Opening Ceremony – National Summer Games 2013

Case Study | Face to Face Event Management

Event Details

  • Number attended: 7500
  • Year: 2013
  • Client: Special Olympics GB
  • Location: Bath, England
Special Olympics GB are proud to be the country’s largest provider of year-round sports training and competition programmes for children and adults with intellectual (learning) disabilities.

Established in 1978, SOGB offers the opportunity to take part in quality sports training and competition, to improve lives and in turn, the lives of everyone they touch. To facilitate this, during 2013, Special Olympics GB planned for the following – to establish more sports clubs and grow more local, regional and national competitions, in addition to working in partnership with existing local mainstream sports groups and helping to make them inclusive for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. They did this through the National Summer Games, with a focus on the South West, as a region and now the legacy will continue.

The Brief

Special Olympics GB are proud to be the country’s largest provider of year-round sports training and competition programmes for children and adults with intellectual (learning) disabilities.

Special Olympics GB were holding their 9th National Summer Games in August 2013, scheduled to take place in Bath. This was to be the first time they were organising the whole games in house and it was established that an external project manager was required to be responsible for the Opening Ceremony.

Vicky Gardner (ZiaBia) had been recommended to SOGB CEO Karen Wallin, by Emma Allerton of Sporting Hosts (sponsor for the games). The role was to work on behalf of Special Olympics GB on a consultancy basis, advising, supporting and organising the Opening Ceremony on their behalf.

The role specification was to work hand in hand with Bath and North East Somerset Council and the Royal Crescent Society, as their land was being utilised for the event. In addition, to confirm and work with all other suppliers that were required to make this even a success. This involved negotiating on costs on behalf of Special Olympics and sourcing local companies that could offer the charity ‘Value in Kind’ support as well.

This was a unique event for 2013 in Bath – it was the first time that an Opening Ceremony was not being held in a stadium. As the location was so different and a blank canvas, it required a bespoke project plan, as all resources had to be organised, licences applied for and a temporary structure built.

This ranged from sourcing and managing a production company to build the stage and seating area, along with producing the ‘show’ – to hiring toilets, facilitating deliveries, arranging water and concessions, barriers, signage and trakway.

An important element of this brief was surrounding Health and Safety and crowd management, as during the show well known guests would perform. Due to the fact we were working in a public park, we needed to source a security partner who could manage this area seamlessly – Safe and Sound were appointed, based locally in Trowbridge.


The event build started on Monday 26th August and continued until the morning of Wednesday 28th August 2013. Key suppliers were on site from these dates to create and construct the infrastructure and attend key project meetings.

As with the Olympics and Paralympics, traditionally the athletes would parade around the stadium, but this was not possible. Instead, the seating blocks were designed with 5 ingress points and the 17 delegations were introduced team by team to take their seats from the area where they had been waiting. Live camera feeds were focused on each team and projected onto large screens as they entered for them to be celebrated.

The ceremony itself, had several highlights: The reading of the Olympic Oaths, the arrival of the Flame of Hope and the lighting of the cauldron.

2 local MC’s hosted the ceremony and entertainment included Claire Teal, Colin Salmon and Susan Boyle. Clyve and the Soul City Foundation, a local band, performed the song they had written for the 2013 games.

ZiaBia were instrumental in working with SOGB and allocating and planning volunteer requirements. In excess of 500 SOGB volunteers were involved and some of these took key supervisory roles on the day. ZiaBia managed and briefed the volunteers in these supervisory roles, who then managed their teams. They supported for ingress, searing, back stage during the show and egress of the delegations.

Challenges & Solutions

Communication with local community – ensuring that the Royal Crescent residents and nearby locals were well informed regarding what was happening and the noise that would be generated from the event.

A communications plan was put in place between ZiaBia, Bath and North East Somerset Council, and The Royal Crescent Society to communicate with their residents and neighbours. This plan informed them of key dates and times, from when the license application was submitted, through to the event. It included information regarding tickets and timings for setup and rehearsals and the Opening Ceremony itself.

People and Transportation logistics – the delegations taking part in the ceremony were staying at the University of Bath, transporting them all to Royal Victoria Park took a lot of planning pre event. It was key to ensure that this happened in a safe and time efficient manner. We were to move in excess of 2,700 people in very tight timescales and they had to be transported remaining in their delegations.

Bath and North Somerset Council supported the event and provided the buses throughout the Games. This included transporting the delegations on the day from the University to the Royal Crescent and then back at the end of the ceremony. Transport planning meetings were scheduled regularly and were essential to discuss timings, routes and especially traffic in Bath, which can be very unpredictable, the roads do become gridlocked quickly. These planning meetings were key and time well spent, as on the day everyone arrived to site on time, supported by police outriders to help clear the roads, then the return journey was completed ahead of the planned schedule.

Project planning and communication – as we were working with so many different suppliers and sponsors for the event, not all based locally, communication was vital in the pre planning process.

Regular communication was key for the core team – both face to face and by conference calls. As suppliers were appointed, they were categorised into 2 groups for meetings – a core logistics team and a content team. Regular face to face meetings were then held and chaired by ZiaBia, alongside SOGB and Sporting Hosts.

Additional areas of support

National Summer Games, University of Bath – while ZiaBia were sourcing and negotiating with the local suppliers being used, it was established that some of these could also support and provide services at the Games. We supported the team there and contracted local suppliers for services including portable toilets and catering concessions.

Marketing and Branding – as Bath is a world heritage city, there are many regulations regarding marketing and branding. ZiaBia supported SOGB with the application process and managing the branding in the city and the Royal Crescent in the lead up to and during the Opening Ceremony.

Families Social Evening – due to strong relationships that had been developed with SOGB and B&NES, ZiaBia were awarded the organisation of the Families Social Evening, which took place at Parade Gardens during the Games.


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