Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jet Setting for 2010

The eye in the sky, er, on the ground at a tarmac in the Seattle area this week apparently broke the news of Air Canada's aircraft decked out for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

According to published reports, the photo and video sort of scooped a planned photo opp/unveiling. In the P.R. biz (or any biz, for that matter), one might call this a S.N.A.F.U. (a time or two similar scoops have foiled my own client P.R. efforts - D'OH!).

One time, in Denver, working at the U.S. Olympic Festival Opening Ceremony in Mile High Stadium (summer of 1995), the IOC deployed UPS couriers to deliver the official NOC invitations for Atlanta's Games, and in an elaborate media event/element of the Opening, a UPS plane -- clad with Olympic sponsorship logos -- buzzed the stadium several times (spectacular! so close you could almost see the pilot's logo hat). Then a few minutes later a brown-clad courier ran into the venue (after leaping from a brown package car, I believe) and handed the official IOC invitation to a waiting U.S. Olympic official. The whole thing was punctuated with a live performance by Kenny "I'm Alright" and "Footloose" Loggins. (Disclosure: UPS is a current client of Edelman, the P.R. firm where I work. I was neither employed by Edelman nor UPS at the time of the 1995 event described above.)

For Air Canada, my vote would be to proceed with planned photo opp or flyover in the Winter Olympic City as the plane looks pretty darn cool!

(photo via JetPhotos.net, copyright Mike Head, Jet Wash Photos)

USOTC Internship

Just stumbled upon the new U.S. Olympic Training Center summer intern blog. Looks like they are off to a great start with stories from the Olympic campus in Colorado Springs.

I, too, was a temporary USOTC resident via the intern class of '95 (summer). One fellow intern went on to achieve greatness at the American Junior Golf Association, and another is now married to a Major League Baseball player. Others are living the American Dream in California, New York (now an Emmy winner for Olympic coverage!) and even Vancouver. What a great summer it was, living just east of Pikes Peak!

Will be fun to recall the past intern glory days ("back in my day, we lived in some dated military barracks at the USOTC ...") while reading about the new Class of '09 adventures. Will also be interesting to see if the current class makes it to some of the past intern haunts (it appears some are the same while one of the most popular is now a car repair shop rather than a sports bar).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Maple Leaf Makeover

Received today from VANOC a press release regarding the new 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic posters unveiled today with several Canadian Olympians in attendance.

According to the press release ...

“One of Canada’s most cherished symbols is the maple leaf. We put it on our flag, our uniforms and even our backpacks when we travel around the world. It sums up who we are — our shared history, values and goals as a country,” said Nathalie Lambert [three-time Olympic medallist in short track speed skating], Canada’s chef de mission for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. “That’s why it’s fitting to have the maple leaf on the official posters of Canada’s Games. With this modern, youthful and spirited take on our national symbol, we will welcome the world as hosts of the 2010 Winter Games in just 228 days time!”

The website description for the posters states ...
"The Look of the Games graphic elements in the poster were created by members of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) design team, while the concept of the poster and the unique interpretation of these graphics were brought to life by designer Ben Hulse."
The posters and other fabulous merchandise are available online starting today. Bravo!
(poster image copyright VANOC)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

U.S.O.C. in NYTimes

Caught this quick read on the latest with the U.S. Olympic Committee by Katie Thomas of the New York Times posted yesterday.

Another interesting Olympic headline of late is this one from AFP related to the opening ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games (The Canadian Press also ran a slightly more detailed report on this news).

With All This Talk About Motown ...

In the wake of Michael Jackson's death, the [usual for a celebrity of his calibre] cavalcade of tribute programming is flashing on the TV.

I've heard more about Motown and Detroit in the last 48 hours than perhaps the last year, save the near-daily news updates about the challenges faced by the U.S. auto industry.

With all this talk about Motown, and also thanks to a recent refresher course in online search techniques, this week I stumbled upon a handful of blogs mentioning a lengthy promotional video created in Detroit for the city's failed Olympic bid for the 1968 Summer Olympic Games.

