Monday, December 12, 2011

Weightlifting Icon Vasily Alekseyev

Sad to recently read that Olympic weightlifting champion Vasily Alekseyev died in Germany on Nov. 25.

I recall viewing Alekseyev's super heavyweight feats as a kid, and his gold medal lifts in Munich and Montreal are burned in the brains of many who viewed highlight reels of Olympics from the 1970s.

Through The New York Times obituary for Alekseyev, I learned he was undefeated from 1970 to 1978. Also found that his wife's name is near match for my Yahoo! email address: Olimpiada.

An online video of an archived sports TV report also shared some insight into the life of the man who set the record for breaking sports world records.

Photo via this link

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Paul Simon in Atlanta

Blogging during autumn months is tough. November is notoriously busy, and Thanksgiving with family is usually a week of recovery from a rigorous work schedule.

Fortunately, early December brings a bit more time for fun and games, and how better to end the first week back in the office than to experience the Grammy winning sounds of Paul Simon?

Al (he told me to call him that) was in the Atlanta area on December 2, performing to a (sadly) half-filled Arena at Gwinnett Center in suburban Duluth, Ga. (several fellow audience members commented "did anyone promote this show?" as the arena was embarrassingly sparse with fans -- probably 4,000 of 7,000 available seats had butts in them; on behalf of Atlanta, sorry, Paul, they could have had them all).

Before diving in to notes on Simon's performance, which was amazing and quickly advanced into my personal Top 10 list for best attended concerts, a brief note on Paul Simon's loose ties to the Olympics.

It is my understanding, per this blog post from 2005, that Mr. Simon's most recent five-ringed interaction may have been his private performance for IOC members in Manhattan for a New York 2012 Olympic bid function. Also found an amusing Associated Press photo of Olympic champion Usain Bolt striking a Paul Simon pose at an event press conference.

Next time I see Al it will be a point of conversation to clarify his Olympic interests.

Back in the Gwinnett Arena, Paul Simon took the stage with about half-a-dozen band mates who each showcased expertise on an array of brass, percussion and stringed instruments, many I had not previously seen/heard in a live concert.

My floor seat was on row 15 near the aisle, and you can imagine my stunned amazement when the Indigo Girls' better half Amy Ray and three of her friends arrived during the second or third Simon song and took their seats near mine (I later took advantage of another late-arrival's seat shift and moved up to a vacant row 13 aisle seat -- UPGRADE!).

So, how cool is it to be singing along with the local audience, including Ms. Ray, to popular favorites such as "Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover," "Slip Slidin' Away" and "Diamonds On The Souls of Her Shoes"?

As Simon and the band played tune after unforgettable tune, the audience slowly grew less subdued.

By the first encore performance "The Sound of Silence" played acoustic by Simon in a solo spotlight, many of us floor seaters were inching up to the front row with cameras, and by the second encore set including "Graceland" and "Still Crazy After All These Years" it was a front row free for all with Simon high-fiving fans between songs (see photo of my one hand clapping Al's).

That time Paul Simon high-fived me as I snapped a photo!
I mentioned the range of instruments used during the show. Tunes like "Rewrite" and "The Boy In The Bubble" (which opened the show with an amazing accordion solo) and others brought out special guitars, a chime made of assorted cutlery, and about the biggest saxophone ever seen or heard. There were amazing piano and drum solos, notable for "The Obvious Child."

My personal favorites of the evening were "The Only Living Boy In New York" as well as "The Obvious Child," "The Boy In The Bubble" and Simon's rendition of "Here Comes The Sun" by George Harrison.

Indeed, we were "Born At The Right Time" to experience this living legend in Duluth. Up close, Simon appeared to perform with as much joy as he must have had during those early career gigs with Simon & Garfunkel.

After the show, I reintroduced myself to Ms. Ray (we first met in 2001 at a music law client event at Emory University, which she politely pretended to remember).

When asked, she said she had not performed with Paul Simon (on the stage at the same time) but she had previously seen/heard him live when they were part of a benefit event or two. It was really cool to hear her group of friends singing along, and even cooler when she agreed to a quick photo with this fan.

Experiencing Paul Simon live was on my wish list for a long time. Attending his next tour is on the wish list for the future (perhaps we can talk London 2012 organizers into getting him on their set lists).

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver

Friday, November 18, 2011

The World Comes to Orlando

For the 13th consecutive year, my third week of November included a trek to IAAPA Attractions Expo, our client IAAPA's global gathering of more than 25,000 professionals in the world of theme parks, water parks, zoos, aquariums, family entertainment centers, museums and other attractions.

This week our team worked with reporters from the Associated Press, Central Florida News 13, Fox 35 Orlando, USA Today, the Orlando Sentinel and MSNBC (among others) to report from this big business event.

A couple of years back an Olympian was on the tradeshow floor, and though no Olympic competitors are here in 2011, we did find a nice Olympic surprise in a recent book by Ripley Publishing -- "Strikingly True" -- in which the colorful text features Ripley's - Believe It Or Not! factoids about several Olympic competitors as well as other five-ringed trivia. It is worth a look-see on your next trek to the bookstore, Nook or Kindle.

Infographic via

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Family Circus and the Olympics

My maternal grandmother introduced me to "The Family Circus" during the late 1970s.

Tacked to a metal kitchen cabinet, wedged between family photos, magazine-clipped recipes and other ephemera attached to the door with magnets, was a Bil Keane cartoon showing a little girl standing on a tennis court, holding up a can of Pringles potato chips mistaken for a can of new tennis balls. The brother-sister pair in the illustration resembled my sister and I.

Though I don't recall the caption on that cartoon, I do recall several of the clipped Olympic-themed editions of "The Family Circus" cut from the funny pages and mailed with letters to college or my new home in Atlanta (some turned up online tonight, now included with this post). It was always fun to read these enclosures and other Keane creations over the years.

