Doug Arnot (ATR)
(ATR) Doug Arnot has seen and done nearly everything on the management level in the Olympic Movement.
But despite his vast resume of Olympic experience, he tells Around the Rings
that collaborating with Baku 2015 over a two-year lead-up to the inaugural European Games was a project unlike any other.
Arnot – who was most recently operations director for London 2012 – and his Boston-based Broadstone Group supplied 410 international staff members to the Baku European Games Organising Committee (BEGOC).
The well-traveled executive and his group assembled an all-star cast from past Olympics to coordinate, implement and manage the Games in a timeframe of less than two years.
“We tried to use time and the lack of time as advantage and not a disadvantage,” Arnot told ATR during an interview at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Baku.
“We used it to keep people very focused on what needed to be done – here the decisions needed to be make quickly.”
Arnot officially began the project shortly after establishing the first coordination commission between Baku 2015 and the European Olympic Committees (EOC) about six months after the Azerbaijani city was awarded the Games in December 2012.
Along the process, Arnot worked to develop a close relationship with the local Azerbaijani government including sports minister and BEGOC CEO Azad Rahimov, who persevered in convincing him to accept the project.
“It was intense, no one could take their foot off the gas and we absolutely couldn’t have done it without the level of talent and experience that we had,” Arnot said of the tight timeframe.
Arnot was deemed the right man for the job. His past credits include serving as managing director of venues and operations for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and director of operations for the 2002 Salt Lake City. He is also currently working with Rio 2016 and the U.S. Olympic Committee on Boston 2024's Olympic bid.
The Olympic veteran admitted that cultural differences and Azerbaijan’s lack of experience hosting international events significantly enhanced the challenge.
“The first thing you have to do is really assess the environment that you’re in and what are the capabilities,” Arnot said. “How do we fit into that and what do we have to change to accommodate them.”
“Because they [Azerbaijan] had really never
BEGOC headquarters are in the old post office in Baku (ATR)
done anything like this before, it took a lot longer to explain things and for them to comprehend why we needed to do things a certain way,” Arnot said. “It’s quite nice now because they see it all, see things that came to fruition and they remember our discussions.”
Arnot noted that a competent local workforce has been developed, much of it due to a program set up at a local university which provided an education for working at the Baku 2015 Games. NOCs were also invited to bring individuals to study in the academy.
“We were quite committed to having a local workforce,” Arnot said. “We also have young people from 45 countries working here with the Azerbaijanis.”
Although Arnot has competently delivered a diverse team of experienced Olympic veterans and the Games have gone smoothly since the June 12 opening ceremony, his work is not complete.
Arnot spoke about one of the potentially alarming challenges that occurred during these Games – a health scare at one night of the wrestling competition.
“It really required a CSI kind of investigation at Heydar Aliyev Arena,” Arnot explained. “We thought there was possibly a health problem. We worked with the ministry of emergency services, we worked with the health ministry and we were able to eliminate everything.
“We came away feeling quite satisfied that the health problem wasn’t present.”
European Games Homestretch
Arnot, who initially suggested to Baku organizers to keep the Games shorter than 17 days, said that everyone involved must be careful not to let their guard down and push hard through Sunday’s finish line.
“The first week was like a rocket ship to the moon for Baku and for the people of Azerbaijan,” he said. “Maintaining that is a little bit of the challenge.”
Considering the excessively hot temperatures forecast over the days ahead, it could prove more difficult than anticipated.
“Right now, it’s really about maintaining energy – 17 days is long,” Arnot said. “There’s going to be a little bit of a challenge of keeping energy and keeping people focused.
“Every single day with this group of people we have, the issues don’t sit around for long,” he said. “They get resolved quickly and we’ve been able to keep advancing.
“There’s always something you can improve on, but overall I’m happy with the delivery of these Games.”
Reported in Baku by Brian Pinelli
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