Lessons learned from 2012 Olympics


The London 2012 Olympics was delivered on time, within the budget set in 2007 and to international acclaim, confounding those who could point to a series of disappointments including NHS IT, the Dome and Wembley Stadium. Why did this major project succeed where so many others have stumbled?

This Institute for Government project looks at the lessons that can be learned from the success of the Olympics for future major projects.


Making the Games

Lessons learned from London 2012 – a letter about the project from Jonathan Stephens, Permanent Secretary, DCMS


Major projects are a priority for government; they provide jobs, infrastructure and increase efficiency. The government’s Major Projects Academy currently oversees 205 projects worth a total of £376 billion.  

But government has a mixed record on delivering major projects. Overspend, delay and underuse has to varying degrees plagued past government ICT, transport and cultural projects.

The Institute aimed to understand what government can learn from the Olympics about governance, delivery, vision and risk to improve future major projects and avoid past mistakes.

Institute for Government programme of work

The Institute for Government explored lessons learned from the Olympics through research and a series of policy reunions with key players. We looked at a range of topics including:

  • The role of political and other leadership in establishing a compelling project vision
  • Cross-departmental and multi-level governance including how conflicting project objectives were managed and how project accountability worked
  • What successful delivery looks like including public-private partnerships, the role of the Olympic Delivery Authority and the ‘delivery partner’ model
  • Managing risks and challenges such as political transitions, industrial action and the financial crash.

Event series

Making the games: a conversation with Jeremy Beeton and David Goldstone - Government Olympic Executive


Project contacts

Director of Research