Sorry to read this family-friendly cartoonist's obituary this evening, and of the death of Olympic champion Joe Frazier earlier this week.

Cartoons located across the Web are copyright Bil Keane Inc. and distributed by King Features Syndicate or

Monday, November 7, 2011

Darrell Hammond on "Fresh Air"

Driving home tonight, after posting about the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay, I heard an extremely moving interview on "Fresh Air" -- the second time in as many months that Terry Gross kept me in the car listening to someone balling their eyes out.

In Gross' sites tonight: Darrell Hammond, the "Saturday Night Live" star and author of a new book aptly titled "God, If You're Not Up There, I'm F*cked."

Sheesh! This interview was raw. Almost as raw as the September interview with Emmy winner Margo Martindale. I don't know now Gross can keep her own composure during these conversations.

The only Olympic connections I could find for Hammond is his impersonations of NBC Sports' Bob Costas, as well as Olympic gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi. From the "Fresh Air" interview and new book, it seems Hammond would likely be on the medal stand if surviving child abuse turned into an Olympic sport.

Photo via HarperCollins

London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay

The Associated Press gave a little love to the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay with an international wire story updating readers on plans for next year's run.

The Olympic flame will trek about 8,000 miles but almost entirely on British soil during 70 days next summer, according to the article.

Additional details are available at the official site for the Olympic Torch Relay. Of course, part of the Torch tradition will also take place in Olympia, Greece.

The destination list for the flame looks good to me. It would really be something to see the flame at Stonehenge, for instance.

I did not yet look closely at the route yet, but in case they did not think of it already, consider this my Olympic blogger suggestion that the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Team at LOCOG, as well as Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung, recreate the "Chariots of Fire" opening sequence by carrying the Olympic torch down the beach made famous by the film's director, Hugh Hudson, and Vangelis (in case you missed it, Hudson answered questions about that famous scene during a film festival in Atlanta, and his comments are available via this post).

Photo via LOCOG

Friday, November 4, 2011

London 2012 Unveils Official Posters

Today the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) unveiled the official posters for London 2012, including six Olympic and six Paralympic designs.

Check out the full press release (including artist bios) and links to the designs!
Building on an Olympic arts tradition spanning several decades, the LOCOG-commissioned works by 12 leading U.K. artists highlight competition and athletic themes of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Looking at the collection, I am enthusiastically drawn to the work titled "Big Ben 2012" by Sarah Morris. The poster features a modernized view of the Clock Tower in a framework reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright windows. Beautiful! I want this poster in my apartment!

Another poster titled "Divers" -- created by Anthea Hamilton -- is also appealing with vivid color and silhouetted legs and Olympic rings in white.

The third and poster of note, however, sort of made me think, "Huh?!"

The work titled "Swimming" by Howard Hodgkin is described in LOCOG press materials with the following note: "The fluidity of the brushstrokes perfectly captures the movement of water and the sensation of swimming."

Not so much.

For this blogger, it sort of captures the movement of child's fingers dipped in finger paint.

Though to Hodgkin's credit, the painting did also remind me of a favorite R.E.M. song titled "Night Swimming" so I guess the poster is OK, just not for my walls.


Like Athens 2004's terrible selection of official posters, the rest of the London 2012 official poster series leave a bit to be desired. For instance, the illustration of two birds appearing under an inspiring message was to me, well, inspiring, yet better suited for the cartoon collections of The New Yorker magazine.

The other workz juzt make me zort of **yawn** zleepy ... ZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz ...

I guess my Olympic official poster tastes are influenced by the dazzling array of memorable official works created for LA84, Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996. LA's official works, including artists Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Martin Puryear, are just tough to beat. Javier Mariscal's 1992 designs, and the 1996 posters by Howard Finster and James Rizzi, stand out as exceptional.

Other favorites Olympic poster works include designs by Jacob Lawrence, David Hockney, Andy Warhol and (official or not) the works of Dallas artist Bart Forbes are personal favorites (his works for several U.S. Postal Service stamps are tops in my book).

I'm sure the London 2012 official posters will be quite popular in spite of my remarks. Would love to hear which London 2012 Olympic posters are most liked -- or disliked -- by readers of this blog, and I will send an official 1996 Atlanta Olympic Opening Ceremony postcard of Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic cauldron to the person(s) who post the most colorful comment(s) during the next three days.

Disclosures: LOCOG and the IPC/Paralympics are clients of Edelman, the agency where I work. Photo credits: London 2012/LOCOG website.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo -- The Olympic Marathon of Creative Writing

Until 10 minutes ago, I never heard of NaNoWriMo.

But at first glance at a brief description, it looks like the creative writing equivalent of running an Olympic marathon.

According to this blog post (which introduced the topic to this blogger), NaNoWriMo is a tradition started about 12 years ago, challenging writers to crank out a novel -- about 50,000 words -- in just one carpal tunnel syndrome-inducing month.

NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month.

In case you are wondering, carpal tunnel awareness month is in May (well, sort of -- I guess some NaNoWritMo folks could have rallied for that during recovery mode after November, but they were too sore to type a petition).

When I was a kid growing up in Edmond, Okla., we had a colorful neighbor who lived in the "Pizza Hut House" (nicknamed for its flat shingled roof and dark red paint that looked like, well, a Pizza Hut). This neighbor was known as a friendly yet somewhat reclusive single woman, and neighborhood lore among the kids was that one day a soccer ball got kicked into her backyard, and when it was retrieved by a boy daring enough to climb the fence, the woman was spotted sitting naked at her typewriter, oblivious to the soccer ball retrieval (and impromptu window-peeking) in progress. For the record, I am NOT the kid who chased the soccer ball, but I am the kid who later introduced himself to the woman (selling candy bars for school fundraiser) and got to know her as "the lady down the street who writes books."

