Sunday, June 28, 2009

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 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

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 and via pages of "The Perlow Guide to Olympic Bid Pins")

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