Monday, November 30, 2009

Skating Through Vegas

When last I posted, my team from Edelman was on site at Las Vegas working with our client the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009.

Whew! Time flies!

That week was a blur of early morning live TV reports, long walks on miles of aisles of exhibits and evenings with IAAPA members or communications peers (and, I must admit, a trip or two to some roulette tables during brief down time throughout the week).

Though there was no energy to post to the blog that week, and Thanksgiving week is traditionally an "IAAPA recovery" week (this year my "recovery" included a 2,000-mile round-trip holiday drive to Oklahoma for family time), tonight I must post some IAAPA highlights to keep things timely. Thanks to all for patience during the break since the most recent post.

About Las Vegas: Still trying to decide my mixed bag of love, fear and loathing from the experience.

There's plenty to love -- the Strip impressed me, as did the Bellagio fountains, the Venetian, the airport, most of the hospitality/taxi drivers and "locals," the Las Vegas Convention Center and the grand scale of so many other places (the massive hotels reminded me of Beijing's skyline and grandeur).

I'm still speechless about the Cirque du Soleil show "O" which we witnessed from the third row -- breathtaking. (Disclosure: Cirque du Soleil is a client of Edelman, the P.R. firm where I work.)

Will also remember fondly the night flight into the city and the departure flight takeoff over The Strip, Lake Mead and the Grand Canyon as I collapsed with sheer exhaustion from the Vegas experience.

A review of some favorite Vegas films is in order, with "Casino" and scenes from "Rain Man" coming out of the archive for viewing later this week. I was happy to view "The Hangover" last week, and seeing it post-Vegas gave some new perspective.

So, in Las Vegas with IAAPA, I was determined to find "IAAPA's Olympic connection" for the blog. By day three of the Expo, things were not looking too good -- not even a plush toy with some vague reference to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic mascots.

But then one of my colleagues pointed out that the exhibiting company Xtraice was in da house.

"What is Xtraice?" I wondered.

Turns out, it is a waterless surface on which anyone may "ice" skate -- on figure skates, speed skates or any other skating blade -- on what is billed as "ecological ice" on a synthetic, near-ice-slick surface.

I was impressed to learn that Xtraice is now used for sports training by some of the official governing bodies for skating sports worldwide, and the Xtraice surface may also be useful for tropical nations like Aruba or Guam to train for winter Olympic sports on ice.

The IAAPA:Olympic connection was further affirmed when I learned that two-time Olympic figure skater/two-time World silver medalist Surya Bonaly was on site at IAAPA Attractions Expo skating in the Xtraice booth!

Olympic figure skater Surya Bonaly was one of the friendliest Olympians encountered to date. In addition to being a great sport (showing up for a very early morning live TV segment), she took time to speak with IAAPA attendees (including bloggers) throughout the week. Turns out she is now a Las Vegas resident, as she became a U.S. citizen a few years ago. It was cool to learn more about her Olympic Oath experience in Albertville (representing all athletes in the Games in Bonaly's home nation, France), and her Olympic Village visits in Lillehammer (see video).

One of my teammates later informed me of a Vegas adult establishment with an Olympic theme, but I will have to save research of that establishment (if it still exists) when we return to Las Vegas for IAAPA Attractions Expo 2011.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Vegas, Baby!

It happens once a year ... at least for the last 11 years of my P.R. career, that is.

Edelman (the agency where I work) partners with our client the International Association of Amusement Parks of Attractions, and my team embarks for a one-week gig in the press office at IAAPA Attractions Expo.

For the first time in the association's 90+ years, IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 is in Las Vegas, and tonight (Monday night, Nov. 16) is sort of like Christmas Eve as more than 1,065 exhibitors are working through the night to finalize their booths that span 500,000 square feet of the Las Vegas Convention Center's cavernous South Hall.

Good times!

As we are in the business of getting media to visit this global gathering for the $24 billion international industry event geared to operators and vendors of theme parks, amusement parks, water parks, zoos, aquariums, casinos, family entertainment centers and museums, the last couple of days involved reaching out to press outlets in the region -- some local news reports are already popping up, and we'll look forward to engaging more throughout the week.

