VOICES In the Trenches
Lessons learned from working on the 2016 games.
By Adriano Mota, PMP
Adriano Mota, PMP, is the service directory manager
for the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee for the Olym-
pic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
WHEN I JOINED the organizing committee for the
2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I quickly
learned that my 10 years’ experience managing tech-nology-related projects would only help me so far.
All projects are unique, but planning the summer
Olympics might be in a category by itself. Over two
weeks in August 2016, 10,500 athletes will compete
in 300 events at 33 venues around Rio. Roughly 7. 5
million tickets will be sold, and 60,000 volunteers
need to be organized. Technology deliverables include
mobile, ;xed, Internet and cable communications at
the competition venues, media centers and athlete
accommodations. In addition, the ;nal delivery date is
not negotiable, large sums of public and private-sector
money must be aligned, and the technology required
to successfully deliver the games keeps changing.
Furthermore, all this has to be done with a team that
only recently formed. Working on this massive initiative can feel like being at a startup company.
To help with these
challenges, the interna-
tional Olympic o;cials
provided our team
with a vast amount of
data from past games,
detailing deliverables, a
very high-level master
schedule and a great
program that allows us
to observe all Olympic
Games held between
our selection and our ;nal delivery.
;is knowledge-transfer program covers the whole
event scope, including transportation, accommoda-
tions, technology, logistics and the obvious items asso-
ciated with the sports (arenas, medical services, media
coverage, fans, etc.). International Olympic o;cials are
careful not to mandate how we should do tasks but
rather state the ;nal outcome that is expected from us.
;is method respects the local organizing committee,
the host country’s culture, the budget and the execution strategy.
Another tactic we employed to help manage the
vast and complex amount of work was to bring in
people with Olympic planning experience. However,
their experience is not always wholly applicable, and
sometimes a hybrid method has to be worked out. For
example, during past Olympics, sta;ng for venues
that require someone to be on duty at all times was
often arranged by setting up two teams to each work
12-hour shifts. However, this is not currently allowed
under Brazilian labor law, and we will have to come up
with alternate plans.
As the project moved ahead, we began to realize
another challenge: how to allow for the team’s dissolution just after the project delivery date while maintaining the team’s focus.
Our project team is facing unemployment once the
games are delivered—or even sooner. In addition to
creating insecurity among team members, this also
means that the organization loses the power to attract
the best resources to the project as we get closer to the
Olympics, since not many people will change their current jobs and risk unemployment a year or six months
down the road.
To cope with these problems, we adhere to the
organization’s solid delivery plan and rely on a cohesive sta; engaged with the plan and strong managers
who drive the teams to deliver tasks while reassuring
people that they will have a smooth transition to a
games-time operations role.
On a personal level, each team member needs to
have a little reality check: No job comes with any
warranty that it will last forever. Furthermore, team
members can remind themselves that working on the
Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that may
be worth whatever job-related uncertainty follows it.
For me, the Olympics has brought the experience of
discovering a whole new project environment, being
fully engaged in it and creating a new personal baseline
for my next project. PM
Headquarters of the organizing
committee for the Rio 2016
Olympic and Paralympic Games