That woman was/is Hugo Award winning science fiction novelist C.J. Cherryh, and through a conversation shared with my dad, Cherry and yours truly (when I was about eight), we learned that C.J. worked hard to write a minimum of 10 pages a day. 10 PAGES!

So when I heard that there is a national month celebrating 50,000 words (about six pages a day) I got to thinking that C.J. is probably somewhere chuckling to herself, "I scoff at your meager six pages!"

Anyway, that's my 10 minutes of stream of conscientiousness typing (DRAT! Only a few hundred words!).

For those participating in NaNoWriMo 2012, good luck -- with some advance prep, I may try to join in 2012.

And if C.J. (or her agent) is out there reading blog posts noting Cherryh's work, I'd love to get back in touch; after all, she got me started writing!

Illustration via NaNoWriMo

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Wolaver Weekend, Vanderbilt Style

During summer 2009, this blog's first and only thread to tie the Vanderbilt family to the Olympics got posted in the form of a special offer for the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

Though I found no other direct Olympic connections to the Vanderbilts, this weekend afforded me a nice return visit to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., for the wedding celebration of Annie Moses Band member Alex Wolaver, my second cousin. The family held the reception at the Lioncrest, which was great fun.

Following the morning ceremony and early afternoon reception, my cousin Karen Wolaver and I spent a chilly yet fun couple of hours driving the Biltmore Estate grounds, walking around the Biltmore House, and snapping photos of the "Being There" movie set including the gardens, forests and Inn on Biltmore Estate in the distance. To share our photos with the family and friends, posting some of the "greatest hits" with this blog. Enjoy!

I hope the Biltmore P.R. team will consider a donation to the Atlanta Press Club silent auction coming up in December. The Biltmore generously donated in recent years.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver and Karen Wolaver

Friday, October 28, 2011

St. Louis Cardinals Win World Series (Bravo!)

Watching the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series brought back a few Missouri memories.

In 1994, during the closing ceremony of U.S. Olympic Festival (held at the previous Busch Stadium), all of the volunteers and staff were invited onto the field. Amid the athlete presentations and fireworks, it was fun to walk hand-in-hand with my then-girlfriend as we approached the pitcher's mound, waved to the crowd and smooched while tuning out the cheers and activity all around us. At once we also felt like the whole world was applauding our kiss, which was pretty cool. (It actually was quite dark as the field lights were out for the fireworks, so probably only few folks saw us.)

Seeing the final few pitches tonight, then the Cardinals' celebration and the traditional catcher-tackles-pitcher and group hug, I wondered the extent the team was tuning out the applause (intentionally or not) then embracing the cheers. Though I am only a fair-weather fan of the Cardinals (St. Louis was my "hometown" for only one season), it was fun to root for them since their defeat of the Milwaukee Brewers (my second city to Atlanta).

But not one Cardinals player had their spouse or girlfriend on the field to kiss in celebration. I recommend they find a way to visit the pitcher's mound hand-in-hand when possible.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Only Olympic Bronze at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas

About a week ago a colleague surprised me with an invitation to work for three days at the Interbike convention in Las Vegas.

Three days in Vegas? Twist my arm!

During this, my second trip to Nevada, we wheeled and dealed with media on behalf of client WingFlyer, a new scooter that combines the feel of a bike with the workout of a stair stepper as the foot platform provides a pumping action creating the "flying" motion.

It was fun to also learn about popular cycling products and teams (though no Olympians spotted) on site.

When the show wrapped up on Friday, I caught a taxi to downtown Las Vegas for a visit to the world famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop where "Pawn Stars" was taping in-store on a Friday afternoon. To my surprise, there was a line about 100 fans deep waiting for entry into the shop, which is quite cozy when filled with tourists, but authentic to its portrayal on the History Channel series.

Of the show cast, during my visit only Rick Harrison, the shop's owner, was on site -- I stood across the counter from him while he spoke with a camera operator and they filmed b-roll for a deal in progress involving what appeared to be some very old firearms.

It was my hope Rick would make time to answer some questions about the many Olympic items for sale in the store, but Flip cameras are not allowed, and Rick left the building before many of my questions got answered.

Lots of Olympic collectors know about the two Joe Greene Olympic bronze medals -- one each from Atlanta 1996 and Barcelona 1992 -- and how they made their way to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.

Going into the store, I vaguely recalled a brief "Pawn Stars" segment with the back story, but not the exact story.

According to Yamil, a worker in the shop, Greene's medals were pawned by a thief (who was later caught), but when Greene came to the shop to retrieve them, the Olympic medalist and Rick worked out a deal with the condition that the Harrisons would never re-sell the medals. To this day, the two bronze medals remain on display among the many "priceless" artifacts that draw throngs of visitors to the store.

Of course, Yamil's story and the store's claim that Greene's Olympic medals are not for sale, doesn't  jive with past news articles and YouTube videos about the medals, so I would still love to get the straight story from Rick.

What may surprise Olympic collectors or fans is that the shop also displays a 1960 Rome Olympic bronze medal (history unknown as of this blog post), a 1948 St. Moritz Olympic gold medal (priced at $8,000), a 1984 Longines pocket watch cast in gold with diamonds on the cover (see photo below) and other Olympic items such as a Calgary 1988 poster (overpriced -- way overpriced), a gold 1996 commemorative coin and a bronze statue of a slalom skier which may or may not be Olympic-related.

Non-Olympic items of interest include some rare first and second-edition books, a Chicago World's Fair/Columbian Expo souvenir photo book, many of the iconic items purchased on "Pawn Stars" and stacks of newly-printed Chumlee T-shirts.

