Olympics brings stadium boss a sporting chance

“YOU can be sitting having a cup of tea, and somebody like Mick Jagger will sit down next to you,” says Don Valley Stadium manager Guy Naylor.

“At first it’s strange, but you get used to things like that after a while.”

But, although managing events at one of Yorkshire’s largest venues is exciting in itself, the 47-year-old is now preparing to spend this summer doing a job with even more pressure – overseeing the running of Olympic and Paralympic events at a five-arena stadium in London.

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For the duration of the games, Sheffield-born Mr Naylor will be a safety officer at the Excel Arena in London’s Docklands, which will host a total of 143 sporting sessions and 82 medal ceremonies in disciplines ranging from table tennis to taekwondo.

“I went for an interview in June last year for the role of safety officer,” he said.

“Then I got called back again in September for a second interview and the job was confirmed that I’d be one of 43 safety officers going forward for the Olympic Games. At that stage, still no venue had been attached.

“I later found out that I’d be one of three safety officers to be working at the Excel for the duration of the Games.

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“Hopefully I’m going to get time off to watch a bit of the boxing – as it’s based in east London, I’m sure it’ll be a cracking crowd.”

During the Olympics, the Excel Arena will host seven different sports – boxing, fencing, judo, table tennis, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling.

Afterwards, the venue – close to London City Airport – will also hold Paralympics events in August and September.

These will include table tennis, judo, powerlifting, sitting volleyball and wheelchair fencing.

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Mr Naylor said: “Excel is the biggest venue, and will hold 82 medal ceremonies in total. It’s going to be quite busy!

“My main role is going to be crowd management and stewarding organisation. There’ll be around 35,000 spectators going in there each day and my role will be to ensure they view the sports safely.”

Mr Naylor’s career in managing world-class events began in the somewhat humble surroundings of Stocksbridge Leisure Centre, north of Sheffield, almost two decades ago.

He said: “It was May 1993, while I was manager at Stocksbridge, when a job came up at Don Valley Stadium. I really had to hit the grass running, as it were, because six weeks after I started we had a Def Leppard concert. That was my first major event.

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“I worked my way up since then, being the operations and events manager, and then they split the roles up and I decided to take the events route.”

During his career at Don Valley, Mr Naylor has taken charge of concerts for world-class bands such as U2, the Rolling Stones and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

“The only person I’ve talked to properly, face to face, is Tina Turner,” he said.

“If you’re around backstage then she comes in and says a thank you.

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“She’s a really nice lady and she makes a point of doing it.”

As well as star-studded concerts, Mr Naylor’s job also involves running other events at the Don Valley such as athletics meetings and Sheffield Eagles rugby games.

Away from the stadium, he takes charge of other major events around Sheffield, such as the annual Tramlines music festival; Fright Night and the After Dark fireworks display.

“It’s a bit of a wide range of experiences and events”, he said. “Hopefully it will stand me in good stead for what I’ve got to look forward to this summer.”

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Mr Naylor’s Olympics job will also mean being away from wife Angela and daughter Megan – who unfortunately will not be able to go along with him.

“We don’t get any tickets as all the venues are sold out,” he said.

“I think they’re a bit disappointed, but I’m really looking forward to getting down there. It’s going to be absolutely fantastic.”

Army of helpers needed at Games

In total, more than 100,000 people, including students and the unemployed, will be paid to work at this summer’s Olympic Games.

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Recruitment is currently under way in sectors that range from catering and cleaning to ticketing, stewarding and IT.

Among the jobs being advertised and still to be filled by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) include that of a deputy venue manager, who will take a key leadership position in the operation and management of the Olympic Park.

A “residential team leader” is also needed at the rowing and canoe village, while a manager is also needed in Weymouth to oversee the distribution of Olympics uniforms.

Other roles that are still available include media managers, housekeeping supervisors and ticket managers.