Olympic Review Part One: Preparing For Success
Updated: Mar 10
It would be amiss for me to begin an Olympic reflections series, starting with anything other than preparation.
Anyone who knows me, or has seen my keynote speech, knows that planning is intrinsically entrenched in who I am as a human. It has always served me well. However, after these Games, I walk away with a whole new level of appreciation for the power of great preparation.
For a normal Olympics, the sheer amount of planning is extraordinary; then slot in a late Summer Olympics and add a global pandemic on top, and you hit overwhelming levels. But when you pause to watch our athletes, doing everything in their power to succeed in this short and rare window of time, the team behind the team can only be inspired and lift.
With high standards and common goals to stay focused on, our planning ensured we were ready for whatever might come in Beijing. The work we put in helped us fully understand our roles, develop strong relationships, build the right mindset and all get on the same page. We had good and committed people. We each wanted to create something special, so together we prepared to do that.
Walking into Beijing there were still a lot of unknowns, particularly around the application of COVID protocols, transportation and language barriers. We’d done a huge amount of scenario planning in preparation, and ultimately this planning had us ready to be mentally, practically and emotionally agile. We’d garnered greater understanding of each other’s strengths, developed confidence in our ability to work together and to quickly appraise situations and make sound decisions. Our months of planning built the trust that we would ultimately rely upon during Games time when things moved very fast.
Much of what we actually faced during the Beijing Games was expected, but there were also some genuine surprises. In those times of challenge, it was our focus on athletes, performance, health, excellence, simplicity and integrity that steered our course… and some good old fashioned grit. Our Aussie fighting spirit and camaraderie drove us to succeed when it was just as important to win off the field of play, as it was on it.
For our athletes, their preparation was done in the 4-8 years prior. In saying that, the last 4 months leading into the Games was very intense with some athletes still qualifying and many still honing their skills (while competing in new countries every week and trying to stay both Covid and injury free). Our job, was to support each team as its own high performance bubble - to enable athletes, coaches, performance psychologists and medical support, to do what they know best in their normal way. In saying that, the Olympics are very unique.
It’s vital to prepare people for the gravity of an Olympic experience, the emotions, intensity, fear, anticipation, excitement, exhaustion, distractions and possible desperation that they might feel. When athletes, coaches and officials need to perform, it is the human within them that they rely upon. That human needs to be well aware of what’s coming, and be ready to understand and work through all those experiences, if they are going to maximise their chances of success. That therefore means, that those in support roles must also be ready, to not just manage their own emotions and expectations, but to support athletes and colleagues too.
The work done in advance to be clear on our goals, values and priorities was priceless. Through our attention to detail, sometimes difficult conversations and personal accountability we elevated trust, safety and respect. Which meant when we arrived at the 2022 Olympic Games, we were truly ready to perform.
I am incredibly proud of what we achieved in Beijing, but perhaps more so, how we went about it. That when we all said goodbye, we could honestly look each other in the eye knowing that we’d left no stone unturned in the pursuit of excellence and Olympic dreams.
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