Rick's new book, signed or unsigned, is also available.

A young sales associate, Krista, was helpful in providing more detail about the 1988 Winter Olympic poster (left) by artist Melanie Taylor Kent, signed and numberd 285/400 titled "Let the Games Begin." It's displayed at the front of the shop, while the Olympic medals, watch and coins are mostly in the same middle section of the store.

I asked a lot of questions about the 1960 Rome medal, which featured an older shop price tag of about $3,900. Wishing now I bought it on the spot with no questions asked, because later during my visit, the shop changed the price tag to "not for sale" (as shown in photos). I have call planned early next week to learn more about the history of this item and how it arrived at Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.

If you decide to visit the store, be prepared for a wait outside ("up to three hours on some days" according to one shop security guard) as the store now hosts an average of 6,000 visitors per day, according to Krista.

The shop is open to the public and free to enter from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with a pawnbroker's window open overnight providing 24/7 options to barter. They have no Olympic pins in the store -- in fact, there were only a handful of rare military pins, and a few boxed sets of NASCAR pins, about which to write.

While in line to enter the store, a man my age was waiting to negotiate a sale of several mint in box G.I. Joe action figures. He did not make it onto the "Pawn Stars" show but he did successfully negotiate a decent pawn deal at the counter, so don't be shy about bringing your wares to Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.

Thinking I'll bring my cassette tapes and VHS collections next time. Think they'll buy?

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver

Monday, August 22, 2011

Photos RE: A Day In D.C.

Here are some photos to accompany the Day In D.C. post.

A Day In D.C.

This past weekend I tacked on an extra day after a Friday business presentation in Alexandria, Va., and visited two favorite sites in Washington, D.C.

Twenty-four hours in downtown D.C. also afforded me an accidental visit to the "Hinckley Hilton" as my Mapquest printout directed me to the wrong hotel on Friday afternoon (though the mile-long walk on Connecticut Street was nice, and helped me locate a wonderful Thai restaurant for dinner).

On Saturday, my first tourism stop was to the National Portrait Gallery. I love this place -- always learn a lot with every visit. Any my three-hours inside yielded an introduction or reintroduction to some Folk Art masters, a surprise Georgia O'Keefe skyline painting from 1932 (gorgeous), and a peek at the Ronald Reagan installation which was a new addition since my most recent visit.

Though there were no direct Olympic references spotted, some of the Reagan-era portraits reminded me of his role in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Opening Ceremony; also, the Folk Art of Alabama/Georgia fame, Howard Finster, brought back notions of his creations for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.

Another new addition (I think) was the enclosure of the museum's courtyard, which is now covered by a wonderful modern skylight.

The afternoon marked a return to the Newseum; my first visit was on Thanksgiving 2001, at the original location in Arlington, Va., and it was awesome to finally experience the Newseum's new home on Pennsylvania Ave.

Only moments after picking up the tickets, a trifecta of Olympic connections to the Newseum emerged. First, there is a "journalism in sport" film that brought to light several historic images from coverage of Olympians and the Olympics, from Muhammad Ali and Wilma Rudolph to more recent Olympic images from Barcelona, Atlanta, Athens and Beijing. The Olympic coverage was punctuated with Jim McKay's somber announcement "They're all gone" referencing the victims of the Munich Olympic hostage crisis carried live for more than 18 hours on ABC Sports.

Just outside the theatre for the sports film, I enjoyed the temporary "photos of the year" exhibition featuring several Olympic images of 2010 including the Vancouver Games and the first Youth Olympic Games at Singapore.

The third Olympic reference in the museum was in the video archive, where several Games' key clips are available via touch screen.

I was impressed with the new Newseum's outdoor overlook for Pennsylvania Ave., with commanding views of the Capitol Dome. Inside this viewing area they display a timeline of the week of Hurricane Katrina and how the news media (specifically print) covered the national tragedy (it did seem to me that more video highlights would enhance this gallery).

Of course, 9/11 and its upcoming 10th anniversary are prominently displayed with a headlines and video experience built around remains of the World Trade Center's radio tower. Somber, yes. Informative, yes. It was also interesting to read of many journalists who died in the line of duty. I found the Newseum also kept things current with an obviously new display featuring the last edition of the now-defunct Murdoch tabloid of London.

The one Achilles' Heel of the Newseum is its lack of social media displays, which were tucked behind several decades worth of historic broadcast coverage. It seems to me the Newseum has a real opportunity to inform its visitors of the rapid-fire changes underway through delivery of online news. They covered the basics -- would love to return to the Newseum with a new section or wing on social media in the last decade, big online news successes and flops.

Looking forward to another DC visit in the months ahead.

Monday, August 15, 2011

ISOH Symposium Set for Dec. 6

Tonight I learned briefly that the International Association of Olympic Historians (ISOH) launched on Dec. 5, 1991, in London. The same date in 1991 I believe yeilded a B- in World History class exams handed back to me at Edmond Memorial High School.

To celebrate 20 years of ISOH, the organization announced recently a symposium set for Dec. 6, 2011, at Haus Menden, St. Augustin, Germany. A brochure for the festivities states that "everyone interested in the history of the Olympic Movement is welcome to attend" with a registration fee of 70 Euros for non-members or 60 for members (students are free). For more information visit the "contacts" page a and send an email to Anthony Th. Bijkerk via the site.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Chicago Sports Collectors Event

I'm in the Windy City sharing a dealer table at the National Sports Collectors Convention (a.k.a. "The National"), a five-day event at which baseball, Olympic and other sports memorabilia are showcased. Some tables are like museum showcases, while others (like mine) resemble a portable garage sale of souvenirs gathered from closets and draws full of five-ringed fare.

