An Olympic task: How a CA helped organise Rio 2016
Things don't always go according to plan, but passion makes all the difference says Tom Warwick CA, Program & Planning Manager for the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro.
“What we have here, and what I think the Rio Games will be remembered for, is the passion of the people. How friendly and welcoming they are as a nation.
"The World Cup was a good example of that. Things didn’t necessarily go to plan but everyone, spectators and players, remember it as a fantastic event because of the atmosphere."
Tom is responsible for the management of the budget and on-site operations of the Olympic Village during the Rio Olympics, recruiting a 5000 strong workforce to deliver services to the athletes.
Image courtesy of Tom Warwick CA
His career started at EY, where he discovered the joys of working abroad and spent four years travelling and performing international audits. He qualified with ICAS in 2009 and moved on to the team behind the London 2012 Olympic Games, giving him the opportunity to combine the work he enjoys with his passion for sports.
“When I did the CA qualification I was at EY. I had already agreed to do a secondment in Chicago, continuing down the auditing path, and I was happy with the job, the variety it provided, the teams you build and the chance to travel.
"I believed ‘Yes, this is what I want to do’. Then I got a call from a friend in the sports industry to say there was a job at the Olympics.
"Being a CA, you never think you would be able to contribute to the biggest sport event in the world. It was a career move I wasn’t anticipating but it’s been awesome."
The perks are easy to see when Tom sits in a stunning, sun-drenched location, overlooking the newly built Olympic Village. However, the experience in Rio has not been all fun and games.
"Just as athletes hoping for a gold medal need to prepare even the tiniest of details, establish contingencies for changes encountered in the build-up to the Games and most of all train hard, my role is to do the same for the Olympic Village team."
Off the blocks
On top of the bureaucracy typical to such a large scale event and impacting political and economic factors, an additional barrier to communication is less than ideal.
“Motivating and energising your team is difficult to do in a different language.
“I’m advanced in Portuguese now but communication is still an issue, especially when you’re negotiating or trying to persuade executives of the best course forward.
“That and adapting to the culture has definitely been the biggest challenge. The way things are done here is very different to the UK, India, the US or anywhere I’ve worked before.”
The Olympic Village will accommodate approximately 10,000 athletes from over 200 countries and Tom has been a driving force in bringing it all together, in spite of various hurdles along the way.
“I’ve been working here for three and a half years now in a challenging environment, in a country that’s not been through the best of times.
"There were moments when we weren’t sure we would make it. But last week we opened the doors to athletes, the fastest and strongest people in the world, and seeing those guys enter the Village for the first time and use the services I had helped provide for them was a great moment.
"Seeing those plans come together has been the most exciting part, though what we have seen on the ground is that things don’t always go as intended.
"Our preparations mean we have been able to adapt. People are doing jobs outside of their specifications right now, just because they want the Village to be a success.
“We’ve still got a long way to go but it’s a really good team atmosphere.”
That winning feeling
All the hard work does pay off in the end, as Tom found out at the 2012 Olympics.
“In London I worked on Greenwich Park, which was where the equestrian sports were held.
"The venue was a big challenge because it was very expensive, it was all temporary structures. I was working with the budget and there were new requests all the time, we had to find money from other projects to make it all happen.
Image courtesy of Tom Warwick CA
"But I remember working there on the day Great Britain won their first gold medal and everyone was cheering, happy. I thought ‘I helped to make this happen’.
"That was probably the proudest moment of my career."
I hope the Olympics here will be remembered for the beauty and passion that is a testament to Brazil.
The people you work with and connections you make can also be their own reward. Tom looks fondly on his previous experience and speaks highly of colleagues who still have an impact on his work.
"The most inspiring people I have worked for were at London 2012. The two people at the top, Seb Coe and Paul Deighton, they had the ability to keep attention whenever they spoke.
"Paul talked with such energy and such enthusiasm and focused on getting the best out of people. I find that really inspiring and always try to do it with my team.
"Really good managers who have the ability to connect with everyone, no matter who they are, have that wow factor."
Reflecting on everything that has brought Tom this far, the skills of the CA qualification stand out.
"The CA is more than a couple of letters on a CV. One thing I have noticed throughout my career is that a lot of people are good planners, a lot of people are good operators, but it isn't very often you find someone who is good at both.
"The CA qualification allowed me to develop and apply these skills."
Rio 2016 kicks off on Friday 5 August with an opening ceremony at the legendary Maracanã Stadium.
After a long home stretch, Tom is looking forward to everyone enjoying the spectacle.
"Rio is a fantastic place to live and work and I hope the Olympics here will be remembered for the beauty and passion that is a testament to Brazil."
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