Polly Rance: The countdown is on for London 2012

Everywhere I look, from the Hackney Council website, to Trafalgar Square, I see countdown clocks to the 2012 Games.

Polly Rance: the changes during the Olympics for Londoners will be enormous
Polly Rance: the changes during the Olympics for Londoners will be enormous

They are a simple but effective device to build public excitement about a major event, but for those of us involved in planning for Games Times they are a slightly terrifying reminder of how much we have to do in how short a time.  

For Hackney, as a host borough for the Games, the issues are particularly acute, but next year will present enormous challenges for every public sector communicator in the capital, wherever they are based.   
 
The impact of the Games on London’s transport infrastructure means that the life of every Londoner will be affected in some way. For those living or working close to the Park, the changes during Games Time will be enormous.

Local services and businesses will have to change the way they operate.  Residents may have to travel, work and shop differently. Councils, health services, and police services will need to absorb the impact and communicate effectively to mitigate the effects of that impact on local people.  
 
The Games will also bring huge opportunities to build reputation, attract visitors and inward investment, and secure longer lasting economic benefits.  

On top of the 20,000 accredited journalists who will be in London to cover the Games (based in Hackney, in the Olympic media centres), there will be thousands of non-accredited hacks, wandering the capital looking for local colour to bring the host city to life for an international audience. This is a great chance for London communicators, especially those involved in promoting local areas as destinations.
 
But 2012 is not just about the Games. Every public body in London will be setting a tough budget in 2012 and many will be communicating service cuts.

2012 will also see radical changes to the housing benefit system come into place, which will disproportionately affect Londoners, due to the very high rents in the capital’s private housing sector.  

For councils, who administer these benefits, the challenge will be communicating these changes to many of our poorest, hardest to reach residents, as well as working to support those who have been adversely affected.
 
On top of all of this we will see the one year anniversary of the London riots, which falls right in the middle of the Games, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and of course round two of Boris vs. Ken, otherwise known as the London Mayoral Election.  

It really will be quite a year, full of challenges but also the most amazing opportunity for London to reassert itself as a global city to be reckoned with.   
 
To help London’s public sector communicators prepare for 2012, the CIPR Local Public Services Group, and London Councils are hosting a one-day conference, the London Communicators Forum, supported by Camden Council and Precise Media.

The event will take place in early 2012, and will be free to attend.  Follow us on Twitter @ciprlps, or Facebook for more details.


 
Polly Rance is chair of the CIPR Local Public Services Group and head of media and external relations at the London Borough of Hackney
 

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