Saturday, August 9, 2008

Feeling Very Olympic Today

Games Day One. Spectacular!

Started the day at 7 a.m. with a taxi ride for first visit to the Olympic Green, which is grand central Olympic station north of the city. My colleague Paul and client Julie shared a cab to just east of the Bird's Nest, scene of the greatest Olympic Opening Ceremony of all time just eight hours prior.

Our mission: Find the McDonald's pavilion, host of the Around The Rings breakfast press event slated to include World Olympians Association President Richard Fosbury. Though this high jumping gold medalist had to jump to another event, the breakfast was no "flop." But before I get to why ...

The taxi driver tried his best, but just could not get us to the right stadium. I think we visited two other massive stadiums in Beijing before we spotted the Bird's Nest on the horizon. Then there were the races from security gate to gate, in search of "the other one" to provide access onto the Green. Where are those padded insoles when you need them most?

Turned out we were about a mile south of our destination by the time we got on the Green. Which brought the question: Hike? Or risk another cab ride into infinity?

We walked. Well, we sort of race-walked, past some of the largest Olympic venues and other buildings I have ever seen. And everything -- EVERYTHING -- is covered with the gorgeous "look of the Games" colors, flags and emblems.

After three screening areas, 45 minutes, litres of perspiration and a few choice words, we at last arrived at what had become to us "Xanadu" with Golden Arches. But no Fosbury!

But also, no worries. His replacements turned out to be very cool and very experienced in the WOA and the Olympic scene.

IOC Member Anita DeFrantz and Olympian (and former Atlanta Olympic Village Colleague) Willie Banks, now president of U.S. Olympians, were the guests of honor, and we noshed on McMuffins while they answered questions from Around The Rings and other attendees.

For Mr. Banks, I posed a question about the WOA's challenges to track down Olympians in remote nations. He answered with great information about the WOA's mission and how the organization is establishing chapters in National Olympic Committee affiliates.

For Ms. DeFrantz, my question related back to discussion of the previous evening: How is the IOC going to tackle the challenge of the time it takes more than 200 participating NOCs to enter the stadium (my suggestion, for anyone interested, is to keep the tradition of letting every participant encircle the stadium behind their flag, but to have two, three or even four simultaneous entry points so there are up to four NOCs announced at once). DeFrantz responded that the IOC has looked at the challenge and considered options, but it is a fine balance to switch traditions entrenched in the Olympic lexicon.

We had barely finished our last round of hash browns when we trekked to the Main Press Center (MPC), the left ventricle of the media heart of the Games (the right ventricle being the next door neighbor International Broadcast Center (IBC). With thanks to the Vancouver 2010 media relations team, our MPC Day Pass and tour helped me reconnect with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Social Butterfly reporter/blogger Jennifer Brett to compare notes on our Games experiences thus far (I suspect you can read about her afternoon cooking adventure in her blog).

The MPC is only steps from the Olympic Sponsor Village on the Green, but there is a Great Wall of China security fence between the two. So to solve the challenge: MORE walking! My girlfriend would be proud of all these hikes! For me, I just get tired!

We needed to check out a few of the sponsor pavilions that British Columbia's Premier will visit next week, and we were greeted by a smiling Edelman colleague and our client, GE, at GE's Imagination Center, which is absolutely fabulous (I'll write more on their pavilion in future entry when we return next week). We were hosted for a quick tour, then our walking adventure resumed to find the Olympic Green's newly opened train station to get us back home to City Center to prepare for our evening event at B.C. Canada Pavilion.

I've not written much yet on our media mission for the pavilion. In addition to working with all of Canada's media deployed for the Games, Edelman Beijing and yours truly have been busy inviting media to experience all that B.C. Canada Pavilion offers as a destination in the Olympic City. Tonight, the pavilion hosted its third consecutive VIP evening, and media were on site in droves, including new friends from the Vancouver Sun, The Province, Global TV, CTV, Associated Press TV and the Reuters IOC Writer, who mentioned he'd seen this blog and gave me one of the best pins of Beijing (the coveted Reuters China pin -- thanks, Karolos!).

So tonight I'm blogging with some post-media event bliss, and some Games euphoria setting in for a fortnight. Can only guess what tomorrow's adventures will bring, and can hardly wait!


Carol M said...

I love Willie! Can you share his email address? I am really enjoying your updates, thanks for finding time to blog.

Nicholas Wolaver said...

Unfortunately he did not have any cards. But he said to tell you specifically "hello, I miss you." There is a good chance I'll see him again later and I will ask him for address. He was smiling big when I mentioned your name. His info might be on the WOA website, FYI (I can't check at the moment).

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