Developed by the IOC in cooperation with the International Paralympic Committee and supported by the World Academy of Sport, the GEP runs for 42 days, with 135 activities across both Games.
There are 120 observers in Tokyo from the four upcoming Olympic Summer and Winter Games hosts. Particular areas of focus include the Main Operations Centre, venue operations, sport-specific requirements and operations and stakeholder operations.
Since 2002, the IOC has developed an increasingly structured approach towards learning, which includes the GEP. This is part of a long-term Information, Knowledge and Games Learning (IKL) project that has been designed to support the planning, delivery and legacy for upcoming Olympic Summer and Winter Games hosts.
Leading this initiative for the IOC is Chris Payne, Associate Director of IKL. “Organising the Olympic Games is one of the most complex operations in the world,” he said. “Welcoming thousands of Games participants from across the world for 16 days of competition requires at least seven years of preparation and a year of dissolution afterwards. That’s not even taking into account the management of Games legacy long after the closing ceremony has finished.”
He continued: “During the seven years of preparation, a huge amount of expertise is built up by those working for each Organising Committee for the Olympic Games – and this has immense value for future hosts. It can help support the successful planning and delivery of each Games and aids each OCOG in developing their own vision.
“Through knowledge transfer, they can better understand how a host city and its people benefit from the long-lasting impact and legacy of the Games – and they can better manage opportunities and risks.”
IKL’s mission is essentially to promote and stimulate both innovative and integrated learning related to the delivery of the Olympic Games. This is based on the understanding that knowledge is the IOC’s most critical asset, and that everyone working within the Games is a knowledge worker with a right to access high-quality information from multiple sources.
More than 10 Organising Committees have already benefited from this programme over the past 19 years. Speaking about the learning process, Tokyo 2020 Spokesperson Masa Takaya said: “Participating in the Games is always a great opportunity for the future Organising Committees to listen and learn from these experiences. I was able to participate in three Games in the past – Sochi, Rio and PyeongChang. Each of those was a great opportunity to listen and learn from their experiences.”
IKL develops projects and activities which are approved on an annual basis. Most of these are directly relevant to the IOC’s Olympic Games Department. Materials generated include Olympic Games Frameworks, Olympic Host Contract Operational Requirements and Olympic Games Guides. Interactive activities for stakeholders have also been developed to support the learning process.
It is however during Games time when much of the hands-on learning happens. There are observer programmes during test events, shadowing programmes for different roles, and a secondment programme, where staff from future Organising Committees take short-term roles at current Games. There’s also a bespoke observation programme for senior executives.
Anne Descamps, Director of Communications for Paris 2024, was one of the observers in Tokyo. Reflecting on her experiences, she said: “It's very important to participate in the IKL activities, because we have to get ready to take the baton from Tokyo. So being here, watching and learning from friends in Tokyo is very important for us, so we can get ready for 2024.”
Ye Chang, Division Chief for International Communications for Beijing 2022, also spoke about the benefits of the programme. “Here in Tokyo, we have witnessed almost the entire operations process and could see the efforts made by the Tokyo Organising Committee in all aspects,” she said. “This will be very helpful for our preparations in the next six months leading to our Games.”
In addition to the GEP, the IKL team in Tokyo is collecting key learning documents produced by the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, with over 1,000 items expected. Data will relate to the occupancy of venue spaces, the Olympic Village and the athlete transport system, among other things.
Educational material produced will include around 200 hours’ worth of interviews, photos from over 40 functional areas, and qualitative research. A joint Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 debrief will also take place in June 2022, to pass on lessons learned to future Olympic Games hosts.
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