A Look Back at the NATO Summit

Category: #CanDoNews, Events, From The Archive

Head of Event Management Leon Hughes recalls a special few days and a landmark year in this Q&A. 

Leon edited

What was your main responsibility during the event?
Overseeing the project management of the summit and ensuring that that there was clear communication between the client and the resort team. I worked more or less exclusively on the NATO Summit for the 10 months after it was announced that Celtic Manor would be staging the event until the summit itself. All the other events I would normally manage in that period were assigned to other Event Managers in the team.  

Overall how did the event go from your perspective? Did it all go to plan?
It did, it did. Lots of the work really ramped up over the last few weeks before the summit; despite all the planning that we put in place, we were still planning up until the very day really, but this is normal for any big event.
What was the greatest challenge that you had to overcome - if any?

The difference with NATO was the fact that it involved everybody, every area of the resort was in use, every meeting room, every function room, every space that we could possibly give them was taken up. We had to build huge temporary marquees on site for media centres and contractor catering. We had to move people out of offices, and we converted 100 bedrooms into offices, and also provided and serviced another 300 bedrooms as guest accommodation. Every space was required, and every space was used!  Another challenge was getting answers to things that we really needed. We had to wait for the escalation of authorisation all the way up to Number 10 and all the way back down again.  This was the most challenging, but understandable given the importance of the event and the guests.
How many staff worked across the summit?
We had pretty much our entire full time staff of 800 engaged in some way. Not necessarily in their normal day job. For example, the golf courses were closed but the greenkeepers were still busy ensuring the gardens and other areas of the estate looked absolutely perfect. They even had to assist with the parking of tanks and fighter jets on the fairways! 

How many extra staff were drafted in?
There were a lot of external contractors on site during the Summit but we didn’t need to bring in any additional staff of our own. We were able to use our work force and deploy it to other areas so we didn’t have a need to bring in temporary staff at all.
How did it compare on an event scale to the Ryder Cup?
Well for me, I wasn’t as involved operationally in the Ryder Cup. So personally I was a lot closer to the NATO Summit. But in terms of the excitement, just the same, the buzz that everyone has, and the buy-in from every member of the team. That's the best thing to see - everyone doing their little bit to bring it all together.
What were the main changes in your daily routine?
There was no routine!
Did you have to deal with any special requests?
Steak and chips at 1 am in the morning- that was about it really. A few bits of gym equipment delivered to the bedrooms- not too bad, they were a sensible bunch. They didn’t have much chance to enjoy themselves.

Are there any key stats?
In the 2 day period, we served 34,260 meals, across media catering, bedrooms, delegate catering, all over. The team worked insanely to get that out. We also got through 28,000 bottles of water, 20,000 cups of coffee, and it took 50 people to serve tea to 70 world leaders in under two minutes!

What have you learnt from hosting such a major event?
To focus on one thing, it's teamwork really. Teamwork can deliver anything. Everyone has to pull together and buy in to an event on this scale for it to really work.

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About the author

Paul Williams
Paul Williams PR Manager

Paul joined the Celtic Manor Resort in 2007 having previously worked in newspaper journalism, most recently as assistant sports editor at the Western Mail in Cardiff. Responsible for all aspects of media liaison at the resort, he wishes he had more time to improve his golf handicap of 14 and polish his excruciating puns on Twitter.

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