It's an interesting event, and also enjoyable to get acquainted or re-acquainted with several fellow Olympic collectors. The show is also challenging, finding the balance of selling items (to clear space in the apartment) with the desire to buy several items on sale.

Another highlight of the event: Meeting Olympic champion Dick Fosbury again (we first shook hands in Vancouver). Fosbury presented a keynote during a special dealer/collector dinner hosted by Olympin, which helped bring the Olympic section of the collector event to the USA for the first time (Olympic collector events of this scale traditionally take place in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the IOC sanctioned the Chicago event). Also discussed the World Olympians Association with Fosbury as he is president of the organization.

Pin collectors looking forward to London were dazzled by the official pin maker of London 2012 -- HONAV -- which as a corner display at the Chicago event. HONAV will produce 2,012 pins for London 2012, and sell up to 500 exclusive complete sets (retail price: about $17,000).

While The National will be back in the USA next year, I understand the Olympic section of the show next moves to Athens in 2012, which is perfect -- gives me another year to prepare my portable garage sale.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

London 2012 Organizers Unveil "Goldfinger" Olympic Torch

If James Bond's nemesis Auric Goldfinger survived being sucked out of his personal aircraft, he'd be smiling at the new Olympic torch unveiled last week by LOCOG.

The gold-toned metal torch is already getting nicknames, and I'm here to add an Ian Fleming/007 connection (in case 1948 Olympic silver medalist Harold Sakata, a.k.a. "Oddjob," did not already connect London's Olympic heritage to the British secret agent).

London's celebration next year will include the three-sided -- you read it here first, I think -- "Goldfinger" Olympic torch to be carried across Greece and the U.K. starting May 19, 2012.

With details from the organizing committee press release, here's a bit more about the LOCOG Olympic torch by the numbers:

-- The design measures 800 cm long, weighs 800g and includes 8,000 perforations or rings symbolic of the 8K torchbearers who will use the torches to pass the flame

-- Approximately 110 runners per day will participate in the 70-day 2012 Olympic torch relay, maintaining the Olympic tradition and long-distance publicity event started in 1936

-- The three-sided design is symbolic of several Olympic triumvirates: "Citius, Altius, Fortius" (faster, higher, stronger, the Olympic motto), the three London Olympiads (1908, 1948, 2012) and Olympic values of respect, excellence and friendship. Though not spelled out in the LOCOG press release, the three-sides could also represent the three presenting sponsors of the 2012 Olympic torch relay: Coca-Cola, Samsung and Lloyds TSB.

-- The torch is made of an aluminum alloy (and Al is No. 13 on the periodic chart).

-- Sean Connery's age during the relay: 81 (please, oh, please, he'll carry the torch somewhere).

From my view, the London Olympic torch is a winner, and from a coolness factor, is closest in design to the 2006 Torino Olympic torch.

What do you think of the 2012 Olympic torch design?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Weekend Update

At work at Edelman, we've been cooking up something spectacular for a client, which is exhilarating and also keeping me busy sans blogging of late.

Catching up on some recent suggestions that hit this Olympic blogger's in box, here's a roundup of five-ringed briefs for consideration:

-- The U.S. Olympic Training Center now has a new Team USA Shop, which opened May 17 with Olympic gold medalist Curt Tomasevicz of bobsleigh signing autographs (see photo). Though it is good news there is a new shop, which I will frequent on future visits to the USOTC (my home for summer of 1995 internship), scanning the merchandise at the online shop reminds me how since the late 1980s the USOC's merch usually brought a cringe to my brow. From my view the folks who select the range of merchandise go too much for "mass appeal" while the items are plain and of moderate quality. How about some Made In The USA 100 percent cotton polo shirts with London 2012 logos, or some new creative on the lapel pins? I hope the shop's partnership with Staples Promotional Products will bring some new blood and new ideas.

-- Coca-Cola celebrated its 125th anniversary by donning its Midtown Atlanta skyscraper headquarters with fabric screens on which to project massive imagery from their iconic advertising. The effect was spectacular -- very cool to see from across the street and across town. Wishing they had seized the opportunity to project images from their Olympic partnerships since the 1928 Olympic Games (not a single Olympic connection was projected, from what I could tell).

-- It's not new news, but was reminded of rugby sevens as an addition to the Olympic roster for 2016, with Olympic rugby starting at Rio de Janiero. An interesting site that will help me learn more about rugby is

-- Not a fitness enthusiast myself, but for those who are, keep an eye open for and their blog.

Photo via Team USA Shop/USOC

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

NBC Loves The Olympics $4.38 Billion Ways

Today in the International Olympic Committee's hometown Lausanne, Switzerland, I suspect several fishermen cast their lines from the northern banks of Lake Geneva.

But NBCUniversal landed the catch of the day -- and the next four Olympiads -- securing the 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020 Olympic Games' U.S. broadcast rights for a staggering $4.38 billion, according to published reports.

I once paid $4.38 for a Coca-Cola beverage in Lausanne, so maybe something in the water there gets people spending money.

The Los Angeles Times ran an interesting video and print report highlighting the NBCUniversal bid and the IOC. Though I was looking forward to a potential change up from NBC's "storytelling" from the Games (as noted in previous Olympic blog post), there is some comfort knowing that Bob Costas may be at the helm at the Games for another decade.

With Fox bidding, I shuttered to think of Bill O'Reilly spewing Olympic "commentary" for even a second.

Photo via Wikipedia

Sunday, May 22, 2011

So Long, Dick E.

Last week Dick Ebersol resigned from NBC Sports, where he championed the network's signature style for presenting the Olympics. Though this is a big change for NBC, the IOC and the Olympic Movement, this is, to me, a change for the better.

The change also provides a real opportunity for the next Olympic broadcast producer to right things that NBC skewed a bit in the last 20 or so years of five-ringed telecasts.

