Sebastian Coe won four Olympic medals, including the 1500 meters gold medals at the Olympic Games in 1980 and 1984. The battle for the metric mile was surely easier than the mess he has on his hands now as chairman of the London Olympics, which open July 27.
London won the Olympic Games July 6, 2005. In seven years, did anyone hire a crisis management expert and game the Games? What do we do if…? Who says what when…? It seems like the answer is no.
On Jul 7, 2005, the conversation should have gone like this: “Stadiums? Check. Hotels? Check. Security…security?! It appears that the private contractor paid to hire and train the extensive, visible security staff fell woefully short. The organizing committee paid $2 billion and it fell short of the 24,000 personnel promised by several thousand.
The private security contractor, G4S, was supposed to hire 10,400, but admitted to finding only 7,000 for the $443 million contract. This is a monumental mess. G4S’s CEO, Nick Buckles, admitted as much yesterday before a panic-stricken and humiliated Parliament.
But here’s the kicker, that moment you just knew that no one had media trained Mr. Buckles, who in addition to losing tens of millions of dollars on this contract, and being publicly pilloried by the ravenous British tabloids, has to live with a name straight out of Peter Pan.
Mr. Buckles seemed to want to channel that great British sailing CEO, Tony Hayward, when Mr. Buckles said he only found out about the staffing shortages July 3, when he was on vacation.
Really. On vacation. Three weeks before the start of the biggest event in England since the Blitz and he took a vacation?
Neither Coe — who issued a stiff-upper-lip statement, ‘don’t worry, be happy, all will be fine’ — nor Mr. Buckles will survive this with their reputations intact. Whether this is the start of a mess of an Olympics or just a blip before an amazing international spectacle will have to wait for August 13 and final judgment.
But this just adds to the woeful year it’s been for high-profile British endeavors. The spying scandal for Rupert Murdoch came in the wake of the BP spill and before humiliations for Barclay’s Bank and GlaxoSmithKline. Add Seb Coe and his sidekick Mr. Buckles to the list.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.