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London transformed

12:27 PM  Dec 22nd, 2010
by Thomas M. Columbus

A city with a past plans an Olympics looking to the future.

Poverty, crime, the stigma of being unwelcome immigrants — all part of everyday existence for the people living in London’s East End for centuries.

Being bombed to bits in World War II didn’t help make the ride through the 20th century much fun either. The docks were there once. They moved.

This August, however, acres of cornflowers, marigolds, poppies and prairie flowers bloomed on former industrial sites in the area, signs of construction were everywhere and optimism flowed.

Two years before the start of the Games of the  XXX Olympiad, it is no longer a question of imagining what the Games will bring. The Games have already changed London beyond recognition.

Regeneration of part of a major city for the world’s largest peacetime event was one of the pledges made by the London 2012 bid committee. Immediately after winning the bid in 2005, public funding was put in place to support the creation of a new town on the 700-acre site.

The Olympic Delivery Authority was set up with responsibility for construction and landscaping. Five years later, the site now boasts three major new stadia nearing completion along with the Athletes Village. The ODA is on schedule to hand things over to the Games organizers early next year.

It will take a lot more work to fully create the Olympic Park. And because only 35 percent of the 2012 Games will take place in the Olympic Park venues, it is only part of the task.

In addition to all the architects, planners, construction workers and gardeners, the successful staging of the Games depends on lawyers — to draw up more than 7,000 contracts for agreements with venues and hotels, commercial partners, contractors and suppliers as well as protect the brand and all its intellectual property interests.

Heading that legal team as general counsel of the London 2012 Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (the world’s first- and second-largest peacetime events) is Terry Miller ’77.

The first Olympic Games of the modern era were held in Athens in 1896. An old stadium provided a venue on land, and the Aegean Sea was good enough for swimming.

But it wasn’t long into the 20th century that nations began building facilities to lure the games to their homelands. In 2008 in an article in The New Yorker on the spectacular architecture of the Beijing Olympics, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger traced a history of nations showing off their new sports venues as a source of national pride. The 1992 Barcelona Olympics, however, he wrote, “marked a new approach to Olympic architecture, one that placed as much emphasis on the relation between the city and its facilities as on the sports venues themselves.”

The London Olympics follows that path as it attempts to make what has for centuries been the poor side of town into a vibrant part of the city about which the 18th-century writer Samuel Johnson said, “It is not in the showy evolutions of buildings, but in the ultiplicity of human habitations which are crowded together, that the wonderful immensity of London consists.”

And, the “multiplicity of human habitations” of 21st-century London are even ameliorating that “crowded together” feeling. With the creation of hundreds of acres of parkland out of a decrepit industrial area, England will have its largest new urban park in over a century.

“I look out my window each day at the Olympic Park as it progresses,” Miller said, “and compare that with the depressing stretch of abandoned land, which is where we started in 2005.”

One criticism of many Olympics (as well as of soccer’s World Cup, the other gigantic global sporting event) is that they leave behind
facilities that are either useless or of a scale too massive for their future uses. London wishes to avoid that problem. “The committee,” Miller said, “does not want to build huge white elephants.”

Besides developing parkland, leisure facilities and residential areas, the London Games are building venues designed to have life after
the Games leave town. The Olympic Stadium will hold 80,000 during the Games but is being built in a way so that sections can be removed to reduce its capacity to as low as 25,000. The Aquatics Centre will have extensions on either side, providing room for temporary seating for the games, which will be removed afterwards so that the facility can operate at a community level. The Athletes Village is being constructed so that it can be sold after the Games as affordable, accessible, sustainable housing.

N early two-thirds of the London Games venues are outside of the Olympic Park in a number of private facilities such as ExCel and Earls Court, in soccer stadiums in London and elsewhere, and in historic venues such as Wimbledon for tennis, Horseguards Parade for beach volleyball and Greenwich Park for equestrian events.

The geographic dispersion of events necessitates cooperation among various public bodies, legal entities and local authorities; this is a large part of the lawyers’ work. The Torch Relay alone, Miller said, “will require cooperation between us and every community through which the torch is borne, including local police forces and others responsible for such things as traffic control, closing the streets and providing parade permits.” The legal team must negotiate key contracts with the government, the City of London, the boroughs in which events will be held and Transport for London to ensure that athletes, officials and spectators can get to events and enjoy a safe and secure celebration of the Games. Security issues range from crowd control to counterterrorism.

A major part of Miller’s focus is on intellectual property. The Olympic symbols such as the five rings as well as the London 2012 emblem and mascots make up, she pointed out, “one of the world’s most powerful brands. The legal team plays a huge role in connection with protection of the relevant intellectual property including the design of the emblem and the names of the mascots — Wenlock and Mandeville.” (Wenlock derived his name from the town of Much Wenlock in Shropshire; the founder of the modern Olympic movement is said to have received his inspiration from attending the Much Wenlock Games. His fellow mascot’s name comes from Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire; a sport competition there for World War II veterans with spinal injuries grew until it became the Paralympic Games.)

The camaraderie associated with the Games themselves had analogous behavior in the preparation for London 2012 when an entity violated a public relations embargo on details about the mascots. “Threats of lawsuits were deftly avoided,” Miller said, “when one of the legal team, using relationships that had been built up over time, placed a calming phone call to lawyers for the offending organization, pointed out that the embargo was being violated and asked their help in getting it removed.”

The offending material was quickly removed — an example, Miller noted, of lawyers solving problems before they escalate. Miller’s work also covers employment, insurance, financing, security and environmental issues.

