With the world watching, the construction team under the direction of Sir John Armitt (below) worked 70 million hours without a fatality.
Photo courtesy of Olympic Development Authority

John Armitt had run major contractors, pioneered the U.K.'s first high-speed-rail system and steered the national railroad infrastructure company out of bankruptcy when a headhunter tempted him to be chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, charged with building all infrastructure and facilities for London's 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games.


"I was immediately interested," he says.

More than $10 billion worth of construction later, London's widely acclaimed Olympics were enhanced by complete and fully functioning facilities. A 250-hectare brownfield site had been converted into a multi-venue park and athletes' village on schedule and $1.6 billion under budget.

In addition, not one life was lost during 70 million worker hours, and the project's accident rate was well below the U.K. average, according to independent research.

Accolades heaped on Armitt were capped last year by a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth ll for his services to construction.

Sir John says the credit belongs to the whole team. When he joined in 2007, construction was at an early stage, but the program "was in good shape," he says. "There was a proficient senior management team led by David [Higgins]."

Following some high-profile, troubled U.K. projects, Olympic preparations were under intense scrutiny. Armitt dealt with numerous external interests aiming to create "an atmosphere of calm," allowing his team to focus on the task.

Armitt "was a stabilizing influence, giving confidence that the project could be delivered," says David Tonkin, U.K. CEO of W.S. Atkins plc.

The program's success owed much to Armitt's "deft leadership and understanding of the delivery requirements," noted Ray O'Rourke, chairman of U.K.-based construction group Laing O'Rourke plc.