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The Role for the FM at the 2012 Olympic Stadium
The journey from Coventry train station to the Ricoh Arena takes about 10 minutes and is somewhat nondescript; around the A4053 ringroad, past the familiar IKEA blue box and north for a few miles on B roads. It's not a journey many visitors will remember. But all that will change next summer when the venue plays host to the 2012 Olympics football competition and the route from station to stadium will be dressed with everything from banners and flags to flowers and giant models of footballers on roundabouts.
The city is being transformed, thanks to European funding, with a new development welcoming Olympic visitors. "When people arrive at the station or at one of the outlying car parks they must feel like they have arrived at the Olympics," explains the venue's facilities director Anthony Mundy.
The 40-acre, £113m site will play host to 12 football matches during the competition including five days of two matches a day back-to-back. And the home of Championship side Coventry City FC is in good company: Old Trafford, Wembley, Hampden Park and Cardiff are also hosting Olympic football.
Kicking off the games
The first football of the games to be played in England will be hosted at the venue (a game in Cardiff kicks off 20 minutes before) and the women's bronze final will be held here but Mundy won't know which specific games will be played, and what countries could be coming, until the draw in April next year. Time is even more of a pressure at the arena, because the football starts on 22 July 2012 — two days before the opening ceremony — to fit in all the games. There are more football matches, in fewer venues with less time than in any other Olympics, hence the early start, he explains.
As the second-most watched Olympic sport after athletics, Mundy knows that his seven-year old facility will be under intense scrutiny — and the scrutiny has already started. The past six months has seen huge amounts of operational planning with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (Locog) and Mundy estimates he is currently spending half of his time on Olympic-related matters. "Everything within the bowl is ours to manage during the Olympics, but everything outside is theirs, such as the accreditation, security and access."
The Ricoh Arena, with a capacity of 32,000, is no stranger to tight security. Although Mundy rightfully boasts that it regularly hosts police-free football matches, security is tight for local derby matches and with clubs, such as Millwall, which come with a certain reputation. "Sometimes away fans rip up the seats and throw them onto the pitch and vandalise the building, so we have strong security when need be. But the Olympics will be on a different level to what we usually do. It will be airport-style."
The FM team, for example, will create a detailed schedule of all vehicles with planned deliveries such as catering, cleaning, linen, maintenance vehicles and provide these to the Olympic security team. Any ad hoc requests will have to go through vehicle screening. Although the arena has 2,000 on-site car-parking spaces, these won't be sold to the general public come summer 2012 but will be used to house the huge amount of infrastructure the Olympics brings. There will be 7,500 car park spaces in off-site car parks around the stadium. Having back-to-back games on the same day means having four teams on site, instead of the usual two, and means that Mundy will have to create two extra changing rooms.
Feeding the Olympic volunteers, which are expected to number between 1,500 and 2,000 people operating on a shift system between 6am and midnight, is as much an operation as feeding visitors in the stadium, says Mundy. There are eight kitchens on site but temporary facilities will be provided where need be. The arena has had a joint venture with Compass since 2005 and in 2009 signed a 10-year contract for its soft facilities management services.
But for the Olympics, the arena had to go through a bid process for its catering, something it agreed with Compass before it bid to be an Olympic venue. Fortunately, Compass won the deal to provide the catering at the Ricoh for the Olympics, together with catering at the Millennium Stadium, the O2 Arena, Wembley Arena and Wimbledon.
There needs to be around 500 media personnel on site during the games and the arena's press box currently sits 90. And it's not just the lack of seats which is the problem but the amount of extra camera angles and photographer positions which are required.
Clearly thrilled to be involved in such an interesting, and prestigious project, Mundy acknowledges that it stretches the boundaries of what is facilities management. "I'm often outside my FM comfort blanket," he says.
FM Quick Facts
2,000 Olympic volunteers on-site during the competition
It also hosts numerous entertainment nights in the new 650-seat Mercia Live Level, which opened in October 2010 as part of a £3.7m investment programme.
Next month, the venue will host the 2011 FA Women's Cup final for the first time.
Every year the venue hosts 14,000 people over three days for the Jehovah's Witness convention and 3,000 people for the annual Boots conference as well as numerous other conferences, exhibitions and meetings for the likes of Whitbread, Link, Tesco, Costa, Sainsbury's and Argos, as well as local businesses.
Bang in the centre of the country and close to the M6, in many ways it's a perfect location. When FM World visited, plans were in place for 50 iconic Jaguar cars to line the exhibition hall to celebrate the 50th birthday of the E-Type — the same day Coventry beat Watford 2-nil just yards away in the building.
Because of the number of conferences, a key objective for Mundy is to create more hotel rooms: "We want a 200-250 bed hotel here," he says. The 46-pitch-facing rooms can either be set up as a hotel bedroom, or (with bed safely folded into the wall) a meeting room or corporate box.
And the flexibility doesn't end there. A major football match could be taking place at the same time as a wedding and a huge exhibition, plus other smaller events. The sheer size, scale and adaptability of the building is its strength, and the reason no doubt, why it was chosen for the Olympics. "Lots of football venues kick into action for match day but we're a 365-day a year facility."
Naturally hosting major events can occasionally disrupt local residents; Mundy is chair of the local residents group and holds regular consultations. In the past, car-parking, litter and stadium visitors urinating into people's gardens were the main problems. As a result, the Ricoh has introduced one of Britain's biggest car-parking enforcement schemes, provided extra litter bins and temporary toilets around the venue on big event days.
Like most FMs, energy saving is high on Mundy's agenda, both to become a greener site but also to save money — the site spends more than £1m a year on utilities. Over the past two years, a 13 per cent saving has been achieved by introducing technology to monitor and tweak the building management system to ensure it runs at peak efficiency, introducing gas and voltage optimisation technology, PIRs, and liaising with staff and tenants. Now Mundy and his team are looking at renewables such as wind, solar power and CHP to see if they are cost-effective.
Banning the brand
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the 2012 Olympics is that the venue will lose its identity for the duration of the games. No branding is allowed, so the Ricoh Arena will become the City of Coventry Stadium. A simple change, but one which requires every bit of branding to be covered to create a "clean" stadium. The Olympic branding itself will cover some of the Ricoh, and other branding, but there are major challenges such as the massive Ricoh painted in huge letters on top of one of the halls. "We are trying to establish the extent to which we need to be a clean stadium. For example, do we need to cover the brand of the pipework around the stadium?". What is already certain is that the venue will switch to Olympic sponsors Coke and Heineken from Pepsi and Carlsberg for the duration of the games.
The arena is host to a number of tenants including Yorkshire Bank, Ricoh, Rank, Arena Health Club, de Vere and a community space — and they too are affected by the Olympics. "It's amazing the influence that the Olympics has," says Mundy. "All of our tenants and our suppliers have bent over backwards to help, to the extent that their business will be affected. But they are prepared to do that because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and they want to be associated with that."
And that sentiment extends to the facilities management team: "For us as an FM team, the Olympics will have taken more than two years to prepare for, and will be over in 12 days. But to be involved at a planning and practical level with an event of that magnitude is a huge buzz."
FM World (www.fm-world.co.uk) is the fortnightly magazine for the British Institute of Facilities Management and is read by the 12,500 members of the BIFM. It includes a mixture of strategic and practical articles together with case studies and interviews aimed at senior FM professionals in the UK and around the world. The magazine is supplemented by a daily industry news service on the FM World Web site www.fm-world.co.uk. Copyright for this article resides with Redactive Media Group. If you would like to reproduce the article in any form please contact the Publishing Director, Martin Read at firstname.lastname@example.org.