I'm not a fan of NBC's "storytelling" method for showcasing the "Olympic drama" -- though it was an interesting approach that I first noticed during a Barcelona 1992 Olympic segment regarding the surviving family members of the 1972 Munich Olympic terrorist attack, to me the NBC/Ebersol presentations of the Games jumped the shark with the over-the-top broadcast of Kerri Strug and her stuck landing in Atlanta Olympic gymnastics competition.

Why does the NBC style bother me?

During the Atlanta Olympics, some Olympic Village colleagues and I learned about the IOC's live feeds that provide commercial and commentary-free channels of all warm-ups and competitions in progress. It is possible, in the Olympic Village and other Olympic venues, to view the "gymnastics channel" or "tennis channel" or any other Olympic sport channel courtesy of multiple camera positions inside each venue, broadcast via the International Broadcast Center (IBC).

While most of America was watching/listening/enduring John Tesh nearly soiling himself over Kerri Strug's Olympic feat, I was watching the same drama unfold with commentary-free comfort of the Olympic Village. The drama was just the same -- perhaps more so -- as we also got to see athletes compete who were ignored by NBC.

Once you've viewed the Olympics in this commentary/commercial-free format, there is no topping it (unless, of course, you have a ticket to an Olympic event and view it live and in person).

To me, NBC continuously misses the boat by adding over-the-top commentary and "storytelling" to the mix. The Olympic "drama" of the world's best athletes is all the drama one needs -- viewers don't need Tesh droning on and on with faux-expertise.

To his credit, I do usually enjoy Bob Costas' informed perspective on competition, and select sports commentators also bring some interesting flavor to the mix. Also, to Ebersol's credit, he did take the Olympic viewer experience to a new plane, and the Olympic Order bestowed upon him is deserved. The Olympic Movement is better for all of Ebersol's creativity, leadership and contributions.

I just wish NBC would cut back on the storytelling and showcase a broader international mix of the real drama of global competition. People will watch it with as much, if not more, interest, in my opinion.

No matter which network picks up the U.S. Olympic broadcasting rights for Sochi 2014 and Rio de Janiero 2016 in a few weeks, when the IOC determines the Games broadcaster of the two post-London 2012 Olympiads, I hope they will seize this post-Ebersol opportunity to assess the IOC commentary-free format and consider a sport-by-channel offering that will let the viewer determine for themselves the "drama" unfolding on screen.

Could be a real treat for viewers to enjoy IOC-pure format (with all the new technology at everyone's fingertips, why not empower viewers with on-screen options to learn more about ALL of the athletes in the competition rather than only the Americans?).

Chicago Tribune Olympic reporter Philip Hersh also poses some interesting questions about Ebersol worth a read at the Globetrotting blog.

It will be interesting to see where Ebersol turns up next in Olympic circles.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Olympic Headlines

Just read a couple of inspiring Olympian stories from recent news reports: reports on 1948 Olympic bronze medalist Herb Johnson delivered an inspiring commencement address; hope to see him return to London next summer! The Houston Chronicle showcases a speedskater to watch in the lead-up to Sochi 2014. Also a great read, Chicago Tribune international sports columnist Philip Hersh's update regarding IOC President Jacques Rogge's delayed reaction to Osama bin Laden's death. Happy reading on this happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Blog Post Yet Cajoled

The Atlanta Film Festival is underway. Until this week, my last visit to the Festival was a few years back (to see one of the all-time greats, "American Splendor.")

One title in the 2011 Atlanta Film Festival included an Olympic theme, while I also found several other documentary films of interest, starting with the wonderfully funny "POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold."

More on this tall drink of a movie later in this post.

But first, the Olympic connection: "Beijing Taxi" is a new documentary shadowing three cabbies in China during the months (or even years) leading up to the 2008 Olympic Games. I went into the screening (with thanks to the AFF for the blogger tickets) anticipating a trip down memory lane and up the labyrinth of highways and side streets experienced in taxis during my month in Beijing three summers ago.

"Beijing Taxi" did deliver in terms of memory lane. You can almost tasted the grit and smog during some of the in-taxi interviews across the city. If you've been to Beijing you'll recognize the Ring Roads and towering new buildings juxtaposed with ancient neighborhood dwellings. It was refreshing to see some of the countryside the drivers enjoyed in their leisure time, and to gain a fresh perspective on reality faced by the taxi drivers we encountered in 2008.

For those who did not yet experience Beijing, this film does provide a decent slice of life for the recent Olympic city during its pre-Games prep. Watching the film, though, I realized that for at least two of the three profiled drivers, it was a bummer of a tale as they managed health issues, family dramas, entrepreneurial dreams sans support structure to bring them to fruition, unemployment, corruption and terrible car trouble (I've experienced car trouble, but nothing compared to what being stranded on an eight-lane superhighway in a stalled Beijing taxi).

One other highlight of "Beijing Taxi" is the film's portrayal of the Olympic hype, and how at least one of the drivers felt duped by the Olympic machine. In spite of strong anti-Games feedback, she was strangely drawn to one of the official Beijing Olympic theme songs. I wondered what Travis Bickle (who also showed up at AFF) or cabbies of one popular show might have to say about the theme.

Speaking of hype, I was taken hook, line and sinker by the previews for "POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" (it was a huge bummer when this film did not open in ATL as in other markets two weeks ago, and a big relief to find it on the AFF schedule in advance of wider release).

Morgan Spurlock nailed it with his exploration of paid product placement. I can't write here my favorite line of the film (as it involves a client of the communications agency where I work), but I can write that Spurlock left out an obvious pun for the official gas station beverage cups, which is my suggestion: "This Sheetz's for Reel!"

Four words: Go see this movie. Then talk about it with your friends. It's a good one to discuss and think about while developing a critical eye for product placement.