The real fun, too, comes from discovering what's cool and new for the next year in the attractions industry. One exhibitor of the past -- Dinner In The Sky -- still tops the list of "most extreme" followed closely by the HUSS "Fly Away" ride that visited Atlanta the first year we worked with IAAPA.

I'll try to post more from the IAAPA Attractions Expo later in the week. And, of course, I'll be on the hunt for some Olympic connections to the theme park industry while on site (does anyone out there recall the IZZY-themed roller coasters as part of Busch Gardens' sponsorship of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games?).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

New Avatar Stills

It's only been a month since Sigourney Weaver visited Atlanta, and thanks to the magic of YouTube, several hundred folks got to see and hear the "Avatar" star chat about the new film by James Cameron (a few folks also watched it on this blog -- thank you).

Tonight I found some new still photos from "Avatar" are now online, including one of Ms. Weaver in her role as a scientist, so who could resist the option to re-post on this click-driving topic? Enjoy!

Photo via Yahoo! Movies

Stamp Of Approval

When it comes to investing in Olympic memorabilia, most of my dollars wind up going to fellow eBay customers selling five-ringed schwag from recent Games. (Disclosure: eBay is a client of Edelman, the P.R. firm where I work.)

So it was cool to find in my mailbox a copy of the David Feldman Olympic Auction Catalog from Feldman Galleries, Geneva, for the upcoming sale "Olympic Games -- The Loaring Collection-Part 1." The 165-page glossy auction book, for the sale on Nov. 24, is filled with gorgeous Olympic antiques and memorabilia spanning 1896 to 2004.
Sort of reminds me of that Sotheby's Auction in the James Bond film "Octopussy" -- the scene where Roger Moore switches a fake for a real Imperial Easter Egg by Carl Fabergé.

This is not the first major Olympic auction for which I've considered a few bids. But this one may be the most risky for clearing out my wallet and bank account. But check out the items!
  • 14 lots featuring museum-ready artist proof versions of the rare Athens 1896 postage stamps issued by the Greek postal service (combined estimated value: €101,000 to €197,000) (!!!)
  • Gold medal winner's trophy from the 1920 Antwerp Games, featuring a nude figure (in gold) holding a victory wreath aloft atop a marble base (est. value: €6,000)

  • A "Ticket Master" official pass booklet of ticket specimens for the Games of the Xth Olympiad at Los Angeles (est. value: €3,000)

  • Olympic torches from Berlin 1936, London 1948, Rome 1960, Mexico City 1968, Munich 1972, Moscow 1980, Sarajevo 1984, Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988 and Atlanta 1996 (est. value: Each €1,200 to €4,000)

There are a handful of items closer to my budget: A non-Nazi poster for the Berlin 1936 Games, pins from the London 1948 Olympics, participation medals (awarded to all athletes) for Mexico City 1968, and a few badges for various Olympic Congress events hosted by the IOC.

It's not too late to view the auction catalog or bid (advance or live bidding) via -- just don't bid on my want-list posters, pins, etc.! See you on Nov. 24, and on eBay.

Photos via the David Feldman Nov. 24 Auction Catalog

Friday, November 6, 2009

Colbert Puts Canada On Notice

Apparently on last night's edition of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert invited U.S. Speedskater Joey Cheek to help put "Canadian Iceholes" (a.k.a. "syrup suckers!") ON NOTICE in an on-air retaliation for limited access to training options at the Richmond Olympic Oval in Greater Vancouver.

Though I missed the telecast, the online clip tells the tale and is punctuated by one rendition of the Canadian "national anthem" that brought down the house. Fun to see Colbert donning Cheek's gold medal from Torino.

Photo via this blog.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Better Know An N.O.C. -- Iceland

With all this week's chatter about the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, I thought for "B.K.A.N.O.C." installment No. 3 it might be best to peek at an undoubtedly winter sport nation.

You can imagine my surprise to find that the Atlantic nation of Iceland (ICE) earned numerous Olympic medals across the history of the Modern Games, but not one medal was in a Winter sport!

