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The 2012 Olympics: A Hospitality Perspective

Student conference hosted by the Centre for International Hospitality Management Research and Hospitality Management Subject Group Sheffield Hallam University, on behalf of the Council for Hospitality Management Education

Thursday 13th March 2008 Stephanie Jameson March 2008 This one day student conference was hosted by Sheffield Hallam University and was held at Sheffield United Football Club Conference Centre. This was the fourth CHME National student conference. The conference is organised by hospitality management students from one institution each year and is attended by hospitality management students from throughout the UK. The speakers at the conference comprised a broad mixture of academics, industrialists, Olympic athletes and students. The main conference organiser, Rob Hayward, should be commended for his excellent organisation of the conference and his ability to include so many speakers from so many different fields. The student delegates experienced an excellent presentation from Donna Taylor, Head of Accommodation for the London 2012 Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Donna spoke of "a vision to use the power of the Games to inspire change" and she spoke at length of the importance of the legacy of the games, and issues such as inclusivity and sustainability. Donna told the student delegates about the various organisations and agencies already involved in the Games and she enlightened the audience about the finances involved in the games. Donna spoke about the domestic partners involved in the games, and the timeline and key dates for London 2012. She also spent time explaining to the students how London hotels had agreed a guaranteed room rate formula, and how the concept of `homestay' had been discussed and agreed with Visit London. Donna concluded her presentation by telling us that there were `1629 days to go' and by announcing that she would offer one of the students in the audience a years placement working directly with her in the run up to the Olympics! The second presentation that I attended was by Jodi Goldman who is the communications Manager of Learnpurple. This was another excellent presentation and really inspiring for the students. Jodi's main theme was developing and retaining talent in the build up to the Olympics and the impact of the Olympics on tourism. Jodi spoke of about the positive impact that the Sydney, Atlanta and London Olympics had had on their respective economies. Jodi's concern for the potential success of the Olympics centred around the availability of skilled people with the ability to deliver memorable customer experiences during the Olympics. Jodi spoke at length about the UK's poor service culture and the perception of overseas visitors to the UK. Jodi also spoke about the role of volunteers in the Olympics and gave an overview on perceptions and facts about volunteers in previous Olympics. For me, and I think most of the audience, the star of the conference was the next presenter Leon Taylor. Leon is an Olympic athlete and won a Silver medal (which he passed around the audience) in Athens in 2004. Leon described himself as "a fun loving, highly motivated and confident person who has achieved success at the highest level in his chosen sport of diving". Leon captivated the audience. It was amazing to listen to a `real' Olympic athlete telling his story of training, injuries, defeat, perseverance and ultimately success. We were treated to videos of

Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism, May 2008

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Leon's Olympic performances and he shared details of his preparation and training methods which included powerful visualisation techniques. The conference organisers were successful in bringing together an eclectic mixture of people who are all, in some way, involved in the Olympics. However, for me, a major contributor to this conference was John Swarbrooke, Head of Centre of International Tourism Research at Sheffield Hallam University, the reason being that he took a critical stance to the whole issue of the `success' of the Olympics. He was faced with an extremely tough job as his presentation slot was immediately after the stunning presentation from Leon - I could see from the faces in the audience that no-one envied him! John took all of this in his stride - threw his PowerPoint slides in the air and simply talked to the audience about his research experiences of previous Olympics. This was excellent because he did what good academics do well - encouraged students to be sceptical and critical, and to question what they were hearing. His particular `take' on the Olympics was as a mega event and he critiqued the contribution that previous Olympics had made as destinations and the impact that they have had on sustainable tourism. This was excellent because he then encouraged the audience to question and critique all that they had heard that morning! John encouraged the students to query all the positive notions that they had heard about the Olympics and to think about the Olympics as `Events as political statements' and `Events and community cohesion and conflict'. John asked the audience to think about what we had heard about the Olympic legacy and to question this. He then explored the `legacies' of previous Olympics and shared his research and consultancy experience of previous Olympics. By the end of his presentation it was clear that the naïve notion of a lasting legacy which is entirely positive is rather simplistic. As well as invited speakers, the day was sprinkled with mini presentations given by Hallam students on their views and experiences of the Olympic Games. These were an excellent idea and made the day really well balanced. I did not hear all of the presentations as there were concurrent session. However, I did hear from the students that they enjoyed and learnt a lot from all of the presenters. Sheffield Hallam, especially Rob Hayward should be congratulated on keeping up the `tradition' of excellent CHME student conferences.

Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism, May 2008

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The 2012 Olympics: A Hospitality Perspective