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25 November 2013
What’s it like to be a trainee lawyer on secondment at the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games as the starting gun looms? Kat Simms gives the lowdown
For a secondee at the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Locog), each day offers a new challenge. Based in Canary Wharf with fantastic views of the Olympic Park, it is easy to feel inspired by the Games. Most people here at Locog are passionate about sport in one way or another. Whether former athletes, keen amateurs or just enthusiastic supporters, they live and breathe the Olympic values and want the Games to be a success for London, the UK and for sport as a whole.
On the legal front, the team is made up of 15 permanent employees and around 10 secondees. We are led by Locog general counsel Terry Miller. It is quite a small team when you consider the huge amount of legal work that goes on behind the scenes. The Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer London office provides advice on various projects when specific expertise is needed. So far, more than 200 Freshfields employees have worked on the Games in one way or another.
I joined Locog on secondment from Freshfields last August, filling one of two positions available for trainees. I work mainly on the areas of ceremonies, culture, education and live sites.
When you think of what is involved in organising the largest sporting event in the world, legal work is probably not what first comes to mind. But it is surprising just how much work at Locog requires some form of legal advice or contract.
One of the first milestones of the Games will be the Olympic torch relay, kicking off on 18 May 2012. It will last for 70 days and involve around 8,000 torchbearers.
Locog’s aim is to have the flame within an hour’s journey of 95 per cent of the UK population. The torch relay alone has generated a vast amount of legal work, including negotiating sponsorship agreements with lead sponsors Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung. Under these agreements Locog grants rights such as the right to use the specially designed Torch brand and the right to include a vehicle in the convoy.
We also need to put contracts in place for catering, laundry, medical and other services, as well as for accommodation for each of the 70 nights of the relay. So we have to sort out a vast number of contracts with businesses up and down the country. Each local authority on the route also needs to enter an agreement with Locog to secure the route, close roads and assist with security.
The opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium will mark the official start of the London 2012 Olympic Games. History suggests it will be watched by more than three billion people worldwide. With the spotlight firmly on London, it has to be a spectacle.
The legal team has helped with the formation of a separate company - London 2012 Ceremonies (L2012C). This is charged with creating the vision, as well as producing the opening and closing ceremonies, for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The job of creating this vision for the Olympic opening ceremony has been handed to Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle. The relationship between Locog and L2012C is a contractual one established via a ceremonies production agreement. We work closely with L2012C (as Locog is its only client) and share space at 3 Mills Studios. The number of contracts involved is enormous - they have to cover all the lighting and technical equipment, as well as the costumes and props. Of course, all of the performers, artists and musicians need individual contracts too.
Brand protection is one of the most vital parts of Locog’s legal work. The Olympic and Paralympic symbols and the London 2012 brand are Locog’s most valuable assets. Locog’s commercial partners have paid to use the brand exclusively and be associated with the London 2012 Games. It is vital that Locog works hard to protect these rights and ensure the valuable IP is not used by anyone not legally entitled to do so. Our legal team is working to prevent infringements and we expect this workstream to increase as 2012 approaches.
We also work to combat counterfeit merchandise and ambush marketing. Most people are familiar with the ambush marketing stunt at the 2010 Fifa World
Cup in South Africa involving a Dutch beer company. Our team is working hard to try to forestall any attacks in 2012.
A key element of Locog’s £2bn operating budget comes from sponsorship from commercial partners. So far this programme has raised more than £600m. Once a partner is found the legal team helps to draft and negotiate a partnership agreement with that partner. This agreement sets out what rights Locog will grant the partner and what the partner will provide to Locog.
We simply have to make sure we have world-class venues ready for 2012. There will be approximately 30 competition venues for the Olympic Games and around 20 venues
for the Paralympic Games. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) is responsible for constructing the Olympic Park in Stratford under a programme investing more than £5bn. The first of these new venues, the Velodrome, is now complete and was handed over to Locog in January. The other venues will follow during 2011 and early 2012.
Each venue outside the Olympic Park, such as Wembley Arena (where the badminton and rhythmic gymnastics will be held) and the City of Coventry Stadium (where some of the football will be held) is covered by a venue-use agreement between Locog and the owner. This is negotiated by the legal team. It is important to make sure we have the right access before the competition starts so we can put in the overlay (equipment required for each sport and for broadcasting and so on) in advance.
In many cases, such as Greenwich Park, where the equestrian events will be held, and Horseguards Parade, where the beach volleyball will take place, we must also obtain planning permission. This was something both the legal team and Freshfields’ planning lawyers helped with.
Aside from the 900,000 items of sports equipment required for the Olympic Games, which the legal team is preparing the contracts to procure, we also advise on several sport-related issues, including anti-doping and gambling. Locog’s vast procurement programme includes contracts covering everything from 200,000 temporary seats to 10,000 temporary toilets. A recent example is a major deal with Aggreko to provide temporary power.
The legal team helped to negotiate the agreement with Channel 4 to be the official broadcaster of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Channel 4 will be showing more footage of the Paralympic Games than ever before, which is helping towards Locog’s aim that the Paralympic Games should be delivered to the same standard as the Olympic Games, albeit in its own distinctive way.
Alongside sport, Locog is coordinating a programme of cultural events known as the Cultural Olympiad. Locog has recently announced the first commissions to be part of the London 2012 Festival.
The festival will run from 21 June to 9 September 2012 as the finale of the Cultural Olympiad. It will include a wide variety of cultural events, showcases and performances involving art, music, theatre and dance. I have been involved in negotiating cooperation agreements with each cultural partner commissioned for the festival. These govern everything from funding, ambush marketing and brand protection to licensing of the London 2012 brand.
Negotiating with artists is not something I expected to be doing when I started at Freshfields, but it has been a great experience.
One significant difference from working on a matter for a single client in a law firm is that Locog cannot stage London 2012 by itself. A large number of stakeholders and interested parties play roles in making it happen.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted the City of London and the British Olympic Association (BOA) the right to host the Games in accordance with the Host City Contract, to which Locog became a party once it was established. The bid was based on fundamental guarantees of support from the City and the Government and sets out a range of obligations that must be delivered. All key decisions are subject to IOC approval and, with respect to the Paralympic Games, by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), requiring Locog to consult with them on a regular basis.
At a national level Locog works with the BOA and British Paralympic Association, which look after Team GB and Para GB respectively. Internationally, there are 205 national olympic committees and 162 national paralympic committees.
Other parties include the ODA, in charge of building the new Olympic Park; the Government Olympic Executive within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport;
the Home Office; the UK Border Agency; the Department for Transport; the Greater London Authority; the office of the Mayor of London; each host borough and host city council… the list is almost endless.
At every stage each interested party needs to have its voice heard. The success of London 2012 depends on strong relationships and effective communication, and the legal team often plays a key role in ensuring this happens.
The legal work and challenges we face at Locog are unique. We have an immovable deadline and we know the world will be watching. It is great to start the day not knowing what will land on your desk - the one thing you do know is that, whatever it is, it will be interesting.
Even being a small part of London 2012 has been incredible and I cannot wait for the Games to begin.
Kat Simms is a trainee solicitor at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer