Michael Copping was there to help run the 2000 Sydney Olympics and went on to work at the 2012 games in London but now counts Qudos Bank Arena Vaccination Centre as his most important work.
Michael is the Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA) senior operations manager, responsible for the day-to-day coordination of all activity outside the major venues – everything from security to signage.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work on two Olympics, on events where they had 106,000 people in the stadium, a million people coming to the Easter show,” Michael said.
“All that aside – this will be the most important event that I’ve ever worked on. Our team had very much a small part in it, but in terms of the social and economic impact, it’d be the most important thing that I think anyone in our time would have involvement with.”
While his work normally involves concerts, sports games and the Sydney Royal Easter Show, for months this year all that excitement has been replaced by three NSW Health vaccination centres – including Qudos Bank Arena, the largest in the state.
“Obviously with the pandemic, time was of the essence. Normally something like Qudos would be weeks and weeks in the planning, but that was sped up so we had to show flexibility with some of the rules and regulations to make sure it could get delivered on time,” Michael said.
“The different between what we planned for and what happened was chalk and cheese, which is indicative of the quick transformation. But the team really hit the ground running. We had plans and the plans changed – that’s the nature of the environment we’re in.”
Michael said his small role helped him appreciate the work behind the scenes in the state’s public healthcare system.
“I’ve always said people in the medical profession are dedicated, and now I’ve seen it’s not just the nursing and medical side. What I’d not been exposed to in the past is the administration which people take for granted,” he said.
“The logistics, the planning, all that has certainly been one of the quickest. It’s remarkable. You can see someone getting a shot in the arm, but what goes on behind that, it’s certainly been an eye-opener.”
Michael’s been working at Sydney Olympic Park since 1997, before the Stadium Australia was even complete, but said 2021 is the quietest his workplace has ever been. Now, he’s looking forward to helping it come back to life with events.
Planning has already begun for the 2022 Sydney Royal Easter Show and Michael is keen to see Qudos Bank Arena swap syringes for spectators.
“People always ask how many free tickets I get. The answer is zero,” he laughs.
“But I’d pay to see Pink again. She was fantastic at Qudos Bank Arena; she put on a real show.”