On Friday 1 July GlobalSportsJobs met up with five senior figures from the British Olympic Association to bring you a range of insights and career advice from a variety of different functions across the organisation. We built up a great understanding of what working in each department entails and over the next 5 weeks we’ll be bringing you a series of articles in which you, too, can begin to understand what it’s like to work at Great Britain’s largest sports team.
Part 1: Mark England, Chef de Mission
Could you please tell us about your career to date and how you came to be Chef de Mission at Team GB?
Mark England: I’ve been very fortunate, I’ve always worked in sport. I did a postgraduate qualification in Recreation Management at the University of North London and, since then, I’ve always been involved in recreation. I’ve worked for a number of local authorities and I’ve worked for the GB Sports Council in London, I was then Head of Sport & Recreation in Glasgow where I was Head of Major Events & Community & Sport Development. I then went back to Sport England and was Assistant Director of the National Centres, which is where my involvement in elite sports started to come to fruition. Then I was a consultant. I did a lot of work with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB), where I was a high-performance sport consultant. I then joined the British Olympic Association (BOA) in 2001. So, I’ve been fortunate enough to go to seven Olympic & Winter Olympic Games. I’ve been Chef de Mission of the Great Britain Youth Team on twelve occasions & Deputy Chef on seven occasions for the Senior Team, so it’s a huge privilege to be Chef de Mission for Rio 2016.
What are your overall responsibilities and where does your focus lie within the position?
ME: In Rio de Janeiro, during the Olympic Games, my responsibility is to lead the delegation, but my daytime role as the Director of Sport Services for the BOA means that, I’ve been involved in the day-to-day planning and operation in delivering the blueprint for the British delegation at the Rio games, since May 2010, which was our first visit to Rio with some of the Team Leaders. Since then we’ve been putting into place a plan and a strategy to ensure that British athletes have the best possible success in Rio. Thanks to UK Sport and the lottery we’ve got a fantastic pre-games training camp in Belo Horizonte. We’ve got a very comprehensive operational plan for Rio de Janeiro during the games itself, which brings into play an offsite performance centre at the British School, all giving us a competitive advantage against other International Olympic Committees.
You mentioned Rio as a venue, it has made a lot of headlines. How has this impacted on your preparation and management of the athletes?
ME: Well, it hasn’t really. What Brazil is trying to do is a couple of things. One, is to host the first Olympic Games in South America, so the technical expertise inherent within the country doesn’t necessarily exist. They’ve imported a lot of expertise, many people who worked on London 2012 for example. We do things very differently in the UK, maybe that shapes our expectation that everything needs to be ready twelve months in advance, whereas the organising committee in Brazil might think that as the games start on August 5th, as long as they’ve completed everything before that then they’ve done it on time. So we need to understand that their organising committee just does things slightly differently. In order to prepare our athletes, support staff and delegation for that, it’s a strong education program about keeping them up to speed with the transportation infrastructure, the Olympic Village, which is without question the best Olympic Village that I’ve ever been in. The venues are sensational. Rio de Janeiro & Brazil will put on a fantastic games, very different to other games I’m sure but no less successful, exciting and even flamboyant perhaps.
What does success look like for Team GB and the BOA at Rio 2016?
ME: Well, success will be measured on a number of levels. Primarily we’re there to win medals, but we’re also there to ensure that every athlete performs to the best of their ability and produces personal bests. If athletes produce personal bests, then the medal table will take care of itself; however, we’re not naïve enough to think that the medal table doesn’t count. So for me, I think there’s enough talent in the team, there’s enough quality in the team, to make history. There’s enough talent in the team to come home with more medals than we've ever won in an away games before, which sets 47 medals from Beijing as the benchmark. We could make history and do something that no other national Olympic committee has ever done, which is win more medals post hosting. That would be to win more than 65 medals.
Finally, what advice would you give to people who are not necessarily athletes, but would love to work at future Olympic Games?
ME: There are great opportunities to be involved at major, multi-sport events. They are on the increase, as are the complexities of the games themselves. So, we’re always on the lookout for great logistics people, people with great understanding and experience in sport and in multi-sport games. The opportunity to fulfil an ambition of being part of an Olympic programme, be it through marketing, branding, communications or press & media, in addition to being inside the Olympic Village bubble through games delivery, there are a huge amount of opportunities. I sympathise now with people trying to get in. You’ve got to earn your stripes, work voluntarily and put yourself out there to show willingness to work on multi-sport games and get that experience in the bag. Once you do that, we’re very keen to see new people come through for the next quad, which is very much an Asian-based quad – the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games in 2018 and the Beijing Olympic Winter Games in 2022, with Tokyo and Jakarta sandwiched in between – makes that part of the world a big focus for us, so we’d love to hear from people with experience of working there.
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