Thursday, October 30, 2008

Olympic Cities on Global Index

As reported by GlobalAtlanta, several Olympic host cities (or wannabee hosts) appear on the recently released 2008 Global Cities Index ranked by Foreign Policy magazine. Five-ringed metropoli (and their Olympiad) on the list include:

2. Paris (1900)
3. London (1908, 1948, 2012)
4. Tokyo (1964, and 2016 Olympic bid candidate)
6. Los Angeles (1932, 1984)
8. Chicago (2016 Olympic bid candidate)
9. Seoul (1988)
12. Beijing (2008)
14. Madrid (2016 Olympic bid candidate)
16. Sydney (2000)
17. Berlin (1936)
19. Moscow (1980)
23. Amsterdam (1928)
24. Stockholm (1912)
25. Mexico City (1968)
30. Rome (1960)
35. Munich (1972)
37. Atlanta (1996)
47. Rio de Janiero (2016 Olympic bid candidate)

I have ZERO doubt that Atlanta owes its placement on the list in huge part for its Olympic hosting duties. Also think it is telling that Rio is so far down the list yet still ranks among the favorites for 2016 potential (maybe the IOC will peek at Foreign Policy magazine's criteria for their list?).

Coke Is It!

For one of my early posts, the topic of The Coca-Cola Company and its longstanding support of the Olympic Movement was briefly detailed. In the months since that post, several new Coca-Cola Olympic experiences came into view both in Beijing and stateside.

It came as no surprise, Coke's pavilion on the Olympic Green was magnificent. Luck and timing took me to the site on three occasions during the Games.

First, our crew for B.C. Canada Pavilion visited Coke Olympic Central with the Premier of British Columbia (a VIP guest early during the Games). This afforded a few of us the opportunity to pose with a Beijing Olympic Torch at a photo- or postcard-ready window looking out to the Bird's Nest.

A few nights later, en route to retrieve photos taken on site (a generous gift for visitors to that makeshift photo-opp-spot), I ran into several Atlanta-based reporters in China to cover the Games, including Jennifer Brett from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a crew from WXIA-TV, Atlanta's NBC affiliate. They were wrapping up reports from a Coke-hosted evening media event at which I learned about a special film project of Coca-Cola.

I was also slated to visit the Coke pavilion -- which will become a new World of Coca-Cola Museum for China (like the original in Atlanta) -- for a media event involving VIP Olympic Family members chosen for a special award presented to them by Coca-Cola (unfortunately, my arrival was late due to taxi snafu, but the venue staff gave me a refreshing beverage in spite of my tardiness). Of all the grand pavilions on the Olympic Green, the Coca-Cola experience was in the tops list (right up there with GE and Johnson & Johnson, two clients of the p.r. firm where I work).

Back in Atlanta a few weeks ago, The Coca-Cola Company's senior manager of marketing communications, Petro, shared the stage with other Olympic sponsor representatives at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Georgia Chapter luncheon on Olympic P.R. His presentation filled in a few blanks on how Coca-Cola executed some of their highly visible Olympic activities -- such as the Torch Relay and pin trading centers -- before and during the Beijing experience. We learned the company brought several employees to Beijing, and in spite of many challenges they apparently generated gazillions of media "hits" that were 96 percent positive. I was glad to learn of their commitment to the Games extended to at least 2020.

Coke also hosted a recent photo opp at the Atlanta World of Coca-Cola destination during which IOC Member and pole vaulting gold medalist Sergey Bubka joined Coke's archivist to install an official Beijing Torch into their vast collection of Olympic memorabilia (thanks, Petro, for the photo with this post).

All this Coke Olympic activity serves as a reminder of one of my earliest exposures to the public relations industry.

During the summer of 1993, while volunteering at the U.S. Olympic Festival in San Antonio, Texas, I spent two of the hottest summer weeks ever as a driver on the Festival's Texas Torch Relay around the city. On our last day of the relay, the crew chief assigned the primo driving assignment -- lead car ... a convertible -- as the team hosted three VIP guests from The Coca-Cola Company who were visiting as observers of the Torch Relay process (and more specifically how media were part of this Olympic Movement public relations tradition started in 1936).