I first heard about Detroit's Olympic aspirations while connecting on flights to and from Beijing last summer. Must admit, asked myself "for the summer Games, or winter?"

As pointed out by http://www.autoblog.com/ in their June 15 post, this summer Olympic bid film fails on several fronts. In addition to leaving out any mention of the Motown music industry, there are some surprising (albeit indicative of the era in which it was filmed) elements that were intended to showcase the city's diversity (unfortunately, shifted into an incorrect gear a time or two).

Another manner in which this film backfired: It is just plain boring!

C'mon! Even President Kennedy (around the 15 minute mark in the film) looks bored out of his mind reading a prepared statement to the voting members at the IOC Session. His gruff closing "thank you" is perhaps telling of where the bid fit in his list of priorities.

I expect members of the International Olympic Committee selection team for 1968 kept copies of this film on the ready in case of acute insomnia. The narration does not at all convey whatever "excitement" the city had for hosting the Games. Even newsreels of earlier times, whether true or fictional, had more pep. I'm anxious to find a copy of Mexico City's Olympic bid film for a comparison.

Fortunately, in spite of losing to Mexico's capital for the 1968 Olympic duties, some of Detroit's hometown auto brands did go on to sponsor the Olympic Movement in gigantic ways. I still remember spotting the auto industry Olympic ads during the 1980s.

During the summer of 1989, while volunteering for the U.S. Olympic Festival coming to Oklahoma City, I was part of a team of 100 or so drivers who created an Olympic photo opp involving 100 new cars from the General Motors plant in OKC (one of many P.R. moves learned in my pre-public relations career days). We parked 100 cars -- each clad with "OLYMPIC" Oklahoma license plates -- in the car plant's parking lot to arrange an "OK89" logo visible from local news helicopters.

GM also sponsored the Olympics (as do other import car brands) throughout the last several years, until they nixed global sponsorship (again, back to http://www.autoblog.com/).

Except by living vicariously through Michael Moore's great documentary films (new release on Oct. 2, the same day of the IOC vote for 2016), KISS songs (which reminds me, check out the REAL "Rock City," a former Edelman client of mine, here), Eminem's big screen debut (yo!), a popular Harrison Ford murder mystery film, and aforementioned Michael Jackson videos, I've only experienced Detroit via the city's modern airport -- there's no better spot for a pre-flight margarita than Detroit's vast international terminal (though the south of the border restaurant in LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal gives DTW a run for it's money). I do hope to explore Detroit's architecture and cultural hubs -- some mentioned in the Olympic bid film -- and visit Detroit in the future.

Would like to think Detroit's non-selection as the first Great Lakes candidate will only contribute to Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid success. Fortunately, the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid videos feature a bit more excitement and drive (as does President Obama's pitch video for the bid)!

(photo cropped from image similar to one at http://olympianartifacts.com/ and via pages of "The Perlow Guide to Olympic Bid Pins")

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson R.I.P.

Very sad to learn today of Michael Jackson's death. Given the enormity of his star power, it's surprising he did not perform at Olympic festivities during his career, though he did perform in several Olympic stadiums on various tours.

My earliest memory of Michael Jackson is actually from a cemetery, but not connected to the "Thriller" video. Rather, when I was six years old, on Christmas Eve of 1978, my grandmother, dad, sister and I went to the cemetery in northern Oklahoma City to place flowers at a family headstone, and one of The Jackson Five Christmas songs was on the radio in our red station wagon. We sang along, and my dad explained (I think) that the main singer was only a few years older than my age when the song was recorded. "That kid can sing [but not me]!" I recall saying [and thinking].

A few years later, the Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney duet "Say, Say Say" was all the rage, and I vividly recall donning my first Walkman in the 4th Grade with a "Thriller" cassette playing and an "Air Supply" and "Styx" cassette in my back pockets (though one of my top five favorites was on the air much earlier). I don't recall trying to learn the moonwalk, but classmates of that era may call me out if they are reading. Steve Martin offered up about the funniest "Billy Jean" spoof on the short-lived NBC enterprise "The New Show."

The closest the "Victory" tour got to Oklahoma was Kansas City or Dallas -- it was THE top story on all four local news stations (hundreds of miles from either tour stop), a definitive lesson of the publicity machine from a time before "publicity" entered my lexicon.

Lots of other memories -- songs, lyrics, satires, tabloids, music videos, tours, jokes, stories, other favorites (there are many) --learning of Michael Jackson's untimely end adds another curious mile marker to the "where were you when ..." collection including the "Miracle On Ice," Reagan assassination attempt, John Lennon's death, the Challenger explosion, Murrah Building, 9/11.

During college, there was a made for TV movie about the Jacksons, and we had a great debate about most loved (or loathed) Michael Jackson tunes. When he performed the Super Bowl a year or so later, most agreed his best work was humanitarian.

"There's a choice we're making, we're saving our own lives. It's true, we'll make a better day, just you and me."

Michael Jackson, R.I.P.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

100 Days from Olympic Day

Today was Olympic Day around the globe, and the morning started with a great NBC TODAY Show segment about the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid.

It was a low key holiday in Atlanta. I tried, but could not find details on the apparent local celebrations listed by Olympic Day organizers (until tonight, too late, I stumbled upon a listing on a website -- if I missed something big, read the following with a grain of salt).

To pause and commemorate things, this evening I took a walk through Centennial Olympic Park (which has a great virtual tour online) and asked a mix of locals and visitors if they knew what Olympic Day is or when it takes place -- to my surprise, one woman from Puerto Rico, who was posing for a photo with the park's monument to Modern Olympic Founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin, exclaimed "TODAY is Olympic Day, and my birthday, too!" (not surprising, no one else quizzed had any idea).

The walk provided a mixed bag of sentimentality and cynicism about the Olympic Movement and Atlanta's place in Olympic history.

On one hand, the Atlanta Olympic legacy including the vast urban park, other legacy venues and Turner Field (in view as I type this from high rise office downtown) are priceless. Almost every downtown Atlanta structure that borders Centennial Park -- except for The INFORUM, CNN Center and Tabernacle -- would not exist if the Games went to another city in 1996. And now that Centennial Olympic Park is in its adolescence, it is booming (remember when the trees were sticks in the ground? Now a gorgeous urban forest in bloom, and the fountains are all working again, post-drought!).

On the other hand, it seems sad that in spite of an army of employees and even larger army of volunteers rallied with the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) from 1989 (bid days) to 1996, very few in Atlanta seem to celebrate or remember the Games on what is supposed to be its biggest day of celebration in a non-Olympic year.

They do come out of the woodwork every so often, getting out the pin collections and donning Olympic shirts from the glory days. There was a good (and large) celebration of ACOG's/Atlanta's 10th anniversary held in 2006, so that balances out some of what's negativity on the brain (the BBC's Kurt Barling filed an excellent report on the Atlanta Games legacy just after the 10th anniversary event -- be sure to watch the videos, too).

And then you look at the Los Angeles area's ambitious 25th anniversary gathering on the horizon and wonder "what will Atlanta remember/celebrate in 2021?"

Looking forward, it is cool to note that the 2016 host will be selected just 100 days from now. Here's hoping the 2009 Olympic Day celebrations across the U.S. only helped in that decision before the I.O.C. And perhaps, sometime in 2041, Chicago will celebrate its 25th Olympic anniversary.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

So Money, Baby!

Though their website does not seem to have it archived, NPR aired a "Morning Edition" report this week during which they reported news from BOCOG (Beijing's Olympic organizing committee) -- in spite of their carmine-hued national flag and gargantuan spending/budgets, China's Games emerged in the black with a whopping $176 million profit.

According to the Associated Press, some of this profit is to be attributed to hefty sales of souvenirs, coins and stamps.


Reading that stamps helped clear BOCOG of decades of debt made me chuckle as it was like searching for a needle in a haystack to find a post office, let alone collectible philatelic items, in Beijing!

During my month-long Games assignment last year, we encountered only two post offices -- both temporary counters set up for international visitors -- with one each at the Beijing International Media Center (BIMC ... short for "you couldn't get IOC accreditation consolation destination") and one in the massive Main Press Center/International Broadcast Center (MPC/IBC). They did have some interesting postal collectibles. But not enough stamps were moving to explain even a small percentage of Beijing's reported Games profit (thinking there was one person in line mailing a post card -- everyone else was e-mailing home, methinks).

Speaking of their profits, Beijing's results are right up there with another most profitable Olympic enterprise: The Games of the XXIIIrd Olympiad at Los Angeles. Almost 25 years ago the City of Angels welcomed the world with tremendous success, to the tune of a $235 million profit, according to the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games (SCCOG).

Their site details how this tremendous financial windfall created a vast Olympic legacy enjoyed over the last 25 years (and for the foreseeable future).

In just a few weeks, SCCOG and the L.A. Sports Council are throwing a party to celebrate "LA84-XXV" -- the 25th anniversary of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

It hardly seems possible it's been a quarter of a century since the grand Opening Ceremonies, and this celebration on the floor of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. David Wolper (the man who brought dozens of grand pianos out of nowhere into the stadium -- the single moment that got me hooked on the Games) is the producer of the evening's festivities to commence July 18. They even got the Millennium Biltmore Hotel to roll back prices to $84 per night for the weekend!

My hope is that timing will permit travel to the LA84-XXV gathering, and will certainly blog about it more. Anyone else going? If so, drop me a line and we'll get toast the Games inside the 1932 and 1984 Olympic palace.

We'll also have to do the same at the Bird's Nest in 2033 -- marking calendar now to dust off Olympic stamp collection then, too.

Credit: Bird's Nest photo via Olympics.org; LA Memorial Coliseum photo via SCCOG; Monopoly card via Parker Brothers and Bankrate.com

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Londoners' Olympic Savvy Survey

About four years ago (on July 6, 2005, to be exact), London earned the IOC's selection as host to the 2012 Olympic Games. And in just over 1,130 days, the Olympic Cauldron will ignite for London's next Olympic adventure (third in a series following 1908 and 1948).

It was slightly, though not entirely, surprising to read today's BBC report on a recent survey that revealed that more than half of Londoners don't yet know the 2012 venue location specifics, or other key information on their hometown Games. The report adds that "75 percent are pleased the capital is hosting the event and a third are interested in becoming volunteers."

This news update seems like much ado about nothing (didn't some bard who resided in London write a line like that?).

With a few clicks I took my first closer look at the London 2012 Organizing Committee site, which has some interesting blog topics, including a fresh post on an Olympic Poster exhibition underway in a city far north of London (specifically at The Shipley Art Gallery, according to the blogger).

It will be fun to learn more about this past and future Olympic site in the weeks and months to come.
(Map illustration: Best, Michael. Shakespeare's Life and Times. Internet Shakespeare Editions, University of Victoria: Victoria, BC, 2001-2005. http://ise.uvic.ca/Library/SLT/. Visited 19 June 2009).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Now Hear This

Saw some Tweets about this, and later read the news that Michael Phelps landed a new endorsement deal. Has it really been four months of "waiting in the weeds" since news broke of his adventures in South Carolina? (photo courtesy H2OAudio.com)

In other "news," this week's version of The Onion News Network has a quirky video feature on the latest in the world of gymnastics Olympic champion and "Dancing With The Stars" champion Shawn Johnson. I was chuckling until The Onion's broadcast crawl flashed a spelling error regarding Olympic figure skater Debi Thomas (d'oh! copy editing!).

