London 2012 chief looks towards Tokyo 2020

Feb. 17, 2015

Over 100 BCCJ members and guests attended an event this morning at the Shangri-La Tokyo, led by speaker Lord Deighton, the former Chief Executive of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), the body responsible for preparing and staging the Games in 2012.

At "Leadership, accountability and governance: the Olympic challenge" Lord Deighton shared his views and experiences on just what it takes to deliver a successful multi-national mega event, and highlighted what Tokyo could consider the lead up to 2020, when the city will host the Games for the second time. He also touched upon the many strengths Japan has as a country when it comes to running large-scale events.

Lord Deighton, once a frequent visitor to Tokyo between 1990-2005 while working in the financial industry, expressed his delight to be back in the city after more than a decade: "I feel a genuine connection to Tokyo 2020."

He revealed that the 1964 Summer Olympic Games held in Tokyo are the first Games he can remember. “The impact the (1964) Games had on me is one of the reasons I took the job for London 2012.” He fondly recalled the moment when Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila won a gold medal, and how thrilling this was for him as a sport obsessed eight-year-old. 

Fast forward a few decades and for over six and a half years, the speaker was in charge of the day-to-day operations of the organisation, overseeing recruitment of a workforce of around 6,000 paid staff, up to 70,000 volunteers and around 100,000 contractor roles as well as the procurement of £700m-worth of contracts to help deliver the hugely successful 2012 event. He was also responsible for the annual budget and provided leadership in the development of a variety of Olympic and Paralympic programmes, from sponsorship and marketing to ticketing and the Torch Relay.

Do what you can with what you've got - with Tokyo flavour

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, the world's 32nd Olympiad - involving 200 countries, 26-28 sports, 35 competition venues, 11,000 athletes and 20,000 media - will be "absolutely fantastic", said the speaker.

"People around the world will soon be keenly watching what Tokyo can deliver - innovation, technology, fashion". Rather than simply doing what has been done before, he said, Tokyo can use what is truly unique to Japan to deliver a positive image of the country to the world. "Remember, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. You already have everything you need as a template from previous Games. You just need to add a Tokyo flavour".


Managing relationships between domestic and global organisations is of crucial importance. He reminded the audience of some key partners during the planning and delivery phases: the Olympic global family, domestic organisations - government delivery bodies, security and transportation firms.

The general public are equally important. "Fully engaging your public is another vital factor to ensure a successful Games", he said. "Ultimately you need the whole country behind you. You need to make sure they are involved with the Games, because they are the people who will buy the tickets and are going to create the atmosphere". Having the population feel that they are a part of this huge event will engage their interests and create a buzz which will make the Games truly great. Creating this buzz can be achieved, according to Lord Deighton, via the Torch Relay, and through encouraging volunteers. "A sense of participation" plays a huge role in the Games' success.


Lord Deighton also pointed to the importance of involving the younger generation: “For the sustainability of the Olympic movement, reaching out to young people is absolutely critical."

And, in reference to PM Abe's "Womenomics" drive, he stressed the need for diversity: "I can't think of a better opportunity for Japan to involve and utilise its women than through the 2020 Olympics & Paralympics".

He further explained how the London 2012 organising committee brought in hundreds of "ordinary people" who "weren’t like them" in order to fully understand how to properly represent the UK throughout the Games, particularly in the opening and closing ceremonies.

Refering to the moment when HRH The Queen "jumped from a helicoptor" at the opening of the London Games, Lord Deighton quipped: "I'm looking forward to seeing what The Emperor does in your opening ceremony!"

The challenges

On a more serious note, Lord Deighton noted: “Every game has its challenges, and Tokyo too will have its challenges.” The day after London won the 2012 Olympic bid, he recalled, the city was shaken by terrorist attacks. Thereafter, the 2008 financial crisis and threats to public safety were among the many challenges the LOCOG team faced when preparing for the Games.

Issues with budgets and distribution of responsibilities are internal challenges that every committee faces when given the task of organising the Olympics. Lord Deighton stressed that Tokyo would certainly face similar issues.

"As with any project, organisers will have three variants: time, money and functionality. One of the hardests conversations is agreeing who would pay for it all. As time is always running out, knowing the right way and the right time to make a decision is a key skill".


Figuring out which venues are available - and which are permanent and which will be temporary - is a critical part of the planning stage, said the speaker. The venues might have to take on a different guise: "Understanding the operational requirements and capacity of these venues - for media, transport providers, and security systems - leads you to see that the locations look quite different to how they look on a normal day".


Lord Deighton said that getting leadership right - placing the right people into the right jobs - is crucial. Having leaders that can take the organisation through the journey from a small start-up to one of the country's largest operations requires a flexibility of style and skills. He was pleased to be able to secure two former colleagues from Goldman Sachs for top positions that required creative and practical solutions, after beginning as a solo operator. "Starting off as a leader doing most things alone, and ending up as the commander of a massive army, was incredibly challenging".

He went on to say that it was the responsibility of the organising committee to sprinkle and share the "magic dust" of the Games. For this magic dust to work, you have to "get communication crystal clear" he said, and repeat, repeat, repeat to fit the demands of a growing organisation.


When planning for London 2012, Lord Deighton continually reminded his teams of the legacy that the Games would leave behind. The event had a hand in moulding the image of the UK in the eyes of the world, and there was a direct increase in tourism to the UK as a result (13%  up in the year following the event).

Speaking further on the legacy of the Games and organising the delivery teams, he said: "Every day though, you have to ask 'what do we want people to remember?'"

After you've inspired people, he continued, "you then have the power to change things". The London 2012 Paralympic Games changed the ways people appreciate with disabilities in the UK, leading to "a huge attitude shift".

Lord Deighton said that people tend to come to appreciate the power of the Olympic Games after the fact. 

"If Japan can inspire people to get behind the 2020 organising committee (TOCOG), the city, the country and the world can look forward to enjoying a truly spectacular Olympic Games. In years to come, 2020 should be looked back on as a source of national pride".


Prior to joining London 2012, Lord Deighton was the Chief Operating Officer of Goldman Sachs in Europe, and a member of its European Management Committee. At Goldman Sachs he worked in a variety of management and client-facing roles for over 22 years, and was appointed a partner of the firm in 1996. Before joining Goldman Sachs in 1983, Lord Deighton worked for both Security Pacific National Bank and Bank of America.

He is also a Board member of England Rugby 2015, the Organising Committee for Rugby World Cup 2015.

Photos from this event HERE



With thanks to BCCJ Platinum members for their ongoing support