According to the IOC directory of national Olympic committees, Iceland did well earning medals in Beijing, LA84, Melbourne '56 and Sydney 2000. Several summer Iceland Olympic memories come to mind.

First, in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Village at Georgia Tech, my colleagues and I ("Village People") often commented that the athletes of Iceland House (situated in what is now a sorority house near Bobby Dodd Stadium) were unanimously the most gorgeous people in the Olympics. I ran into one of the Atlanta Olympic athletes from Iceland in 2004, on the metro rail to Beach Volleyball, and she was just as beautiful at the latter Games as in '96.

Also, during the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Games, several of the athletes participated in an early version of chat rooms, and one athlete who wrote back to me was a skier from Iceland who had one of those dreamy, umlaut-infused names like the Icelandic woman in the outstanding Robert Altman film "The Player." She, too, was a bombshell beauty. We finally met in person at Iceland House in downtown Salt Lake in 2002 (I was biting my wrist like the Lenny & Squiggy on "Laverne & Shirley" credits).

No Iceland post would be complete without mentioning Bjork's performance at the 2004 Athens Olympic Opening Ceremonies.

There is not yet much info on the team that Iceland will field for Vancouver, but no doubt they will make an impression in the new Olympic City next year. Get to know an NOC: Iceland. And look out for your opportunity to meet Sumicelandicgudmansdottir.
Photo via the Iceland National Olympic Committee site and via this Bjork fan site.

100 Days Out Brings Olympic P.R. Trifecta In

The 100 Days to Vancouver milestone marked a flurry of activity online and in the news. It was refreshing to see the Olympic headlines gaining prominence again in anticipation of the big B.C. party coming soon.

There was a party in my inbox as a handful of public relations agencies/contacts sent over their Olympic wares tied to 100 Days as well.

The first arrival was some detail from Polo Ralph Lauren regarding the newly unveiled Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony uniforms to be donned by Team USA in February. There's a complete line of Olympic gear from this official outfitter. According to their news:

"The Closing Ceremony Parade Uniform for both men and women are vintage-inspired and modern in design with a functional cotton fleece pant, a patriotic navy and red wool shawl cardigan, and a newsboy hat adorned with the “Look of the Team” logo adding a distinct feel of American spirit. Underneath the shawl cardigan, the women’s uniform will feature a classic navy ribbed turtleneck while the men’s uniform includes a traditional plaid shirt made of woven flannel. The men’s uniform also boasts a sophisticated tie featuring unique patriotic elements."

Looks good to me. Their nods to the 1932 Winter Games wear at Lake Placid is classy.

Perusing the Polo photos and models/Olympians, both on the Polo media site and on another Olympic blog (this one showing some merchandise that was part of the Rockefeller Center festivities for 100 Days), I must admit the gargantuan horse and rider RL logo was a bit much for my taste (as a Polo customer and fan since fifth grade -- my closet has many casual and semi-formal Ralph Lauren items -- I often wish their high quality and stylish products to be available sans logo).

But the 2010 logos will certainly show up on NBC Olympic broadcasts from Vancouver (remember the whole controversy of Michael Jordan wearing having to cover up his sponsor logos on the medal stand in Barcelona? Will that apply again in 2010?).

Sidebar: One of my uncles works in a movie set and design operation in Texas, and at one point in the late 1980/early 1990s he visited one or more of Mr. Lifschitz's (Ralph's) homes to complete some design work. Will have to check the facts on this family lore before revisiting the Ralph connection again in the future.

Next to arrive in the inbox was a nice note from the P.R. team for McDonald's, reminding me of their 2010 Vancouver Olympic contest for kids (just wrapped up entry phase) and the company's extended timeline of Olympic involvement. Per the press site:
"McDonald's Olympic Pride continues to shine throughout the host country of Canada and throughout the world. McDonald's is preparing for its eighth Games as the Official Restaurant and feeding the athletes. Plans are in place to share the excitement of the Games with millions of customers across the globe as a Worldwide Partner of the Olympic Movement."
As noted in previous posts, my personal Olympic journey is intertwined with the Golden Arches all the way back to "When The U.S. Wins, You Win" in grade school and the Atlanta Olympic Village (1996) locations of McDonald's across Georgia Tech.