Spending the day visiting with those Coke P.R. executives in the car convinced me to take a closer look at the P.R. track at college (to that point, I was undecided between newspaper journalism and P.R. -- thanks, Joan, Carlton and the other guest whose name escapes me while typing this post). And many of the elements they observed later became part of Coke's participation in the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay from L.A. to Atlanta.

I'll be sure to keep drinking in Coke's many Olympic touch points -- can hardly wait to see what they unfold for Vancouver, London, Sochi and beyond.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Olympic Movie Music

A few months back I posted some notes on Olympic films and their Oscar-winningness. A couple of days ago at an Edelman training event in Chicago, one of my colleagues -- Monte -- explained the inspiration for his cool movie soundtrack blog and website, which both ROCK!

In just a couple of days since starting to scan, several Olympic film scores and tunes have come to mind as research suggestions (in some cases, I've been trying to find the tunes for years).

For instance, though I did locate recordings of most of the "One Day In September" tunes by Philip Glass and Moby (his tune "God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters" also appeared in "Heat," which had a couple of establishing shots including Los Angeles Olympic venues) , and Vangelis' tunes for "Chariots of Fire" are easy to find, it's been tougher to track down other instrumentals from "For Your Eyes Only" (Roger Moore's ski chase through Cortina Olympic venues).

Cheers to Monte for renewing my quest to find some of these recordings!

Ohno Skating Into Vancouver

USA Today's Vicki Michaelis had a good report this morning regarding Apolo Anton Ohno's preparations for Vancouver 2010. It would indeed be thrilling to see him skate victorious in Canada after witnessing his gold medal feat in Torino a couple of years back.

Speedskating is among my favorite Winter Games sports (both long and short track). After following Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen during the late 1980s and 1990s, interest waned until experiencing the Olympic Speedskating Ovals, first in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, Wis., home of the Pettit National Ice Center, and the 2002 Olympic speedskating venue (the Utah Olympic Oval) around Salt Lake City (a curiously simple venue by comparison to the training facility up North).

During travels to Chicago for work this past week, I drove past the Pettit Center a few times and was surprised (well, maybe not that surprised) to spot a giant inflated pumpkin -- some sort of temporary Halloween superstore -- across the parking lot from the front door to the rink. One must wonder whether there are costumes for young trick-or-treat fans who aspire to be Ohno, Jansen, Blair or other Olympic speedskating greats.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Red Dawn

A wonderful surprise was in my mailbox last night. Right behind my 401K $tatement was this week's New Yorker, with their best cover art since Javier Mariscal put the Barcelona Olympic mascot, Cobi, in a convertible driving along the Pacific Coast Highway (sometime in the 1990s).

“Red Death on Wall Street” by Robert Risko is just hilarious to me. Although the upended world economy is no laughing matter, something about the cover artwork tickled me (at least to smile for a few minutes before opening that 401K envelope). Maybe it's the bleeding eye sockets in crimson ink, or the pinstripe suits. Or the clinched fists and expressions that seem to scream out, "Noooooooo!"

Earlier this year, the magazine also had some outstanding features on the Beijing Games, including an online audio report featuring architecture critic Paul Goldberger (fantastic!). The New Yorker also has some interesting archives from Olympic reports all the way back to London in 1948.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Less Than One Year

Just the other day (Oct. 2 to be exact), the calendar marked “one year to go” for the International Olympic Committee’s selection of the 2016 Olympic host city. Four cities – Rio de Janiero, Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo – remain in the running to host the Games of the XXXIst Olympiad.

Toward the conclusion of the Beijing Games, on level two of the Olympic Green McDonald’s, the top executives for all four cities gathered for the only combined press conference, a media breakfast and panel discussion hosted by the team at Around The Rings.

It was an interesting press conference, featuring some of the world’s smartest business and sports executives (with their P.R. counsel at their side – loved it!). ATR Founder Ed Hula was the moderator, with topics such as each bid city’s key messages and challenges covered while a couple dozen Olympic Movement reporters took notes and TV cameras rolled.

During the Q&A session following the program, I took the opportunity to pose the question, “What keeps you up at night about your bid and competition for the Games hosting duties?” Unfortunately, the metonymy “keeps you up at night” was lost in translation for CEOs of Rio, Tokyo and Madrid (each executive fell back to their message points about their strengths, a sign their media relations counselors trained them well).

