Going for gold: planning for success in Glasgow 2014


Louise MartinThe 2014 Commonwealth Games were a triumph of planning – with key deliverables landing on time and within budget. Louise Martin CBE, Vice Chair of the Glasgow Organising Committee, shares her experience of the long journey to Hampden.

The story of Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games began over a decade ago, when Jack McConnell, then First Minister, challenged an enthusiastic fledgling organising committee to prove they could deliver a successful event – without bankrupting the country.

“We rose to that challenge,” confirms Louise Martin. “In effect, planning began right there and then. We knew Glasgow could emerge as the frontrunner to host the Games given its passion, its track record of hosting major events and the fact that 70% of the facilities we required were already built.”

From concept to delivery

Assessing that potential was just the first step. The lengthy path to making the vision a reality included a roadshow of events across 67 countries, and delegations of visitors to the city itself in 2007. The intensive process was supported by a robust, detailed – and ultimately successful – bid.

These efforts put into presenting a picture of a successful and attainable Glasgow Games during these vital preliminary stages really paid off, says Louise. “We approached all aspects of the process with trust and honesty. That really underpinned the success of the bid, and of the actual Games.”

Lessons from the past

Lessons learnt from the Commonwealth Games held in Manchester in 2002 and, later, the London Olympics, proved instrumental in inspiring and informing Glasgow’s bid and successful delivery of the event.

“Manchester made us believe in ourselves,” Louise comments. “The city had clear parallels with Glasgow – it’s a similar size and had similar issues with levels of social deprivation. We made it clear from the outset that we weren’t competing with Melbourne or Delhi, Games which were on an entirely different scale, but Manchester provided inspiration and belief that we could deliver something special and unique. Our plan was ambitious but realistic and attainable.

“Having access to the experience of Lord Charles Allan, Chairman of Manchester 2002 and the debrief that followed those Games, was invaluable,” she continues. “It was the same with the London Olympics. We learnt a lot from all the many good things – and just as much from the things that didn’t go as well as hoped.”

Time-sensitive delivery

With the bid secured, it wasn’t just the athletes of the Commonwealth who needed to be prepared for Glasgow 2014. The Organising Committee’s teams had to project manage the delivery of all the facilities required to host the Games, including not just the sporting venues, but accommodation for the athletes, catering facilities and merchandising outlets.

“We worked closely with Glasgow City Council to plan what was needed and the timescales required, as well as with the Government, which was providing 80% of the funding to support the Games,” Louise explains.

Engaging the business community

Infographic: The 2014 Commonwealth Games in numbers

What was also crucial, Louise points out, was that the business community really got behind the bid and engaged with the planning process.

“If businesses hadn’t supported us, the Games wouldn’t have been the success they were. Over a period of 18 months to two years we sat down with all the Glasgow agencies to make sure that the city centre and the whole of Glasgow could function effectively throughout – and that they could access opportunities. The message wasn’t business as usual, but we are open for business.”

For those businesses directly impacted by the Games, that level of planning proved vital. “On the day of the marathon the whole of St Enoch’s Shopping Centre car park had to be closed due to the route – but the centre had one of its busiest ever weekends,” says Louise. “Catering businesses, pubs, superstores, all changed their hours to accommodate the Games. There were also many entrepreneurs who took advantage of the Games to create pop-up outlets to service the massive influx of visitors.”

Beating challenges

The planning also uncovered challenges, but the team’s enthusiasm and attention to detail helped overcome potential issues.

“The biggest challenge was transport,” remarks Louise. “The logistics were tricky – with road, rail and trams all involved in different parts of Scotland. There were crowds of people, athletes to transport and road closures, which on paper sounds like a nightmare. We overcame that by involving all of the suppliers in the logistics planning process.

“It took time to get them to believe in one another, but the supply chain for any major event needs to understand that they are all interdependent, like parts of a jigsaw puzzle. We couldn’t have achieved it without them or without the Clydesiders, our Games volunteers, who managed queues, communicated with the public and helped shift demand around the network.”

Innovative thinking

Another key challenge the team encountered was transforming Hampden Park from a football stadium into a world class athletics stadium.

“We couldn’t have built a stadium within budget and on time,” says Louise. “We were lucky that Hampden was in the oval and offered capacity, but we had to work with what we had. We raised the floor using a part platform, which had never been done before. We were on a wing and a prayer, testing on different parts to check its load bearing, but it was such a success that we had visitors from other countries and the International Athletics’ Federation coming to see it.

“We showed the world that we are innovative and up for a challenge – and that’s a great message from Scotland.”

So what lessons can other businesses take from Glasgow’s success?

“If you have an idea and you believe in it, go for it,” concludes Louise. “Believe in yourself and stay true to your vision. As long as you communicate your plans along the way, you’ll take people with you and together you’ll deliver.”

About the author

Louise Martin represented Commonwealth Games Scotland on the Glasgow 2014 Board, in her capacity as the Immediate Past Chair. She has a long and ongoing association with the Games as an athlete, team manager and administrator, and in 2003 was awarded the CBE for services to the Commonwealth Games. She has been Honorary Secretary of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) since 1999 and was the first woman to be elected to the CGF Board.

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