The story of London 2012 wasn't just about the capital city. Oh, no. Across the country pockets of Olympian spirit sprung up. Here's Coventry's story.
The banners have finally been taken down. The bunting is safely stowed away. And we’ve finally caught up on our sleep after a summer of early starts, late nights and weekends on the go.
But we’ve got more than fond memories to look back on after our Olympics year, when Coventry became an Olympics co-host city for the football tournament. We’ve learnt lots about how communications can sit at the heart of big projects (and help make them work), about how a city can rise to the challenge of doing something it’s never done before and how sport – like nothing else – can deliver a special experience that touches everyone involved.
Here are some of the things we’ve discovered over the past year or so.
- Planning, processes and frameworks are pretty tedious. Give a communications team an unexpected event, and they’ll deal with it brilliantly. But governance structures, a plethora of meetings and tons of paperwork make us pretty boot-faced. Olympics planning changed all that. A necessarily complex governance structure of programme boards, project boards and working groups helped make sure we met deadlines, juggled a plethora of projects and delivered on time and to budget (although it didn’t stop us grumping about monthly highlight reports).
- Don’t underestimate the power of dressing a city to look the part. Public realm improvements across the city centre have given Coventry a great events square, a pleasant walk from the railway station to the city centre and the general sprucing up it needed. But what really brought a smile to peoples’ faces were our giant footballers made of plants on our roundabouts, massive banners on key city centre buildings and more than 700 lamppost banners along key routes across the city. No-one could escape the fact that something special was happening.
- Planning a major event brings organisations together like nothing else. Our citywide marketing group grew steadily over the year as more joined to work with us to help sell Coventry to thousands of visitors. The combined brains of the marketing group helped create a smart Games Time guide and a neat fold out pocket map of the city centre that visitors loved, as well as other marketing initiatives that gave us a great joined-up offer to people. Our mobile app for the Olympics in Coventry had more than 60,000 downloads, and we’re now working on turning it into a general visitors guide
- A city’s best asset is its people. In Coventry more 300 people gave up their time freely to welcome the world. Our Ambassadors thronged railway stations, the city centre and in and around the stadium, helping lost visitors, explaining how the shuttle bus service worked, keeping the queuing crowds jolly. They were astounding and – best of all – they want to carry on this work in the future.
There’s a lot, lot more we’ve learned over the past year or so; our experiences could fill a book, not just a blogpost. The Olympics made people proud to be British – and it made us proud to work in Coventry.
Find out more about our journey here:
Fran Collingham is assistant director at Coventry City Council.
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