The organisers wanted London's Olympic and Paralympic Games to be the first to be truly sustainable - which provided a real challenge for official hospitality package provider Prestige Ticketing. Janie Manzoori-Stamford reports
The Olympic and Paralympic Games are not just about the sport these days - they're also about the all-important legacy. Staging the greatest show on earth is expensive and disruptive, so it makes perfect sense that host cities are seizing the opportunity to use it as a catalyst for positive lasting impact, long after the departure of the Olympic flame.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog) made its legacy aim clear from the outset - to be the first to be truly sustainable.
Prestige Ticketing (PTL), the joint venture between Sodexo Prestige and the Mike Burton Group, was appointed as the sole provider of hospitality packages at official games venues and, like all other London 2012 contractors, it was expected to share Locog's long-term vision.
Sustainability isn't cheap. The four temporary venues came in at a cool £13.5m, with the flagship Olympic Park structure, at £9.5m, costing the most. However, meticulous forward planning and creative thinking has ensured that not a penny was wasted.
"Locog has very strong sustainability aspirations and we're complying with that as much as we can," says Sue Creed, operations director at PTL. She isn't kidding.
On the day I meet with Creed and PTL marketing director Tony Barnard at the Olympic Park, he isn't wearing a tie, and not because it's a balmy day, it turns out. Creed had already sold it, along with all the other ties that formed part of the uniform.
The 500 large flat-screen televisions scattered liberally across the PTL hospitality venues to ensure guests didn't miss a minute of the sporting action were not destined for the scrap heap, either. As the Paralympic Games drew to a close, Creed and Barnard were pleased to announce that they had found buyers for these, too, and this time it was the members of staff who had picked up a bargain.
Where possible, PTL opted to hire rather than buy. Neptunus, a firm specialising in temporary buildings, provided the "wings" of the Olympic Park hospitality venue from its standard stock while the magnificent central glass atrium was made to a design already in use on a hospital in Madrid, with enquiries already flooding in for its next appearance.
The list of sustainability action is lengthy: all the wood used in the four temporary venues was forestry commissioned, the fire-retardant plasterboard will be recycled, the lighting was hired and will be returned to stock, and the carpet - a far cry from standard marquee fare that is traditionally bunged in a skip at the end of an event - was deliberately chosen to be more durable so that it can be diverted into the local community.
"Everything we've put into any of our temporary structures has always been chosen with this in mind - what will happen to it afterwards?" Creed says.
This consideration is not a new one, but Creed admits that Locog's vision to be the first truly sustainable games has stretched the company further and in doing so, PTL has created its own lasting legacy, particularly with suppliers.
"By using small artisan suppliers, we've enabled them to invest in their business, employ more people and ensure their survival. After the games they can get good marketing rights out of it," explains Barnard, who accompanied PTL executive chefs on a supplier scouting mission the length and breadth of the UK.
Westcombe Dairy in Somerset, Severn & Wye Smokery in Gloucestershire and Kettyle Irish Foods in Northern Ireland were among the suppliers selected, primarily for the quality of their product but also in support of British business.
"Wherever possible we looked at a British supplier base," Creed says. "So much so that our uniforms were made by a little company down in Wales. It also gave us flexibility. We could order right up to the last minute to avoid having excess stock and a lot of the uniforms will be reused."
In addition to the lasting impact of newly forged relationships with artisan suppliers and a deeper understanding of how to maximise the sustainability of a temporary event, PTL has achieved another legacy - one that is a lot more difficult to measure but perhaps the most valuable - training.
Ahead of the games, Creed and her team spent a huge amount of time working out their definition of the phrase "world-class hospitality" and they decided it came down to four things: venue, food and wine, tickets and service.
During 2011, they went to a number of hospitality events and objectively looked at what was great and what could be improved, and the best practice was adopted and developed for the games. However, it was clear to all involved that it would be the people on the frontline - those responsible for the delivery of these best-laid plans - that would be the difference between triumph and failure.
"We were very conscious about where the games fell in the calendar, at the end of what has been a very busy season for caterers," Creed says. "We needed to make sure the catering team was motivated and reinvigorated so we brought on board Carl Smith as training manager. He worked closely alongside all our contractors, be they our caterers, hosts or security."
Over the space of three months, Smith put 3,268 people through a two-day training programme to ensure they bought into the Locog and Prestige Ticketing visions. His efforts weren't wasted. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and even by day 50, none of them showed signs of flagging.
Some credit can, of course, be given to the buzz that comes with being part of the games. Even a simple stroll through the throngs in the Olympic Park feels electric. But the conscious effort to ensure that everyone involved in the Prestige Ticketing operation was well trained and motivated is undoubtedly the element that will last.
All the valuable experiences of being part of the games can only be beneficial in the long term, so that not only will the individuals involved reap the rewards, but also the hospitality industry.
â- Eton Dorney: operated by Sodexo Prestige
â- Greenwich Park: operated by Mecco
â- Horseguards Parade: operated by Mecco
â- North Greenwich Arena: operated by Compass Group
â- Wimbledon: operated by Compass Group