View all news

From Bristol to the 2012 Olympic Games

13 August 2015

Nonesuch interviewed Jayne Pearce-McMenamin (BA 1986), Head of Press Operations for the Olympic Games 2012, about how her degree in languages and her roles in athletic societies influenced her career.

I discovered my enjoyment for the organising aspect of sport during my time at Bristol University. Right from the get-go I had the honour of being captain of a variety of teams: basketball, tennis and netball. I also relished roping friends into intra-mural sport. I particularly enjoyed team sports because they bring down barriers and encourage people to work together.

I went on to become President of the Athletics Union; I wanted some practical experience and to give something back to Bristol. Organising minibuses and kit, managing budgets, chairing meetings and so forth was essentially a microcosm of the jobs I was to do later in my career, and a language degree at Bristol gave me a unique competitive edge when applying for jobs.

My BA Honours degree in French and German was a major contributing factor in securing future roles, including my role as Press Manager of the Bordeaux Venue of the FIFA World Cup ’98 and as Press Director of the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Paris. In fact, my first major role at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) was translating press clippings.

As Head of Press Operations for the Olympic Games 2012, I aim to provide great working facilities for the press. In the next couple of months, we will be providing the 5,800 press and photographers coming to the Games with 33 venue media centres, a huge central Main Press Centre, 1,500 biographies of athletes and horses, 6,000-plus work spaces and 12,600-plus seats.

The internet has changed the face of media; everything is instant and we’ve evolved our strategy to reflect this. In London, there will always be someone on a deadline. All around the world, the Olympic Games will be watched 24/7 on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and news websites. Now that reporting is so much quicker, we have to ensure that the press can do their job successfully. If we do our job well, we won’t be noticed.

Our biggest challenge for the Olympics will be going from a core team of 36 to 3,000, who will be implementing press operations on the ground. We have been training our staff at over 40 test events in various venues across the country, as well as holding classroom exercises ready for the opening of the Main Press Centre in June and the Games themselves in July. Staff and volunteers will be there to assist the press: answering questions, managing photographer positions, running Venue Media Centres and much more. Most of the team are volunteers, and I want to make sure that everybody has a fulfilling, worthwhile experience.

This is the seventh Olympic Games I’ve been part of, but the London Games are on a scale like no other. The 2012 Olympics will be the experience of a lifetime and will be great for our country. There is so much going on, whether you’re interested in sport or not. It’s a fabulous opportunity and a wonderful thing to happen in our backyard, in our lifetime. I’m thrilled and honoured to be part of it.

Further information

First printed in the summer edition of Nonesuch 2012.