Sunday, December 27, 2009

Book Report: The Montreal Olympics by Paul C. Howell

This is not a sports book. It explains how the 1976 Montreal Olympics were planned, financed and prepared. Its author is a long-time friend of mine, the planning director, who was there from start to finish. I intend to review this book properly after I finish it; but I'm already excited enough to talk about it, and I'm in chapter five. If you have no experience of managing a development project, then this book is your opportunity to gaze deep into the challenges, risks and responsibilities that managers face when they try to do something that has not been done before. If you have ever managed a development project involving a dozen people or more, then this book will read like a thriller for you, as you empathize with the key committees and the great dangers they face on an unforgiving, fixed schedule.

Imagine the Olympic planners sitting in their offices in 1972. They have come to realize that they must find and hire hundreds of skilled executives, each of whom will be responsible for making one aspect of the Olympics come together. They must find the money to hire all these people. And as they realize this, they sit in their offices in their coats, for they lack even the funds to turn on the heat in their building. How fast can they make it all happen? How many good guesses will they have to make?

This is not a rah-rah-we-did-it book. Howell analyzes decisions made and not made, difficult guesses about future needs, counter-currents among personnel, political infighting and string-pulling. It's all there for you to follow, with that dread fixed deadline hanging over the chase to succeed.

You can buy it here, if you like.

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