Suggestion for future Games: I'd be "Lovin' It" if McDonald's Vancouver 2010, London 2012, Sochi 2014 or Rio 2016 Happy Meals would include PINS rather than plastic toys.

Another in-box P.R. arrival was from one of my colleagues at Edelman, the firm where I work. Our client 24 Hour Fitness announced Wednesday the names of the athletes on deck for their Vancouver programs. According to the press release:

"[24 Hour Fitness'] partnership [includes] six U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls for the 2010 Games: Snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, pairs skater Rockne Brubaker, short track speedskater J.R. Celski, Paralympic skier Chris Devlin-Young, speedskater Tucker Fredricks and skier Julia Mancuso. The athletes joined Team 24 Hour Fitness as they strive toward making the 2010 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team and medaling this winter at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

It will be fun to witness how these and other athletes progress, work out, Tweet and shine before and during the Games of Vancouver.

As I wrap up this press release-infused post, it is worth noting that on the 100 Days milestone I also stumbled upon some P.R. gone bad. Apparently an embargoed** press release related to the torch relay struck a nerve with a reporter in Seattle. Call it Schadenfreude, but some of the comments are hilarious.

**offered/delivered to reporters in advance of publication date as a courtesy to aid with timely news delivery
Images via McDonald's, 24 Hour Fitness and Polo Ralph Lauren (Polo image is via Yahoo! News/Associated Press)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

T-Minus 100

Today marks just 100 days until the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Excitement is building ... just watched Team USA interviews and winter sport stunts in Rockefeller Center on NBC's TODAY Show.

I have yet to really start hunting for Vancouver tickets -- opening and closing ceremony are top priority, with snowboarding on the wish list, too (anyone out there already got their tickets?). I suppose after The Colbert Report announced sponsorship of U.S. Speedskating, tickets for the Oval will be on the hot ticket list, too.

Hope to see you in British Columbia in just 100 days!

Photo via Vancouver 2010.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Better Know An NOC: The Colbert Nation!

Last month, on this blog, I added a feature inspired by Comedy Central and The Colbert Report's smart and funny "Better Know A District" segments.

To date, this blog's "Better Know An N.O.C." (national Olympic committee; B.K.A.N.O.C.) visited Aruba and Zimbabwe's national sports teams.

On tonight's edition of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert answered the call of U.S. Speedskating's plea for a new sponsor (their main funding source declared bankruptcy and pulled the sponsorship) and The Colbert Nation (!!!) is now the official sponsor of U.S. Speedskating!

The Associated Press' entertainment reporter Jake Coyle appears to have scooped other outlets (save Colbert) with this news.

Like U.S. Speedskating's deep heritage and excellence in the sports world, Stephen Colbert consistently impresses me greatly on many levels, and his award-winning work is outstanding and hilarious. Seeing how Colbert interacted with Olympic speedskating legend Dan Jansen was great fun, and an even better surprise came with the on-the-air sponsorship paperwork signed with U.S. Speedskating's leadership in the studio.

So, as you watch Olympic speedskating heat up the ice now through Vancouver 2010, you better know the newest NOC on the planet: The Colbert Nation (let's make it official via the International Olympic Committee with TCN named as The Colbert Nation's competition acronym?).

On tonight's show we got a peek at U.S. Speedskating's new "Colbert-infused" uniforms -- I can hardly wait to learn The Colbert Nation's national anthem to be played just after "The Star Spangled Banner" when the U.S. wins gold.

Anyone can lend their support to the team by answering U.S. Speedskating's "win a trip to Vancouver" contest now in progress. The Colbert Nation's logo is now part of the contest page on U.S. Speedskating's website, and is sure to be added to the site's main sponsor page soon. Somebody get Stephen Colbert to Milwaukee/West Allis, Wis., on the ice at The Pettit National Ice Center!

Bravo, Stephen! Bravo -- That's The WØRD.

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