February 14, 2010, was a special night in Vancouver. Canadian hopefuls filled the grandstands at Cyprus Mountain in anticipation of Canada’s first gold medal on home soil. Quebec’s Alexandre Bilodeau didn’t disappoint.
Enduring the rain and sleet at the bottom of the hill, Guy Lodge embraced the chants of “Canada, Canada” as much as anyone. After all, he and his team played no small part in preparing the hill for Bilodeau’s historic run.
Today, Lodge sits in his London office with challenges of a different sort.
Lodge, 58, is a Victoria resident who was the VANOC vice-president, services and overlay at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. Following the games in Vancouver, Lodge was picked by the London Olympics organizing committee (LOCOG) to over-see the overlay, design and construction for the upcoming Summer Games.
Being the head of overlay for the 2012 London Olympics sounds important, but what does it actually mean?
It layman terms, the overlay department provides the base for the performance and the operation of the games. “It’s the entire infrastructure supports base for all the functional areas in order to build an Olympics,” adds Lodge. For example, overlay includes the temporary stands, cabins, tents, power solutions, media support, fencing, security, and work force and volunteer areas.
According to Lodge, “If you take a venue and tip it upside down, everything that falls out belongs to the overlay group.”
Lodge is one of a small army of Olympic officials in London who also contributed to the success of the Vancouver Olympics. Lodge estimates there are a couple hundred employees in London who were in involved in Vancouver, but unlike these folks, Lodge has a unique past that finds him in “The Big Smoke.”
Born in Surrey in the United Kingdom, but having lived in Canada for nearly 40 years, Lodge considers himself a Canadian. When his family moved across the pond, Lodge didn’t take up the national sport of hockey. His “skating skills were too poor.” Instead, Lodge pursued the business aspect of sport and began a life and career in the events industry.
Lodge has worked at almost all of the major international or national sporting events in Canada, starting with the 1993 Canada Summer Games in Kamloops, B.C. He went on to work numerous Canada Games, as well as Pan-American Games, Commonwealth Games and the world championships.
When the opportunity came calling to get involved in the Vancouver Olympics on his home soil it was a no-brainer for Lodge. “Working an Olympics is always a privilege but to have an event in our [team’s] own backyard in Vancouver was a bonus,” Lodge beams.
Not many people are given a special chance to get involved in something so large and meaningful to their own country, in their own country. But, how about getting that chance twice?
Although Lodge considers himself Canadian, the U.K. is still his birthplace. His parents still live there. So, the chance to work a successive Olympic Games in his birth country was almost surreal. It provides an opportunity to “complete a circle,” Lodge says. “And to be honest, to do back-to-back Olympics is kind of cool.”
Lodge and his trusty team of 25-30 people, who travel to every event with him, pulled off a successful Vancouver Games, but London is a different challenge.
First of all, it’s a summer Olympics versus winter. The increase in events, athletes and venues at the Summer Olympics “changes the dynamic,” Lodge says.
In addition, there is the city’s reliance on the public transport system, a sizable increase in city population to Vancouver, unpredictable weather, as well as the construction of a new Olympic stadium. “Without a doubt we are working with a different set of logistics in London,” Lodge says and “the bigger city, bigger dynamic and more people present a challenge.”
But ultimately, although Lodge concedes that London presents more challenges logistically than Vancouver, “in the end it’s about the sheer scope and scale” reiterates Lodge. Lodge and his team are employing the same design he has used for nearly 20 years. The model never changes, it merely adapts to the size of the event.
It’s a stressful job, with long hours and constant travel. As Lodge indicates, “it’s very much a niche industry … it’s not for everyone.”
Asked why he continues to work in the stressful event industry and live the chaotic life he does, Lodge says, “when the flame goes out at the end of the Games you feel that amazing sense of having been through something that really has a place in history.”
As Lodge sat at Cyprus Mountain, witnessing the historic moment in Canadian sports, he sat with a smile on his face for Bilodeau, Canada and his team.
Cyprus was a particularly tough venue build for Lodge’s team. The complexity was heightened when the weather refused to co-operate. So, in that euphoric moment, Lodge sat with a real sense of satisfaction.
“Everyone was really concerned Cyprus wouldn’t come off as a venue. But, that night when Bilodeau won gold the place lit up like there was no tomorrow. I think the whole atmosphere in Vancouver turned after that. The next day as I was driving down to the broadcast centre like every day I saw the crowds still celebrating Bilodeau’s victory. The streets came alive. It was this special moment that I sat back and said ‘Okay, this is it. This is what it’s all about.’ ”