July, 21 2021


Operational Readiness



01. The Challenge

Ensuring Operational Readiness during a one-in-one-hundred-year pandemic is a first in the landscape of global sporting events. There has never been an Olympic event run during a pandemic. Staging an Olympic Games at the best of times presents its challenges, but operating and delivering a safe Games in the context of a pandemic for the number of athletes and other stakeholders concerned is unprecedented.

Since 2017, Ikosaeder has been providing Operational Readiness consulting services to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games and from 2018 for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. An Operational Readiness strategy and programme scope was developed based on the understanding of current Tokyo 2020 plans and previous Games best practice. Planned activities aimed to support Tokyo 2020 to effectively transition from Planning to Readiness phase. A holistic approach was taken to drive capability building at all organisational levels, from executive to operational. Readiness activities delivery took place from 2018 to 2020. From 2020 and well into 2021, we planned and delivered the COVID-19 countermeasure Readiness programme.

From a process standpoint, pandemic scenarios have typically always been included within contingency planning for Games. Globalisation and other factors have led to very different impacts from 2018 to 2020, so planning for pandemic needed to reflect a more current context. Also, there was no operational documentation to refer to as a starting point. Typically, an Olympic event benefits significantly from a vast amount of knowledge which is passed on from Games to Games. This was missing in this scenario. All plans, processes, information flows have had to be designed from scratch and have relied heavily on the support of expert knowledge to create.

02. The Solution

As with the design of all our Operational Readiness programmes, we analyse any new scenarios, no matter how complex, from a risk perspective and exercise against that framework. We developed a series of pandemic exercises – a combination of talkthroughs, walkthroughs, tabletops and simulations – and used these to drill down into known areas of risk related to the overlay of COVID-19 countermeasures. This included stakeholder journeys for athlete and non-athlete groups, potential impacts to sport competition, the exercising of new COVID-19 related C3 structures, their information flows and integration with technology, airport operations, public health authorities, athlete village operations and other exceptional situations.

Ikosaeder offered flexible development to ensure full alignment with and support to the planning process which occurred in parallel. We also played a key role in stakeholder integration – bringing together perspectives from medical, legal, sport, C3 and stakeholder owners to ensure Games organisers were able to align operational planning and spot any gaps or overlaps.

The COVID-19 exercise programme was one component of a four-year programme over the course of which we delivered 85+ exercises involving over 7500 people. Additionally, through coaching and collaboration, we enabled Tokyo 2020 to autonomously deliver 150+ Readiness exercises involving over 10000+ learners.

03. The Outcome

Tangible and intangible benefits of Ikosaeder’s COVID-19 Readiness programme included a robust post-exercise reporting mechanism which identified areas that worked well as well as areas for development and suggested next steps. This was a catalyst for fast-tracking planning for pandemic. Intangible benefits included confidence that plans, processes and information flows were fit for purpose and that all stakeholders were able to integrate seamlessly in delivery of a safe Games. The client also benefitted from a wealth of previous Games expertise which can be easily leveraged and adapted to the exercising of new post COVID Readiness scenarios. They also gained confidence that a thorough exercising process would adequately prepare the implementation team for the challenges that lie ahead, both foreseen and unforeseen.

Specifically, from an Operational Readiness and Risk Management perspective we designed, developed and delivered the COVID Readiness Programme. As far as Communication Command Control (C3), we supported the design and testing of COVID-19 specific C3 structures and mechanisms. From a People Capability Development standpoint, we redesigned the delivery mechanism to replace face-to-face with virtual delivery. While exceedingly more complex to deliver, the ultimate outputs were not compromised as a result.

For the full detail on our overall Operational Readiness, C3 and People of Capability Development programme for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, please see our Tokyo 2020 case study here and our Tokyo 2020 VR training case study here.

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