London Games off to better start than Athens

The 80,000 seat Olympic Stadium will be built at the heart of the new Olympic Park in East London. London 2012

Denis Oswald, the International Olympic Committee's coordinator for the 2012 London Games, tells swissinfo about his role and the challenges he faces.

This content was published on October 15, 2005 - 10:38

The Swiss lawyer and IOC member says London has done a much better job than Athens in its early preparations for the world's biggest sporting event.

Oswald, who is also the president of the International Federation of Rowing Associations, was chosen last month as the chairman of IOC coordination commission for London. He held the same position for the 2004 Games in Athens.

For the next seven years, he will lead a team of 15 people responsible for assisting the London organising committee.

swissinfo: What are the biggest challenges facing the London organisers?

Denis Oswald: Probably the biggest [difficulty] will be transportation. They have a big project to improve the transport system, especially for bringing spectators to the planned Olympic Park in East London.

It's a really big challenge, but on the other hand it will constitute a major improvement for the people of London.

swissinfo: There is another issue that springs to mind when speaking about London: security.

D.O.: The Olympic games could of course be a target for terrorists in any city in the world if they want to bring attention to themselves. The games are taking place in seven years time and a lot can happen in the meantime.

Security is the top priority for the IOC and any organising committee. This will be the case in London, but I don't think the games there would be a specific target.

swissinfo: What are you expecting from the London Games?

D.O.: Each Games are different. Each organising country should give them a specific flavour.

In 2000 in Australia, we had their enthusiasm for sport. Greece was able to offer something very special with their connection to the ancient Games and highlighted the Olympic past.

I think London can bring something through its vast cosmopolitan population. We need to remember that most modern sports were also born in Britain and that would be worth putting forward.

swissinfo: You are serving as chairman of the coordination commission. What is the most difficult part of your job?

D.O.: The Olympic Games are probably the most difficult thing to organise. It is so complex that the best-prepared organising committee cannot think of everything. There are new problems every day, so the commission's role is to make sure everything is taken into account and progressing well.

The main difficulty is to make sure that all aspects are running on time. In this respect, London had a very good start. Two months after being awarded the games, an organising committee had been set up and started working. This was not the case in Athens, which was one of the reasons we encountered difficulties there.

swissinfo: In Athens, you spent a lot of time warning the organisers they were falling behind schedule. Do you expect the same kind of problem in London?

D.O.: I think everybody has learnt the lessons of Athens. Their organising committee was only operational 18 months after they got the games and they had appointed people who were not part of the bid process, forcing them to start from scratch.

This was a big mistake. Work only really started four years before the games, and that's why we had to apply pressure to ensure all the projects progressed according to plan.

In London, the people in the organising committee were involved in the bid. They have already negotiated with all the international sports federations, who are responsible for technical aspects and venues.

There are some challenges because there are only 15 existing venues and there will be 31 needed for the games.

swissinfo: Do you consider yourself to be a watchdog or a friendly adviser?

D.O.: I don't like the term watchdog because that's not what we do. We cooperate with the organising committee. We have the same goal, which is to make the games successful. What we bring is a certain expertise, experience from previous games.

We consider things from a different perspective, representing the athletes, the national Olympic committees and the international federations. If we think things are not progressing the way they should, it's our role to tell the organising committee. Sometimes in Greece we were called the inspectors or the IOC police, but that's not what we want to be.

swissinfo-interview: Scott Capper

Key facts

The operational budget for the Games is estimated to be $2.5billion (SFr3.1 billion).
Approximately $900 million is funded directly by the IOC through a sponsor programme and the sale of TV rights.
The rest will be raised principally through local sponsorship and official suppliers, ticket revenues and licensing.
The organising committee does not fund the capital costs of venues or other permanent infrastructure.

End of insertion

In brief

Denis Oswald, born in 1947 in Neuchâtel, was a member of the Swiss rowing team from 1968 to 1976, and was national champion 13 times.

He took part in three Olympic Games: Mexico (1968), Munich (1972) and Montreal (1976), winning one bronze medal.

He has been a member of the IOC since 1991 and in 2001 was appointed coordinator for the Athens Games.

In August 2005, he was chosen for the same position for the 2012 London Games.

End of insertion
In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Sort by

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Almost finished... We need to confirm your email address. To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you.

Discover our weekly must-reads for free!

Sign up to get our top stories straight into your mailbox.

The SBC Privacy Policy provides additional information on how your data is processed.