Is POM Wonderful still sponsoring blogs?

One film screened at the AFF that is worthy of a "pass" is the documentary "Miss Representation."

While I agree with the messages the film seeks to present, and concur that women in the media are not treated fairly nor with respect in a male-dominated industry and world, and I side with some of the points made by Geena Davis, Margaret Cho and even the creator of "Miss Information" Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the topic presented was nothing new, and it was presented in an uncompelling manner.

People should be talking about the topics in this film, mind you, but there are other sources of similar information presented in a better way elsewhere.

The film got off to a slow start and showed promise, but the jumping of the shark was the reveal of a new movement created by Siebel Newsom, leaving me with the question "why not drive viewers to give financial support to existing, meaningful and successful women's organizations portrayed in the film in lieu of creating another expensive-to-operate nonprofit?"

If the filmmakers are so passionate about this movement, why have they posted no discussions on their blog since March? Where is the momentum? Who is driving it? Five blog posts and give up? C'mon?!

Sidebar: If you want to see a film on the topics of "Miss Representation" done with some punch, and a film that touches on some of the marketing topics covered by "POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" then check out the 1991 documentary "Dreamworlds" and its sequels by creator Sut Jhally (who, strangely, was not reference by either of the recent films ... were the current documentary filmmakers doing homework on their topics, and did they know of Jhally, I wonder ...)

There were plenty of other films at the AFF that caught my eye -- it was disappointing to miss "Page One" due to a work deadline, and tonight's screening of "Africa United" looked interesting.
Will look forward to the 2012 Atlanta Film Festival when it arrives next spring.

Photos via the "Beijing Taxi" website and this site which cites AP/Victoria Will

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Olympian Interview: Summer Sanders

At age 19, watching the Barcelona Olympic competition on NBC, I admit to dreaming of one day waking up with swimming gold medalist Summer Sanders. Today, it finally happened! Sort of.

Thanks to the dutiful publicists at Schwinn, who contacted me with an offer to interview Sanders by phone for the little Olympic blog that could, my arm was twisted and April 26, 2011, began with an early morning alarm and a phone call with the Olympic champion.

Sanders was patched in from Park City, Utah, where she now resides with her husband, two kids, and (I am guessing) a garage full of Schwinn bikes.

Before sharing a few notes from our conversation, let me just write here that Sanders was and is among the friendliest Olympians met to date. She is also among the smoothest and best skilled spokeswomen yet interviewed -- she had Schwinn plugged in at all the right places during our conversation (as a publicist on my end of the line, I typically offer up the first couple of minutes to "get all of the messages out on the table" and Sanders delivered, but found a way to bring it all around to bikes again at least twice during our conversation). Game on!

"Though I was a swimmer by trade, I was biking to practice," said Sanders. "A bike was my mode of transportation in college, as it [provided] the fastest path from the pool to food."

Sanders said she vividly recalls learning to ride a bike -- on a pink Schwinn with a banana seat -- telling her father "You can let go now" and finding herself down the bock, sans training wheels, for the first time.

I searched online for a Sanders photo with pink bikes, but nothing popped up yet -- hence, the 1990s-era photo on this post, which I suspect is from the college days Sanders mentioned.

Before the interview, also stumbled upon a circa 2000, pre-Sydney Olympic Games live-chat interview Sanders completed with USA Today, during which she stated, "I don't think I want to do a triathlon because I don't have the time or desire to train ... and I'm too competitive to do it half-way."

This statement drew my interest considering the Schwinn folks mentioned Sanders' recent triathlon activities. Sanders cheerfully explained her change of heart.

"In 2000, that was my 30-year-old self talking," said Sanders. She added that now, as a mother of two, having a "mommy head is like a reality check; it takes the pressure off.

"Back then I was running in marathons, living and working in Manhattan, and it was harder to find places to swim," Sanders said. "I did my first triathlon last summer, training sometimes with two toddlers or taking awesome longer rides and meeting for a social hour with 'mommy girlfriends' -- [sometimes] my legs felt like cement starting up, but I love the feeling of challenging myself."

Sanders' trademark competitive spirit came up several times during our conversation. When asked about her days with "The Celebrity Apprentice" she mentioned the competitive atmosphere and the pressure to win. When asked about her take on Trump's potential presidential run, Sanders brought up The Donald's competitive nature as well.

"Donald Trump is an amazing person, a straight shooter who says exactly what he is thinking," said Sanders. "He's smart, [and] probably one of his goals [in hinting at a presidential bid] is to get people thinking."

Sanders also expressed that one of the most frustrating elements of the "Apprentice" gig was the long van rides in rush hour Manhattan traffic.

"We would beg, 'could we please take a bike?' but we had to stay in the car," said Sanders.

I smiled and believed her, as she did not bring up Schwinn at this stage of the conversation.

Sanders was happy to talk about her Barcelona Olympic experience as well, explaining that during the weeks between the 1992 Olympic trials, the team spent time training in France before driving into Spain and directly to the Olympic Village.

"We bused into Barcelona, and I remember looking out the window seeing the first [street] signs for the Village," said Sanders. "That was when it hit me it was real."

Sanders added that the Village was "just barely" completed as athletes arrived, and the swim team's rooms had no air conditioning.

"There was a rumor that only Team Spain had A/C" said Sanders, chuckling about the experience. "To sleep we took cold showers to keep cool."

When our conversation turned to future Olympic Games, Sanders said she is just starting to figure out what options might work around London in 2012.

Sanders appeared in the current edition of Shape magazine, and she mentioned there is an upcoming show in the works with Yahoo! Sports that starts shooting in July (Sanders and Olympian Dominique Dawes will interview athletes, splitting the nation with East and West Coast beats).

