Amid the fanfare for the opening of the Olympic Games on July 27, not everyone is equally excited: Some disgruntled Londoners are threatening acts of civil disobedience in protest against the inevitable daily disruptions resulting from an estimated 25 percent increase in numbers on already crowded transport systems.
Upon his arrival for the Games, American hurdler Kerron Clement tweeted, “Um, so we’ve been lost on the road for 4hrs. Not a good first impression London.”
All of which must concern David McNeill, the Director of Public Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement for Transport for London, whose job it is to make sure that everyone involved in the Olympics will be in the right place at the right time, while also keeping the city moving during the Games.
McNeill’s greatest achievement would be that nobody notices the transport system – that everything runs so smoothly that it becomes quite unremarkable, he tells IESE Insight magazine.
Yet with such a mammoth logistical task as keeping a huge capital city running, while accommodating all the visiting athletes, media and spectators, it will take a lot of hard work to go unnoticed.
In their favor, London transport organizers already have a lot of know-how when it comes to the logistics of managing multilingual, multicultural environments, given that London is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.
But horse-drawn funeral processions, methadone deliveries, cash in transit and postal deliveries to the Palace of Westminster add complexities that require careful organization and contingency planning on a massive scale.
Invariably there will be some headaches and glitches, like lost bus drivers, traffic snarls and commuter delays over the coming weeks. But McNeill’s real nightmare scenario is rather different from what you might imagine.
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