Nick Bitel- CEO, London Marathon Share PDF Print E-mail
Profile of the week

Nick Bitel 1Nick Bitel has been CEO of the London Marathon since 1995. He is vastly experienced in the sports industry, having held prestigious roles in Sport England, the British Association for Sport and Law, UK Sport and the Olympic Park Legacy Company. Nick also has extensive legal experience- he was a partner in Max Bitel Greene LLP for 30 years and currently acts as a consultant for Kerman & Co. LLP

By Colin Robinson

Was it always your intention to get involved in organization of sports events?

It was purely accidental. I saw a niche in the law in sport and it was that side of it that got me into sports administration.

What skills and knowledge do you find useful from your legal background in your role in sports administration?

There’s a lot of skills, which are transferable- negotiation skills clearly is one of them. That seems to be what I spend most of my days doing. Attention to detail- I think for any good event organiser that’s their primary skill and that’s one of the things that if lawyers are accused of being pedants that’s one of the things lawyers have to do. It’s remarkable how often you find lawyers or former lawyers in senior positions in sports administration, including people like Nick Coward at the Premier League.

You have had to find time for your legal practice as well as various other positions in sport. How have you been able to achieve this?

Sometimes it can be tough. Fortunately with my law practice I’ve got good support, but during events that we work on like Wimbledon and the Ryder Cup where we’re virtually full time lawyers it’s difficult. During the London marathon itself at the moment we are organizing the sports side of five Olympic and one Paralympic event time pressures are somewhat accentuated. It’s about managing time just as you have to manage anything else in the event world.

What is the most rewarding part of your role in the London marathon?

For me, it’s to stand at the finish line on race day and see the looks on peoples’ faces as they come over the line. It’s the ordinary men and women taking part in what has been called "the great suburban Everest." It’s a real challenge. This year I saw it more keenly first hand than I normally would because my wife ran for the first time. Seeing what it means to the runners, that’s a remarkable part of the job.

You have been CEO of the London marathon since 1995, how have you seen the event progress during that time?

It’s grown very substantially. We've taken 50 percent more people into the event. We’ve grown a product. We’ve allowed our charity to do a lot more. We’ve been able to pay for many many playing fields as a result which is one of the main aims of our charitable side.

We’ve added new events and we can’t announce it yet but we are very close to announcing another major event next year. You can’t just stand still. You have to continually improve. I think we’ve massively improved what we offer for the runners for the elite and the ordinary contestants.

One of the things I’m really proud of is that we’ve brought in and brought to the fore the wheelchair race, which has been such a fantastic showcase of talents with people like Tanni Grey Thompson and David Weir and giving them an opportunity to shine and show what brilliant athletes they are.

How is it possible to run such a large scale event with such a small team of permanent staff?

We have 25 fulltime staff by the time the event comes around we’ve got 7,500 people working on the event- staff and volunteers. One of the reason we’re able to do it is because we’ve got a fantastically loyal set of volunteers many of whom have worked on the events for many years. We don’t recruit singularly, we recruit volunteers groups. So a running club may give us 100 volunteers and we’d only deal with the volunteer leader there often someone that we would have dealt with for years- that’s one of the big differences between us and many other events. We then have over 1000 paid staff on race day that we’re dealing with as well.

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