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Work Life: Ann Olsen, Operations Manager at the Holiday Inn


Ann Olsen, 41, is Olympic Operations manager London 2012 for the Holiday Inn. She lives with her housemate in Maida Vale.

The garden is my favourite part of my flat. It’s planted with pretty flowers so, after waking up at 6am, I like to sit outside to drink my first cup of coffee. For breakfast I always have a boiled egg and occasionally cereal too. Work is really busy and I’m always on the go, so I wear casual clothes such as jeans and T-shirts from my favourite store Jigsaw. I leave home at 7am to travel to the athletes’ village in Stratford by tube or overground, which takes longer but is a nicer way to travel. My journey takes one hour 20 minutes so I listen to music while reading the Metro.

I manage 85 Holiday Inn staff from hotels all over the world – who speak 14 languages – and 250 volunteers. We are working at the village to make sure the 17,000 athletes and officials staying in the 2,818 apartments during the Olympics and Paralympics have a hassle-free time by anticipating all their needs. We like to say gold medals are won in the village: if they get a good night’s sleep and eat the right food, they’ll win that coveted medal!

Preparing for the influx of so many people has been a huge challenge. I’ve spent the last 18 months training staff, planning the services that will be provided and adding finishing touches to the accommodation, such as putting cushions on sofas and buying games like Monopoly and Jenga to keep the athletes entertained. Even seemingly simple things like ensuring that 40,000 keys are cut and labelled for all the rooms has taken a massive amount of organisation.

Security is really tight, meaning we go through airport-style metal detectors and searches when entering the village. Each national Olympic committee is given a quota of guest passes so that the athletes’ families and friends can visit. Everyone must go through a background check so they must give at least 24-hours notice. Even then they’re only allowed in the plaza area – none of the athletes’ partners are allowed to stay over in the apartments.

The Olympic village’s atmosphere is amazing

The athletes don’t have to stay at the village, but most choose to as it’s the only competition where they can all live together. The atmosphere is amazing, like nowhere else. Most athletes share twin rooms – it’s up to the delegations to decide how they’re paired together and deal with problems like athletes snoring and keeping each other awake.

The apartments don’t have kitchens. All meals are served in the huge dining room that feeds 5,000 people at a time. It serves 50,000 meals per day, from different cuisines around the world including Japan and Italy, and is colour-coded into different zones so that athletes can find their teammates during busy mealtimes. Hygiene is vital, so we’ve worked closely with health officers to make sure that there are no outbreaks of food poisoning.

During their competitions, the athletes focus on the task at hand, but once it’s over they like to celebrate. To make sure the partying doesn’t disrupt those still competing, we’ve created recreation areas where they can relax. The bar only serves soft drinks though; no alcohol is served onsite and athletes are discouraged from bringing it in. The village also has a cinema, games room, music recording studio [for the musical athletes] and high street with post office, bank and general store. There’s also a huge gym – it’s amazing to see all the nationalities training together, with a huge weightlifter working out next to a tiny gymnast.

It’s going to be hectic during the games, dealing with all the demands of the athletes and officials, but I’ve got tickets to the football so I’m hoping to sneak away to soak up the atmosphere. When I finish work at 7pm, I like to go out with friends to The Paradise gastropub or The Alice House cocktail bar in Maida Vale. I’m Swedish so if I’m staying in, I make meatballs with lingonberry jam or salmon for dinner. Before I fall asleep at 10pm, I love reading crime dramas set in Stockholm which I read in Swedish.”



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