we faced at this major event were:

  • Worrying about how we would mange massive numbers of people in an outdoor environment, if it rained
  • Managing the very quick turnaround of events from each of the venues, managing queues for people waiting to go into a venue and managing safe egress for spectators leaving the venue, this involved co-operation with sport and the Venue Managers and spectator safety team.
  • The success of the GB team also meant that the live sites were extremely busy, so one way systems needed to be put together to allow safe viewing at peak times.
  • Would the public transport system hold up to the immense pressure put on it for the event
  • “The last mile” how would spectators respond to the travel times to some of the venues and around the park.

These issues were managed effectively through the complete cooperation of all involved, Transport for London were amazing in their delivery, with friendly staff all around London, and their trains running effectively and mostly to scheduled.

The fickle British weather showed us how beautiful London can be in the sunshine and spectators moving around the venues and park were well behaved and compliant in everything we asked of them.

After the excitement and success of the Games, Sue Watson moved to Glasgow with her team and continued to work in the major event arena.

In 2008 a prospective venue for the Commonwealth Games, Scotstoun Stadium opened and Glasgow Life the operations arm of Glasgow City Council, needed qualified Safety Officers to run the events there, under their new Safety Certificate.  As a Local Authority they then made the decision to train all their Cluster Managers to NVQ Level 4 in Spectator Safety, in order to ensure safe and effective venues for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

Watson Associates has worked with them for the last six years training, mentoring and assessing their teams in readiness for the Games, and this paid off with their staff and venues being praised for the safe and effective way they were managed, with staff seconded to Glasgow 2014 and working directly in the venues in partnership with the Organising Committee.

The safety management challenges we faced at Glasgow 2014 were:

  • Again worries about the weather, which again were unfounded
  • Concerns about the infrastructure for transport as the venues were spread out over three cities, and the underground was not on the same scale as London.
  • The ingess and egress of spectators at the busy venues i.e. Hockey and Rugby sevens
  • The changeover from the last Athletics event and the closing ceremony.

The experiences were magical, and stressful with the success for Great Britain and all the people who worked at these events and attended them, we are so proud to have been part of it.

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