Danny Rogers: The Olympic sport of managing expectations

For those of us working in London, the Olympics suddenly started feeling tangible this week. Unfortunately this was not for any sporting reason, but because the logistical reality for Londoners began to bite.

Danny Rogers: The Olympic sport of managing expectations
Danny Rogers: The Olympic sport of managing expectations

Signs shot up warning us against driving into central London, mysterious markings appeared in traffic lanes, small stickers were added to tube maps. At one station a worker was handing out leaflets advising us it was better to walk than to take the train. How ironic is that?

The Olympic Torch Relay was brilliantly handled in terms of weeks of narrative and content, localised for hundreds of media outlets; while the crisis management surrounding the G4S security cock-up was the opposite, throwing the Home Office and the errant private security firm into PR disarray for days.

Now there has been a sudden onset of communication, from all sorts of authorities, simply aimed at managing our expectations.

So the lead story on Monday's local news was that Heathrow was 'experiencing the busiest day in its history'. More worrying, this level of traffic would only peak in a week's time. Not exactly a 'good news story' from BAA. Rather it was saying 'we're coping ... but only just'.

Expectation management is the order of the day because no-one knows what happens next. Unfortunately there is no real precedent. London is not Beijing or Athens, and the last time there was an Olympics here, in 1948, it was a very different city.

PR professionals this week talk with a mix of excitement - particularly if they're involved in any of the myriad events taking place over the next four weeks - and trepidation. The latter comes from the confusion about how their daily life will change.

I spoke to the boss of a major PR agency, based in the heart of the West End, and he admitted he had no idea what to tell staff.

TfL had informed him that on certain days access to the agency HQ would be 'impossible' and that there could, at best, be queues for 20 minutes outside the nearest tube station.

It is not clear whether certain creative pitches or client meetings can take place from the end of next week. Or even whether some businesses can function at peak times. This means uncertainty, extra planning - even stress - for many managers.

Despite all this, most of us remain positive and supportive of the London 2012 Olympic Games. It will just be a relief for the waiting to end, the hype to be fulfilled, and the sport finally to begin.

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