At the Sorbonne in Paris on 23rd April 1910, in what would become known as the ‘Man in the Arena’ speech, US President Theodore Roosevelt addressed the notion of citizenship: “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena …” He is a man, said Roosevelt, “who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails; at least he fails while daring greatly…” For David Grevemberg, chief operating officer of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the speech provides a rallying call: “Daring greatly; that’s what this opportunity means to everyone at Glasgow 2014, it’s what it means to our Games partners. The opportunity that major events like this give us all is the opportunity to dare greatly.” Daring is the man who adopts as his slogan words used in the context of failure, especially coming after the nightmarish beginning to the 2010 Games in Delhi. But tracking the preparations of the Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee (OC) over the past year and listening to Grevemberg’s impassioned advocacy, you get the impression that 2014 is building to be quite some occasion – for all the right reasons.
“Glasgow got it right from the start,” said Grevemberg, looking back to a time before he joined the OC. “One of the great things about Glasgow 2014 is that it was a model bid in terms of community support. It was a bid that got started for all the right reasons, with a common purpose. We don’t take that lightly; we need to protect that all the way through to the end.” Bidding and winning major sporting events gets a mixed press around the world; critics argue that communities are displaced, ordinary people are excluded from involvement and expensive facilities become white elephants.
Grevemberg believes that Glasgow will be the antidote to this view and that 2014 will act as a catalyst for a revitalised future of the Commonwealth Games movement.
“What we try and encompass in everything we do is a principles-based approach,” said Grevemberg, who’s from New Orleans but has enjoyed a peripatetic career evangelising the empowering potential of sport, most recently as executive director of Sport and IF Relations at the International Paralympic Committee, based in Bonn, Germany. “It’s an approach we bring to our governance, to our management, to the delivery of the Games and all the projects and activities leading up.” Now settled in Scotland with his wife and two young children, he has learned over the past year to appreciate that the rain “brings all the beautiful green that we have here.” Grevemberg is responsible for the day to day activities of the Organising Committee and oversees the planning and delivery aspects of all operational functions. His job involves the development and delivery of an integrated operational planning process, the development of functional strategies, modelling of venue operating plans and the production of venue-specific operating plans for all the Games venues. He will also have responsibility for time and cost management of operations leading up to and during the Games.
His role includes the planning, management and supervision of the Operations Department of the OC, which is responsible for the delivery of all services to athletes and officials, including the sports programme, venue development and overlay, the Athletes’ Village development and fit-out for the Games, accreditation, medical services, technology, ceremonies and cultural activities, and Games support services such as transport and security.
His most recent role as executive director of Sport and International Federation Relations at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), where he also served as sports director from 1999 to 2007, included overseeing the development and delivery of the Paralympic Games sports programmes, National Paralympic Committee Services, village operations and technology. He was also responsible for overseeing the governance and management activities of nine sport bodies under the jurisdiction of the IPC as well as acting as the lead liaison with numerous federations and games organising committees.
Grevemberg has been involved in sport since the age of six – New Orleans is a sporting crucible where American football, baseball and basketball stir passion – playing, coaching and administering. He studied sports governance and policy. “Sport is more than just simply entertainment; it has tremendous power but, as they say, with power comes responsibility and I wanted to ensure the power of sport was used responsibly in terms of its potential for personal and community development.
So, very early on I wanted to use sport as a catalyst for empowering disenfranchised populations, women, and people with a disability, making it accessible to all.” The Organising Committee has opted to call those involved and who will become involved in the Games, “Clan 2014”: “Other events have used ‘team’ or ‘community’; why not use what is distinct to Scotland? The notion of a clan is that it is diverse in its nature but unified. What we have tried to achieve as the essence of our partnerships is to ensure we have a structured approach to our relationships. No Games, no major event, was ever delivered successfully without enthusiasm and good relations.” The Organising Committee’s partners are the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council, the two main funders of the Games, the Commonwealth Games Federation, ‘owners’ of the Games and Commonwealth Games Scotland, representing the athletes.
“We do not take in vain the enormous contribution of the Scottish taxpayers so transparency and accountability is at the heart of everything we do. The mission is simple; to deliver on time and on budget.” Grevemberg said that the vision was simple, also: “To be athlete centred, sport focused. Athletes are at the centre of everything we do.
“We are delivering a sporting competition that we want to be celebrated in Glasgow, in Scotland, throughout the Commonwealth and beyond. At the heart of the design of all our strategies, the sites, the assets we procure and the services we deliver are the athletes.
They are aspiring to a moment of recognition, of reward for the hard work on a long journey and we want to ensure that that moment is captured and presented with the level of importance it deserves.” Grevemberg categorises two other groups: stakeholders, “anyone who has an interest in delivering the Games, or who is affected, or who is given an opportunity by the Games; and advocates, “when the Queen’s Baton passes through your community it builds an advocacy base of the values and vision, the hopes and dreams which are represented in the Games.” He emphasises that the Games will be rooted in communities in Glasgow, in the east end, the west end and the southside; clusters of sporting activity that will make it easy for spectators to attend several events during a day and for local people to be involved in their delivery.
This community involvement is something that Grevemberg has high hopes for; it began with the bid and was most recently expressed in the Delhi Flag Handover Ceremony when 350 cast members chosen from Scotland’s 32 local authority areas put on a proud and stylish show that combined the traditional and the modern. “Everyone had a story, they had passion and they delivered on the day.
It was an emotional experience and it was a defining moment in many respects. It was delivered by volunteers from all over Scotland, It was young, confident and vibrant. It was smart and creative. To me it was walking the talk.” And volunteering will be a big element of the Games; the Organising Committee is looking for approximately 15,000 volunteers “with enthusiasm and ambition to create a true legacy for Scotland. We want to deliver a Games created by Scots. It’s a chance to put yourself out there, challenge yourself, give yourself an opportunity and dare greatly.” Grevemberg also believes that there is an increasing convergence between social enterprise and commercial enterprise: “Those that find that balance are going to be the companies and organisations of tomorrow.”