Winning the Modern Construction Pentathlon

The Modern Pentathlon is one of those interesting events that you don’t really hear much about outside of the Olympics. Comprising five disciplines, swimming, fencing, horse riding, pistol shooting and running, it traces its origins to ancient Greece, where it was the climax of the Games, with the winner crowned Victor Ludorum or ‘Winner of the Games’.

With 3286 days until Southeast Queensland welcomes athletes, media and fans to the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, there is understandably a fair bit of discussion and speculation in the media and behind closed doors as to whether the infrastructure required to support the games can be delivered in time and to budget.

Our team has looked at the 9 years to go before the opening ceremony and, based on what we know about planning and delivering major projects, put together a timeline of how we think the planning and delivery stages will be rolled out. Because even though 9 years seems like a long time to deliver everything we need to support one of the globe’s flagship events, in the reality of mega projects (which in its entirety the Games are) 9 years is not long at all, and every second matters if the infrastructure required is to be delivered to time and budget.

And what we have found is that five distinct phases will determine whether we are ready for Brisbane 2032; The Modern Construction Pentathlon.

Stage 1 – Formation – Now

We’ve all worked on major projects, and one of the key things that influence project success is the team involved. Client, delivery partners, government, suppliers, designers, and communities all need to be aligned, briefed and unified behind a consistent core plan with timelines, responsibilities and roles clearly defined.

Stage 2 – Problem Statement – 2 years

Seems straightforward enough – we have the Games coming and need to create venues, transport solutions and associated infrastructure to support the event. However, like anything seemingly straightforward, it is a lot more complex than you think. Firstly, the Olympics is not an event in isolation, they are an event that should be integrated into a region to support the event, but, more importantly, create a legacy of investment in infrastructure that should benefit a region for decades to come.

That means significant planning thinking is required to integrate a global event with the operation of a region across everything from planned infrastructure to budgets at every level of government. In addition, we need to identify the needs and drivers of every potential stakeholder, from athletes to tourists to residents and determine what they want from a global event and how our region can best support those needs.

Stage 3 – Planning – 3 years

We are already halfway through our timeline, and we are in the planning phase, the stage where work has to be done to clearly define every single aspect of the Games, particularly from an infrastructure perspective. At this point, funding must be locked away, land resumptions, planning approvals, zoning, changes to laws etc., must all be finalised because once this phase is complete, there really will be no options for future change.

Stage 4 Construction – 4 years

In some ways, we are a little lucky in this stage as some of the major infrastructure needed to support the Games is already in hand. Cross River Rail and Brisbane Metro will be in operation and will hopefully have been the successes that we believe they will be. However, contractors and the infrastructure supply chain will still have their work cut out. Venues, a redeveloped Gabba, proposed rail links, motorway upgrades, airport upgrades, athlete accommodation etc., will all need to be constructed. Often in brownfield sites, demolition and remediation will be needed, as well as the challenges of delivering major works against an immovable deadline with resources and people in demand in a highly competitive global and national infrastructure marketplace.

So while 4 years for construction seems a long time, this stage will already be on the minds of leaders from across the industry who know that this stage is the one that is often squeezed the most and when construction timeframes are squeezed, there is only one option available, throw more people and resources at the works to get the job done, and that means cost increases.

Stage 5 – Operations and Testing

The first event at the new Gabba will not be the opening ceremony for the Games, the reality is that venues need to be in operation for around a year beforehand with test events held at every Olympic venue to make sure that when the flame arrives everything will be smooth and seamless for athletes, visitors, sponsors, guests, dignitaries and fans as well as the global audience tuning in to see our city for the first time.

So really, what we have is our own Olympics event, the Modern Construction Pentathlon. 5 key events, each as important as the next and only excellence across all 5 will result in a gold medal performance. If we fail in any event, if we don’t hit our performance targets and goals, then like a Modern Pentathlete who has a nightmare performance in the swimming leg, we will be well behind the field and need a miraculous performance to stand a chance of success.

If not, well, we only need to look south to see that costs can rapidly spiral out of control when planning, time and ambition fail to align. If we get it right, then we will hold an amazing global event with a long-lasting infrastructure benefit for our growing region, a profile of our region like it has never had on a global stage and a gold medal in the Modern Construction Pentathlon.

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