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Who can build 2012?

Building the Olympics

Applications are due in soon for the chairman and chief executive of a 200-strong Olympic Delivery Authority.

Who should get the jobs, and who should work with them- NCE asked around.

What do you want to work on next?

Anyone asked that question in construction over the last three months has pretty much to a man or woman answered the same thing - 'I want to build the London Olympics'.

And now is their chance. The Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) is recruiting for a part time chairman and full time chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority - the single body responsible for creating the permanent infrastructure for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. And they in turn will seek a minimum 200-strong delivery team to be housed by the end of the year in offices in Canary Wharf and at the site of the main Olympic Park in the Lower Lea Valley.

'It's more than the chance of a lifetime, ' said one senior construction figure. 'When are we likely to get the opportunity to hold the Olympics again?

If you have any pride in what you do, you are going to want to be part of this.' So what qualities does the government expect of the ODA chairman and chief executive, and who could fit the bill?

Chairman first, as this is the post expected to be filled first.

It is envisaged as a two day a week job for a pro rata six figure salary.

'The most high profile role in the country', the 'visible presence of the Olympics' is how the position is described on the recruitment website. Crucially this role will mean skilfully balancing the demands of government, the London mayor, the British Olympic Association, the London boroughs and all the other agencies with an interest in the Games regeneration area, with the efficient construction of the £3bn plus of infrastructure - the current figure being quoted by the government.

Key experience required includes leading an organisation with a budget of at least half a billion pounds, a proven track record in delivering 'objectives of complex organisations and major challenging projects', and working in highly political environments.

Qualities wanted are: strong leadership, entrepreneurial vigour, passion and enthusiasm along with being a clear, strategic thinker and having the ability to command the confidence of ministers.

Names suggested to NCE range from Live Aid/8's Sir Bob Geldof who has proved he can deliver but might frighten the ministers; to airline impresarios like Virgin's Richard Branson, BA boss Rod Eddington (who leaves his job at the end of this month) and EasyJet founder Stelios Haji Iounnou. They all certainly have the drive and enthusiasm, and understand service delivery but may be, like Geldof, a bit too lively and media friendly for the government's taste.

Former politicians Steve Norris and Chris Patten have also been mentioned in the construction wish list. Patten has the clout to deal with the government but may not excite, Norris probably the reverse.

Meanwhile there are other potential heads to hunt within the industry. Chris Garnett and Richard Brown are doing fabulous jobs for GNER and Eurostar respectively and could bring that brand vision to London 2012.

And of course Richard Bowker, who has Virgin Rail and Strategic Rail Authority experience - a nice mix of public and private sector knowledge, is also available.

Then there are the businessmen who understand construction: English Partnerships chief executive David Higgins, formerly of Lend Lease, is rumoured to have already secured a top job. Experience of delivering the successful Sydney 2000 Games boosts the Australian's credentials but there are no done deals yet and plenty of other top candidates.

London Underground managing director Tim O'Toole for example, or WS Atkins chief executive Keith Clarke, Network Rail's chief executive John Armitt or its deputy chief executive Ian Coucher.

They've all got big project and organisation experience and are hugely driven by challenges of this scale, but in reality may be more drawn to the hands-on, full time job of ODA chief executive.

Similarly, BAA Terminal 5 managing director Tony Douglas, and Stanhope's Stuart Lipton and Peter Rogers would fit the job spec. Certainly they are all popular candidates among their peers for a top job on the Olympics. They have the experience and knowledge and can handle the media and myriad stakeholders, including the government and politicians.

And they would not be frightened by the budget or the scale - the Olympics construction cost is, after all, just over half that of T5 and well under half that of Network Rail's West Coast Main Line project.

According to the recruiters, key qualities for the ODA chief executive role are 'a proven track record of success in bringing together and leading the delivery of high profile, multi-billion pound, innovative projects/programmes of comparable complexity against tight deadlines and budget' plus the usual stuff about teams and procurement. Leading, managing and developing complex high profile public/private sector partnerships or joint venture partnerships are an advantage.

And a six figure salary and huge bonus is on offer to the right candidate. In reality it is all basic stuff for construction's top dogs and perhaps presents the exciting and confidence-building opportunity to create an ODA fired with people who have proved they can deliver for organisations like BAA and Stanhope at the cutting edge of successful construction procurement.

And it has been pointed out that those organisations could bring with them a proven chain of people - Bovis's Paul Simms who ran the building of Paternoster Square, planner Mark Reynolds and project manager Gary France both from Mace, and logistics specialist Gary Sullivan of Wilson James, for instance - to make the Olympics happen out on site.

The list of great people worthy of top jobs continues. T5 design director and now BAA strategy director Mike Forster, and T5 construction director Andrew Wolstenholme both have serious claims. So do Laing O'Rourke boss Ray O'Rourke, Swiss Re client Sara Fox, Millennium Wheel builder Tim Renwick, and David Trench and Bernard Ainsworth from the Dome, along with ex BAA, ex Railtrack and Egan author Simon Murray.

Then don't pass over Second Severn Crossing builder and former CrossRail boss Norman Haste or Hong Kong Airport and MTR civils boss Douglas Oakervee. Semi-retired they may be but all appear on construction's 'most likely to' list.

That said, there is a seven year time frame, so youth may well have the edge.

Applications close on 30 September. So there is still time to throw your hat in the ring at:

Because there is a fair chance the government will pick someone completely different.

Jackie Whitelaw You'll need to be good at influencing The ODA is intended to be an 'executive non-departmental public body' with a board of seven to eleven members and a chief executive. It will report to the secretary of state for culture, media and sport as well as to Parliament for its public expenditure.

On a day to day basis though it reports into the Olympic Board - made up of the secretary of state for DCMS, the London mayor, and the chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) - which is also advertising for a chief executive this week - and chair of the British Olympic Association.

'The intention is to allow the ODA considerable operational autonomy to deliver the Games infrastructure on time and to budget, ' says the DCMS.

However, it is going to be a tough job. The people constructing the Olympics have no voice on the Olympic Board, whose political appointments are sure to change regularly. And there is no direct link to LOCOG, which is likely to come up with all sorts of ideas about how the Games will happen - with a direct effect on construction costs and programme.

'Influencing is going to be a key skill for anyone in the ODA, ' said one wary construction chief. 'And an ability to avoid being the fall guy.

'There's a good chance the first man in will be fired.

I think I'll wait to be called in a couple of years when it needs sorting out.'

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