It was very cool that Chicago’s Olympic bid leader, Mr. Patrick Ryan (Aon Corporation founder and executive chairman), gave a frank yet upbeat answer, reporting that Chicago’s main challenge (and cause for “lost winks” of sleep – another phrase sure to be lost in translation) is that The Windy City is well known in North America but not so much globally (while the cities from Japan, Spain and Brazil each are by-and-large ‘brand name’ destination cities with worldwide recognition). Thank you, Mr. Ryan! (His team created some great videos in China.)

Ryan’s remarks inspired me (during my last few days in China) to ask several hundred people, “Have you ever heard of Chicago?” and/or “Do you know what makes Chicago a great potential Olympic host?”

It was fun to learn that lots of the unofficial poll responders were very familiar with Chicago, with most having a favorable impression (though mostly from feature films of John Hughes).

Mr. Ryan’s sleepless in Chicago nights might be justified, however, as very few of those questions (mostly Chinese nationals or Europeans) could name any major sports events or teams from Lake Michigan’s shoreline metropolis (I laughed hard when one person from Japan actual mentioned my girlfriend’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wis., and their Brewers as a 'Chicago sports team').

One Mr. Nice Guy in Beijing who also took time to answer my Olympic Bid questions was none other than Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. This guy ROCKS! I would love to see Chicago win 2016 for a million reasons – among them, to affirm Mayor Daley’s remarks (which he graciously repeated when I had a Flip Camera snafu inside USA House in Beijing -- see video).

It will certainly be intriguing to track the candidates during the next 350-or-so days, and I’ll post some additional details and comments on each city in future posts. Good luck, Chicago. Boa sorte, Rio. 良い運 to Tokyo and buena suerte, Madrid. And THANK YOU, Obrigado, Gracias and ありがとうto the bid executives for answering my P.R. questions on site at the Around The Rings breakfast event.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

IOC: I Want A New Drug (Tested)

Ripped from the lyrics by Huey Lewis and the News, today the International Olympic Committee announced (reported by the Associated Press and other outlets) they will review up to 5,000 Beijing drug tests for a new pharma item recently detected at other world sports events. Apparently this is to make good on the IOC's strengthening stance about doping -- I concur. It's simple -- athletes need to Just Say No (to polluting their bodies, or the Games, or the sporting world) and lay off the doping. Fight the Madness, IOC!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Fueling Olympic Families

It's been barely a month since saying goodbye to B.C. Canada Pavilion in Beijing, my Edelman Olympic assignment during the months leading to and during the 2008 Games.

But after spending a month with dozens of Canadians day and night, night and day, I can't help but keep an eye on news from the Great White North on all things Olympic (and other news, such as this Canadian newspaper blog asking whether Sarah Palin's ever visits Alaska's eastern neighbor with which her state shares a 1,538-mile border -- posing an interesting question about Palin's so-called international relations experience).

So this week, when an Edelman colleague mentioned our firm's work with Petro-Canada, it was fun to read about the company's new initiative to help the families of Canada's Olympians and Paralympians travel to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in British Columbia in just 495 days from today.

The program -- Petro-Canada's Canadian Athlete Family Program -- will help 500 athletes' family members see their loved ones compete live at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (in the interest of disclosure, Edelman also works on a pro-bono basis with the International Paralympic Committee).

This was not the first time I heard about Petro-Canada's support of the Olympic Movement.

Back in 1988, the only way to experience the Calgary Winter Olympics was via ABC Sports' broadcasts live from Alberta (including the spectacular daytime Opening Ceremony live on the day before Valentine's Day, which won't soon be forgotten as it was nearly 80 degrees Fahrenheit -- in February -- where I lived in Oklahoma at the time).

But back to Petro-Canada.

As a souvenir of that marathon TV watching experience, and for the sake of learning more about Olympic torch relays, sometime around 1995 a garage sale yielded a copy of the book "Share The Flame: The Official Retrospective Book of the Olympic Torch Relay" presented by none other than Petro-Canada. It's a book filled with great photos and personal stories of how they got the flame across Canada, and a great companion piece to a similar book published after the 1996 Atlanta Games. By today's standards, this was an old-school Torch Relay (and one of the best, thanks to the support of Petro-Canada.

Earlier this year I also read about the company's Totem Pole Legacy Project, which is so cool, and in Torino in 2006 the Petro-Canada pin was one of the most popular on my lanyard.