On a more serious Olympic note, however, it was all business in Lausanne, Switzerland, this week as the four candidate cities for the 2016 Olympic Games presented their latest and greatest to the International Olympic Committee, as reported here by Philip Hersh of the Chicago Tribune.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Olympic Day Just A Week Away

The modern Olympic movement is celebrating its 115th birthday next week, and everyone is invited. According to the June 15 press release issued by the U.S. Olympic Committee, June 23 (next Tuesday) welcomes "Olympic Day" celebrations in more than 150 communities across the U.S.

This worldwide celebration honors the day Baron Pierre de Coubertin convened the International Olympic Committee in 1884. There's a song that goes "I left my heart in San Francisco" -- a free pin will be mailed to the first person to post a comment correctly identifying where in the world de Coubertin's heart is buried in accordance with his wishes.

The 2009 Olympic Day events are marshaled by the City of Chicago and the Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid, so you can show your support and help bring the Games to Chicago just by checking out the bid website (be sure to check out the videos featuring Michael Jordan).

Anyone can find a nearby Olympic Day Celebration with this convenient U.S. map created for the occasion. I personally plan to take lunch at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta with a visit to the de Coubertin monument titled "Gateway of Dreams." (photo via Olympics.org)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Taking In The Telfair Museum

One cause for recent pause in blog posts was some personal travel. For Mother's Day, I brought mom to Georgia for her first holiday in the Heart of the South and four days of sightseeing. We split the mini-vacation into two days in Atlanta and an overnight trek to Savannah -- always a nice break from the big city.

In Savannah, we took in some popular favorites: Wading in the surf at Tybee Island, dining at a local dive with a delicious crab boil on the menu, and a trolley tour that picked us up just after a fantastic breakfast at Huey's on the historic waterfront. We also passed the Savannah Marriott and got a reminder of the city's role as host of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games sailing competition.

With thanks to the responsive team at the Telfair Museum of Art, during a stop from the trolley tour, we experienced Telfair's Jepson Center for the Arts, a beautiful modern building on Savannah's historic Telfair Square.

According to the Telfair website, this modern expansion of the museum is designed by Moshe Safdie -- if you've been near the 1976 Montreal Olympic Stadium and complex, you've likely seen Safdie's nearby creations tied to Expo 67 (according to the archives on the website for Safdie's architecture firm, several of his other designs were built in Vancouver and will be visible during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games -- also learned today that Safdie has the commission for the planned National Health Museum near Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta).

We found the Safdie building for Telfair to be intriguing and bright. Since my mom is a specialty seamstress, we also found it curious and cool that a professional photographer was snapping photos of a model in the grand atrium at Telfair during our visit (see photos -- the gown donned by the presumed Savannah College of Art student is made of recycled Walmart and Target plastic shopping bags (disclosure: Walmart is a client of Edelman, the firm where I work).

Our visit coincided with the final days of a Telfair exhibit titled "Robert Colescott: Troubled Goods." Must admit it was not my cup of tea, but I do look forward, and hope to return, to see more of the Telfair Museum of Art's permanent collection and upcoming events.

More from Dara Torres

As noted in previous post, during the Dara Torres book signing in Atlanta, she answered a few questions inspired by her new book "Age Is Just A Number." In one chapter she wrote a fairly vivid description of her pre-race routine, including moments in the Beijing Olympic Village and other Olympic Villages from her career, so I took the opportunity to ask whether she had any favorite Village experience.

Blog Catch-Up Time

It's been a whirlwind spring and blogging has been on my to-do list for days (er, weeks) ... lots of catching up to do as travel and projects at home and work kept me away (thanks to folks who kept coming back, or visited, during the lull).

For most recent post, it was the eve of Dara Torres' visit to Atlanta to conclude her book tour showcasing "Age Is Just A Number -- Achieve Your Dreams at Any Stage In Your Life." Finished the book recently, and it is worth a read.

Behind the scenes at the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum (which has several cool upcoming events), Torres shared a few minutes and answered questions about one remark in the book -- in an early chapter, she explained that while interning at NBC, she helped log tape, and a video of fellow Olympian, Brian Boitano, was part of her inspiration to get back in the pool competitively.

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