Did the London Olympics Overdo the Business Continuity Planning?

Stay away from London during the Olympics. That was the message that many people understood from the business continuity planning warnings issued about the difficulty of getting to, and moving around in, London, while the 2012 Olympic Games were being held. Companies were told that their employees might face effective denial of access to their business premises, and that stockpiling of critical supplies might be wise. Games attendees and tourists were presented with prognostics concerning possible shortage of accommodation, density of traffic and increased time required to move from one point to another. However, the tourists and the businesses that chose to “brave” the Olympic Games found a rather different situation to the one that was forecast.

By August 1st, it turned out to be significantly easier than usual to travel around London, and hotel room prices were being cut significantly. Metro, a national UK newspaper, was reporting drops in standard room rates of as much as 75%, as establishments struggled to maintain even reasonable occupancy. Shops and tourist attractions suffered too, as visitors who had no interest in the Olympics stayed away, scared off in part by previously predicted increases in accommodation prices. The capital had a business continuity planning problem, but not the one it had expected.

Could business continuity planning for the 2012 Olympics have been done better? Undoubtedly, but then the next question is how. If the planning committee had not sufficiently stressed the potential problems of a massive influx of population into London, other problems might well have occurred: overcrowding, popular dissatisfaction with scarce facilities and rising prices, and criticism of inadequate warnings. The difficulty naturally enough was in finding the delicate balance to optimise business revenue with facilities capacity. Perhaps an online “barometer” on relevant websites to indicate visitor numbers in real time might have helped to appropriately adjust communications.