IT’S got to be one of the most breath-taking sights of this summer. You know, the pictures of athletic horses jumping fences at Greenwich Park against a backdrop of the skyscraper-dominated Canary Wharf.
It’s a stunning juxtaposition that also captures a critical aspect of the London Games. To see the capital’s thriving financial district providing one of the stage sets against which with the performers’ physical skill is presented to the world is to catch a glimpse of the close relationship between business and sporting excellence that is central to the London Games.
The horses were performing as part of a test event ahead of next year’s Olympic Games, which begin exactly a year today, the biggest sporting event the UK has hosted since the 1966 football World Cup. And in another sign of the business world’s close involvement, it is a City man who is at the helm.
Unsurprisingly, as a former investment banker immensely proud of London’s status as a financial centre, Paul Deighton, chief executive of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), was impressed by the Greenwich spectacle too. “I was delighted with the pictures of horses jumping against the background of Canary Wharf. It looked so dramatic,” says Deighton.
THE BUSINESS CASE
Deighton has been responsible, among much else, for helping to make the business case for the Olympic Games. Raising £2bn from the private sector might not have seemed exactly easy, given the financial crash that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
But the power of the Olympic Games is as strong as ever. LOCOG has found support from a whole range of major sponsors, and strong sales from tickets and merchandising rights are also contributing their part, with roughly a quarter of the £2bn coming from ticket sales. It has all helped to make the London Games a very commercial proposition.
Meanwhile, the Olympic events that so many people want to see – and so many companies want to be a part of – need venues that live up to expectations, and the preparation of these is going as smoothly as can be expected.
Greenwich Park, which will stage equestrian events as well as the modern pentathlon, has been one of the first venues to be tested out ahead of next year’s extravaganza.
There will be 42 test events in all in the coming 11 months, with the Olympic Park itself open for a test event – the British University Games – in May.
That will take place in front of maybe 40,000 people, around half the venue’s capacity.
“One of the most spectacular aspects of the games is the range of venues, from rowing at Eton to sailing near Weymouth and to Lord’s cricket ground for archery,” says Deighton.
With a year to go, Deighton is convinced the Olympic Games is well on schedule.
“Of course there will be many rehearsals of the opening and closing ceremonies, there will be tests of the venues and the transport capacities but essentially the venues are by and large ready,” says Deighton.
Recent changes to the top of the Metropolitan Police force in the wake of the phone hacking scandal won't be causing him too many sleepless nights either. “We’re so well advanced with our plans and the team running security remains unchanged,” he says.
Add in the live broadcast sites at Hyde Park and Victoria Park Hackney, with live bands playing at both venues plus the Danny-Boyle-directed opening ceremony and there’s a massive amount to look forward to in a year’s time. There are also 60,000 volunteers who are in the process of being recruited.
“I think people are only just beginning to appreciate the scale and beauty of what’s coming to town,” he says.
Deighton is in his final year of a seven-year stretch. As a banker he knows that the closing of a deal is the most important bit and the thing he’ll be remembered for. There’s still a lot to play for.
THE OLYMPICS BUSINESS
Olympic Marketing Revenue
Olympic broadcast partnerships have been the greatest revenue source for the Olympic Movement for three decades.
London 1948 was the Olympics that established a principle of broadcast rights fees. 500,000+ tuned in to the BBC.
“Without the support of the business community, without its technology, expertise, people, services, products, telecommunications, its financing – the Olympic Games could not and cannot happen.”
Jacques Rogge, president, IOC
CV | PAUL DEIGHTON
Lives: Central London
Family: Married, with two children.
Education: BA in Economics from Trinity College, Cambridge
Career: Started at the Security Pacific National Bank and Bank of America. He joined Goldman Sachs in 1983, and rose to be the bank’s chief operating officer in Europe and a member of its European Management Committee. He became a partner in 1996. He became chief executive of LOCOG in 2005.
Interests: Arsenal, working out and contemporary art.