From kitting out at the NEC, to the Olympics in Rio and preparations for Pyeongchang, Joe Divall takes us on a journey through his career at the BOA in the third part of our five-part series. The series is dedicated to providing a unique insight into the preparations that are made behind the scenes to provide the athletes with the right conditions to succeed.
Part 3: Joe Divall, Games Services Manager
Can you tell us about your career to date, and how you came to be Games Services Manager at the BOA?
Joe Divall: I’ve been working at the BOA for nine years now, and working in the games services team for just over seven years. When I originally joined the BOA I actually joined their finance team. I had the opportunity to go out to Macau for the pre-games holding camp in 2008. Following on from that camp I was offered a role over in the games services team, where I got stuck in straight away. I took on a number of roles, from accreditations, to arrivals and departures, to looking after some of the kit, which got me my position within the games services team. From there on in, I’ve always been predominantly focused on logistics. The games services team is split into two aspects: operations, that focuses on entering the team and things like accreditation, accommodation, etc.; and, logistics, which is my side, focusing on flights, transport, freight, IT and telecoms, and kitting out.
What are the key skills you need to be successful in the role as a Games Services Manager?
JD: You need to be calm under pressure. There are many people approaching you for solutions. Sometimes you can pre-empt those, but a lot of the time you can’t because they’re live issues that just happen and can hit you on day one. So, it’s crucial that you have a flexible approach to problem-solving and a calmness about you as well.
What does a typical day look like for you in the build up to an Olympic Games?
JD: They’re long days, really long days. We’ve been building up to this for some time now. Within our team there are only two of us that are focused on the purely logistical side of it, so we’re juggling a lot of balls. As I mentioned, the areas we’re looking are that of kitting out, freight, A&D, telecoms & transport. All of them have their own challenges and they’re pretty big baskets, so it’s just constantly juggling across the piece to make sure we’re not dropping any balls. Having said that, they do all tend to flow on from one another. We always start with kitting out because it’s the first time we bring the team together, so there is a huge focus placed on it prior to the games. Then once we arrive at the games we start to bump in to all of our venues. For example, we start to receive all our sea-freight that has been in transit for a couple of months prior to the kitting out and move it into all the venues. Once we’ve dealt with the freight side of things, the team start arriving, so there is generally a nice flow to the baskets. So whilst we have put all the plans in place to juggle all the factors at play, in reality, they create a nice domino effect with one rolling on from the other.
How big is your team? And what do you look for in new recruits?
JD: Day-to-day in the office, from a logistics side we’re a team of two, but that ramps up significantly at games time. So my team is a team of ten, based out in Rio, but then also looking after the operation back here, so on any given day we’ll have up to 80 or 90 staff here on the ground once the kitting out operation is running. We look for people with a really good attitude to fill those roles. In these type of environments where emotions are running high and bearing in mind that there are plenty of things that you must be sensitive around athletes needs, particularly if the athlete has had a bad day at training or if their frame of mind is not quite where they’d like it to be for some reason. We need to be aware of these things and have that emotional awareness as well as that calmness under pressure that I already mentioned.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to work at the Olympic Games who isn’t necessarily an athlete?
JD: Grab any opportunity that you can. When I first started at the BOA when I was working in finance. I volunteered to work here at kitting out - I was a personal shopper for the day. I did a little bit of work back-of-house. I found that the more you throw yourself at these opportunities and the harder your work, generally opportunities do open up. That was how I was fortunate enough to get my position within the games services team. I just volunteered for absolutely everything, did the best that I could, and just kept throwing myself at it. You don’t necessarily have to be a rocket scientist in logistics, but just keep working hard and have the right frame of mind, then generally these opportunities do come your way.
What’s the most exciting part of your role within the BOA?
JD: Seeing it all come together when the athletes arrive. We plan and build up to these things, so this event itself has been four years in the making, and generally you find that six months prior to it, it does become crunch-time. All the planning that you’ve been doing peaks as you start to know who the athletes are and the teams start to take shape, so actually seeing everything that you’ve planned for and prepped around the athletes’ arrival, that’s the most rewarding bit by far.
What expectations do you have for the team this summer in Rio?
JD: We’ve all got high hopes. We say within the team back at the office, “we’re all making sacrifices: we’re making sacrifices, the athletes are making sacrifices.” So we have to make sure that we’ve left no stone unturned, in giving them the best platform possible so they can go out and achieve their personal bests, whatever those may be. Whether it’s a gold medal or a personal best, we’d be pretty happy with that. We’re hoping we can continue on the previous success that we’ve had. We’re aspiring to be a very successful team, so we’ll see what comes out of it at the end.
Looking beyond Rio, have preparations already begun towards Pyeongchang 2018 and Tokyo 2020?
JD: Absolutely. We start six or seven years out from the Olympic Games. As soon as we know that a city has been awarded the games, that’s when our planning starts. Straight away we start looking at airlines to take the team, routes in for all of the freight for the sports equipment and start to get all that planning underway. We’ve got a recce directly after the summer games to Pyeongchang and we’ve already done a lot of work in securing a pre-games training camp in Tokyo as well, so it really is never-ending.
To show your support for Team GB and get the latest insider news on the athletes, sign up to the Team GB Club at www.teamgb.com/club.
If you've been inspired by this article give your career in sport a boost with the latest live vacancies at Federations & LOCS, or create an account today and stay up to date with all the latest industry knowledge, events and jobs in sport.