Now if we could just get some of their fuel stations down here south of the border (where I've been walking to work on-again-off-again the last two weeks since the gas stations are out of fuel to sell), we'd be all set, eh?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Biden + Palin @ Olympic Site!

Tonight's great debate of Joe Biden and Sarah Palin is now history. I've been channel and Web surfing during the mix of facts and drivel dished out by both candidates, but so far have found no mention of the debate's strong connection to the Olympic Movement (this report is the closest located so far).

The Vice Presidential Debate venue on the campus of Washington University at St. Louis is in the athletic complex -- the David R. Francis Gymnasium -- shown in the photo with this post. That building was the site of two major Olympic events: First, the 1904 Summer Olympic Games of St. Louis (the athletic building is just east of what remains of the St. Louis Olympic Stadium), and second, the 1994 U.S. Olympic Festival.

The Olympic Village for the Festival in the summer of '94 was also close by -- further west.

Though I missed the Clinton:Bush debates of 1992, and other big political events on campus before and since, my Olympic career did have a three-month stop at the Festival working in that St. Louis Festival Olympic Village.

BEST ... SUMMER ... EVER! Oh, the memories!

One memory for tonight: During a post-Festival job (to sustain my finances while remaining in the city for a few extra summer weeks) I worked in the LAUNDRY ROOM of the David R. Francis Gymnasium. Yes, I was "that guy" throwing football uniforms and such into industrial-size washing machines for two glamorous weeks. On breaks I would walk the halls reading up the building's history including candidate Clinton's big moments on campus.

Steps away from the Francis Gym building, also got my first "Olympic stadium smooch" under the gate that commemorates the 1904 Games (14 years later ... still waiting to be in another Olympic Stadium AND with the right woman for the next Olympic stadium smooch -- unfortunately I was traveling solo or single during 1994 to 208 travels to the Olympic stadiums in Los Angeles, Lake Placid, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Salt Lake City, Athens, Torino and Beijing).

But bringing this back to the debate: I would bet money that neither veep candidate noticed their opportunity to mention an Olympic connection (disclaimer: I did not catch the entire debate, so maybe they did). It might also be a safe bet that one of the candidates didn't know much of what she was talking about in general.

πετρος Ueberroth in the News

I just learned the name Peter comes from the Greek word, πετρος (petros) or "stone" or "rock."

Its a fitting name for Peter Ueberroth, who was born the same day as modern Olympic founder Pierre de Frédy -- Baron de Coubertin died (handing off the torch?).

Ueberroth was in the news today -- the New York Times to be precise -- as his tenure in an official leadership role at the U.S. Olympic Committee may soon come to a close. He's used to headlines, methinks (being Time magazine's "Man of the Year" in 1984 and all), through staging one of the most successful Olympiads in history at Los Angeles.

Mr. Ueberroth is one of the good guys. He was also kind to an awkward 15 year old in Oklahoma City when I approached him requesting an autograph in my copy of "Made In America: His Own Story" (Ueberroth's autobiography of how they pulled off the Games of the XXIIIrd Olympiad). He was about to go on stage to speak to a packed house of potential sponsors for OKC's U.S. Olympic Festival '89 (it was 22 June 1988), so my timing could not have been worse, but he was very polite and answered all of my silly questions before personalizing that book (if located at home I'll eventually scan it and add to this post).

Those few moments were a big inspiration for me. Ueberroth's remarks to me, and on stage that night, helped solidify some of my Olympic aspirations, in the short term leading me to double my volunteer time at the U.S. Olympic Festival (more on that in future posts), and in the long run serving as a reminder of 'what the Olympics is all about' when some efforts to get involved with the Games have hit a snag.

I've had other opportunities to speak briefly with Ueberroth since then -- once in 1996 (during the ACOG days for Atlanta), again in 2004 and just a few weeks ago at USA House in China. He was consistently cordial, just as he was in 1989. Rock solid Olympic values. It's too bad things have to wind down for his involvement with the U.S.O.C. (though not entirely a surprise as he is now 71).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

France says "Oui" to 2018 Olympic bid

Looks like France is throwing their chapeau in the ring to try to land the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, according to published reports and There's a wide swath of potential candidates, according to the site, including interested parties from Norway, USA, Switzerland, South Korea, Germany, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and others.

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