For David Higgins, the man in charge of delivering the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, the clock is ticking. Katie Puckett talks to him about how he’s keeping the programme on track and overleaf reveals the plans for the venues

“There’s nothing like an Olympics,” says David Higgins. The Olympic Delivery Authority’s chief executive should know – while at Lend Lease, he built the Olympic Park and Aquatics Centre for the Sydney Games in 2000. “I love the swimming, the athletics events, I’m going to spend as much time as I can watching. The thing about the Olympics is that every single sport of the week is played at the best level. When an athlete wins, it’s the highlight of their life.”

Excited as Higgins is about watching the Games, he’s got just under six years of hard graft delivering them ahead of him before he can relax. “The most important thing is to have a clear programme of what you have to do and when and stick to it,” he says. “I think we’re hitting all of our milestones.”

Higgins’ first big milestone was the appointment of the CLM team as delivery partners for all of the Olympics construction in August. “The greatest challenge is selecting good people. We were delighted with the calibre of submissions, the people were all clearly world-class. We could have chosen any one of the teams.” Now he says, he’s got to integrate them into his team – six months ago, the ODA had two staff, by the end of the year it will employ 100, plus another 100 from CLM.

In fact, this early stage of the preparations is one of Higgins’ favourites. “It’s really exciting at the moment. We’ll be making major planning applications at the beginning of the year so we’re doing design optimisation making sure what we submit in January are the best possible plans. Internal design reviews are really interesting, it’s a very creative time.”

The greatest challenge is selecting good people. We were delighted with the calibre of submissions, the people were all clearly world-class.

When asked about the recent claims of delays, Higgins says: “The fact is we have hit all our major milestones to date and important work is continuing day by day. We have begun on site on time with the important job of undergrounding power lines. We have entered into negotiations with a world class consortium to design and build the Olympic Stadium. And recently we announced the first draft of our Olympic Transport Plan. To have our Transport Plan ready six years before the Games is unprecedented.”

He also responds to the claims of political interference: “It is only right that there should be a political debate about a project of this scale and importance – it would be unusual if that were not the case. It is also right we are having this debate, whether it is about the legacy use of 2012 facilities or the regeneration opportunities the Games present, now – rather than years down the track.’’

But Higgins insists debate will not hold back the programme. “We use the analogy of the weakest link. You have to be able to bank decisions. With the stakeholders, you consider the issues then you hit that milestone and move on.”

Come 2012, he says the two events he’s looking forward to most are the swimming and the athletics. “In Sydney, it was a shame because I spent most of the time marketing or with clients. If I had my time again, I’d say ‘hang on, I’m going to spend time with my family watching the Games’.”