Legal coordination and cooperation extends well beyond the laws of the United Kingdom. European Union law is applicable in a number of contexts, for example to the way in which tickets to the Games will be sold in EU countries. “Swiss law governs the host city contract,” Miller said, “which provides that disputes are settled by referral to arbitration, in most cases the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is located in Lausanne. We also had some interesting discussions with the Beijing Organising Committee around the arrangements for our two handover ceremonies which took place during the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games and of the Paralympic Games in Beijing. We put in place an agreement covering things like the amount of time we were allowed access to the Birds Nest Stadium for rehearsal and about responsibilities under local law for working with children, who were in our handover ceremonies. There are strict child labor laws in the UK which we needed to observe, although nothing similar in China at the time.”
M anaging risk is an important part of the preparation for the Games. “The risks associated with the Games are legion,” Miller said. “The organizing committee is required to obtain insurance covering all conceivable risks.”

Among these is the risk of cancellation. “Only the International Olympic Committee — not the city nor the organizing committee — is entitled to cancel, defer or reschedule the Games,” Miller said. “Reasons would include failure to provide appropriate assurances as to safety and security, outbreak of war, flooding, disease, etc.”

Contingency plans are required for all possible scenarios. “If a stadium collapsed,” Miller said, “where would we hold the opening ceremony? If wind wasn’t sufficient for sailing on the scheduled days for the sailing competition, how would we reschedule, would we refund tickets? If timing devices broke down, what would we do? You cannot do it with a stopwatch, as they did in the 1908 and 1948 Olympics in London. … I have become very familiar with the terms and conditions of our various insurance policies.”

To cover the myriad of legal matters associated with organizing the Games, Miller has a core team of approximately 25 lawyers.
Almost half of these, she said, “are on secondment (temporary assignment) from Freshfields, which as the official provider of legal services to the London 2012 Games allocates legal services to LOCOG in return for its sponsorship rights.”

The relationship with Freshfields is something new for an organizing committee, and Miller is a big fan of this arrangement. “Not only am I able to call upon Freshfields for excellent secondees, who have become integral to my in-house team, but they are also there to provide additional firepower where necessary to support a major contract negotiation or deal with brand infringement matters.”

With a group of Dayton and DePaul law students in Dublin, Ireland, in June, Miller discussed the career path that prepared her for such a variety of work. She worked for the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C, for more than six years, then in private practice in the same city with Kirkpatrick & Lockhart. She spent the majority of her career as an in-house lawyer for Goldman Sachs in London and New York. She pointed out to the future lawyers that government gives lawyers great responsibilities at an early level.

But, she said, “as a partner in private practice, you are the business. You develop the revenue sources and targets and are responsible for ensuring the success of the business.” Balanced against that is the pressure to generate billable hours.

In 1988, her husband had a great opportunity in his homeland, England. So, for a while, she represented Kirkpatrick & Lockhart there. At the time, England was undergoing major changes in financial regulation, making her SEC experience valuable. She was hired at Goldman Sachs in 1989 and remained there for 17 years. When she started, she was the company’s second lawyer in London and third outside of the U.S. When she left in 2006, she was a partner and deputy general counsel of Goldman Sachs, overseeing a legal team of 180 people in Europe and Asia as international general counsel.
S he told the students she found the life of an in-house counsel enjoyable and rewarding, because of being close to the business, part of the overall team with non-lawyers, and having the variety and excitement of dealing daily with a range of issues.

“To function most effectively as an in-house lawyer,” she said, “you need to be perceived as part of the management team, not an obstacle or a proforma check, and must be perceived as the ‘wise counselor’ — going beyond just explaining the letter of the law and instead searching for creative solutions which encompass both legal and business imperatives. Too often, in-house lawyers can be seen as a cost center, and it is important to counter this assumption in order to thrive in the role.”

Miller was appointed general counsel for the London Games in July 2006 and assumed those duties in October 2006. She loves
London, loves law, loves sports — so she loves her job.

And she has a family; her husband and she have two children, now grown. So she also spoke to the law students about balancing career and family. “You can have it all,” she told them, “but not all at the same time.” She worked part time at various stages of her career, particularly when the children were young. Both sides, she said, have to make adjustments.

“You must also,” she told the students, “be open to things which appear without having been planned and be ready to take some risks by accepting jobs which pose new challenges.”

The move to London was not something in a mapped-out life but advanced her career in directions that would otherwise never have been possible.
Miller also shared another secret of an extended career: have an interest outside work. Besides her family, a passionate interest of Miller’s is the Olympic equestrian sport of eventing, which involves the disciplines of dressage, show jumping and cross country. Dressage requires the horse to be obedient yet powerful in completing a set of movements. Jumping tests precision and control. Cross country calls for bravery over a course of fixed obstacles, such as water, ditches, log piles. Combined, “it measures complete horsemanship,” Miller said. Also, “unlike some sports,” she said, “if you are doing it correctly there is no pain and suffering in fulfilling your objective to do well. And the partnership with another creature, where you give each other help and encouragement, is fantastic.”

She said she enjoys just being out on the countryside, but “competition and testing myself against a measurable standard really provide the buzz.”

Besides participating in eventing, Miller is an avid sports spectator, enjoying watching virtually all sports (except snooker, she said).

When asked what her favorite soccer team was, Miller (who, of course, no longer calls it soccer but football), replied, “The Arsenal, of course — a legacy of living in Hampstead and having a daughter who is such a fan of Arsenal that she named our female cat Thierry Henry.”

Being an American-born fan of an English team with a French goal-scorer — perhaps such internationalism is also a qualification for planning the Olympics.

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