Olympic Supply Chain chaos ahead – or maybe not…

Who remembers the Millennium Bug?

I was the Group Procurement Director in NatWest at the time, and to be honest, we were slightly distracted by being in the midst of a takeover battle that led in early 2000 to our demise at the hands of Fred Goodwin and RBS.

But I do remember the firm spending a fortune on precautions against the “bug” – including the tedious process of writing to every supplier to get them to sign a form saying that any problems they might have with the Bug wouldn’t have knock on effects on us (or something like that). The perfect example of covering your backside with no real discernible benefit.

And of course, in the stroke of midnight... nothing happened. Absolutely no problems anywhere. Now some experts claimed that was because so much time, effort and money had gone into preparations. But others suspected it was more a case of the IT industry talking up the problem in order to make lots of money from gullible organisations!

Olympic Clock - the final countdown

I wonder whether there’s a touch of the same around the London Olympics, in the sense of some of the dire warnings about supply chain disruption and similar. Now we know there will be shortages of portable toilet facilities this summer; but I’m not convinced that the entire country is going to grind to a halt as some claim.

And as for shutting your office for two weeks because of “all the coaches in the road outside...” !!

I was in London the other Saturday to see the quite brilliant One Servant Two Guvnors (possibly the funniest play I’ve ever seen, certainly up there with Noises Off). And it struck me that there are Saturdays when London might see 100,000 people attending top rugby matches (if there’s an international on), probably 200,000 at professional football matches, over 100,000 attending the theatre.. as well as cinemas, clubs, music venues, restaurants....

And it all – most of the time – works. So are the numbers coming for the Olympics really enough to  make us even notice a difference? I’m sure we’ll see more big black limos sweeping by, carrying Olympic dignitaries, but given that many tourists and locals will avoid London during the event, I have a suspicion that it might actually seem emptier than usual.

So, by all means look carefully at your supply chain, stock up on portable loos, drug testing kits and javelins if they’re critical procurement items for you, but unless you live next door to a major venue, maybe it won’t be quite as much of a problem as some people would like us to think. Of course, I stand to be proved hopelessly wrong...!

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Voices (3)

  1. Phoenix:

    Close the office for two weeks? Surely some thinly-disguised effort to skive off and watch the action at home? While the rest of us work hard to keep the supply chain moving…


  2. Miles Barry:

    Not wishing to deprive you of a good story later, Peter, but – on behalf of all of us who travel through London on the way to their place of work (or who actually work there) – here’s hoping you won’t find yourself penning a piece in a few week’s time, to eat your words…

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