A follow-up Olympic commentary gig with NBC might fit, too, while Sanders said her five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son are a priority.

"I'm happy to be working with Schwinn for two years," said Sanders. "I love the partnerships I have that fit with who I am and my [family] lifestyle, providing time to focus on the joy of life."

It was indeed a joy to chat with Summer Sanders.

Photo via Stars Base

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Big-Time Sports

During my college days at Mankato State University (now Minnesota State at Mankato), the school was known more as the location of the Vikings training camp than our local student athletes.

So low was my interest in college sports then (and now), I think there were only two or three events I attended, including one football game (dragged there as a freshman), one hockey game (as part of an SID work study assignment) and, all lumped together as one complete match, a collection of women's tennis events (my beat for the sports section of The Reporter).

Even Tom Wolfe's college sports fiction "I Am Charlotte Simmons" could not hold my interest a few years back. And I usually love Tom Wolfe texts (check out "Hooking Up" if you have not yet read it).

But recently, thanks to publicists at Cambridge University Press, I gave it another shot by scanning a review copy of Charles T. Clotfelter's new book "Big-Time Sports In American Universities."

The verdict: Still not a college sports fan here, but the book was interesting (affirming many of my longstanding hangups with university athletics), and I think the die-hard college sports fans around me should read it, particularly those in sports marketing.

Clotfelter examines four key roles fulfilled by college sports, as a consumer packaged good, business enterprise (which tees up conflicts of interest for academic institutions),as an instrument to forge relationships, and as role in education. The author's research delves into the positive, neutral or negative outcomes of commercial sports at universities, and provides detail for discussion by those who are critics or fans of the college sports machine.

Not one page of the book delves into Olympic athletic endeavors -- mostly NCAA basketball, college football and other larger sports are explored through Clotfelter's research -- so the book was not as relevant for my interests. But I'll cheerfully loan my copy to those who are interested.

Photo via

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Olympic News Is Everywhere

The last couple of weeks yielded an array of Olympic headlines.

Sadly, a mix of work and personal projects kept me away from the computer, er, away from blogging time.

Here's a grab bag of five-ringed headlines, in case you missed them:

Make it an Olympic day!

Photo via

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jumping For Joy

Delighted to read in The New York Times and USA Today that women's ski jumping will debut as an Olympic sport at Sochi 2014. Ski jump is one athletic feat that always intrigued me, but never enough to drop fund for an Olympic ski jump ticket. I plan to check it out when we get to Russia in three years. Photo via The Ski Channel website

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Olympian Interview: Natalie Coughlin

When I was three years old, my parents placed two items in the upper terrace of our Oklahoma backyard.

First, they planted a plum tree, which lasted only a few years in the crusty red dirt of the plains (I think we did harvest plums one or two years). Then my folks purchased and placed beside that tree a blue plastic kiddie pool -- likely from TG&Y -- which was a fun escape from the summer heat for my sister and I.

There are home movies of the youngster Wolavers splashing and spinning around to pretend to be Wonder Woman or other heroes of popular shows (both donning our swim trunks, made by mom, from fabric that matched Team USA's swimsuits worn at the Montreal Olympics of 1976, which was on TV during that summer in the pool).

The plum tree, plastic pool and Bruce Jenner on television -- these are my earliest Olympic memories, from age three.

Through a recent conversation, I enjoyed an introduction to Olympian Natalie Coughlin -- the swimming champion with 11 Olympic medals (so far) -- who shared via phone that she also got started in a pool in her parents' backyard.

"I was 10 months old, and we had a pool -- they taught me to swim, because it was a safety issue" said Coughlin, the recent celebrity judge on "Iron Chef America" and self-proclaimed foodie who now lends her voice to the California Dried Plum Board. "[And] I ate dried plums all the time."

Small world.
For those who are hungry, or plum lovers, or foodies, check out the plum good recipes Coughlin created for the Plum Board. My girlfriend and I may try to cook the meatball recipe soon (though making the salad may be more my speed).

During our phone conversation, I inquired how Coughlin made the transition from backyard swimmer to Olympian, and her first Olympic memories.

"In 1988 I was cheering on Janet [Evans]," who Coughlin mentioned she met for the first time only 12 years ago. "And during 1992 I was cheering for Summer Sanders and had a Speedo and shirt with 'It's Summer Time.'"

On meeting Sanders years later, Coughlin described the introductions as "a surreal thing."

It surprised me to learn that Coughlin got a start in broadcasting at the invitation of MSNBC for their 2006 Winter Olympic coverage, a footnote found in one of Coughlin's bios online. Coughlin explained she did contribute on air commentary and the Olympian's point of view during coverage for Torino, but the interviews were live from New Jersey rather than the Northern Italian host city.

When asked whether the experience was intended as a stepping stone to a broadcasting career (similar to Evans' and Sanders' post-Olympic endeavors), Coughlin said she "would love to do something in TV if the opportunity came along."

Though the "Iron Chef America" gig and "Dancing With The Stars" competition may be additional building blocks for on-air adventures, Coughlin made it clear her sights and focus are now on London 2012 and the competitions leading to next year's Games, including the upcoming world championships in Shanghai.

I asked whether she felt pressure to "three-peat" in her signature Olympic events, and whether her training focused on one stroke versus another.

"I'm training equally for the backstroke and the free," said Coughlin. "I can't just focus on one stroke. I will also continue on the butterfly and the breaststroke. It's more fun that way."

On the potential to "three-peat" at the 2012 Games, or bring home more medals, Coughlin said the pressure is different now than in 2004 or 2008.

"There was more pressure in Athens; more pressure to prove myself," said Coughlin. "Now there is less pressure. Now it feels like everything [i.e. medals in London] is icing on the cake."

Coughlin said she had been to London only once for less than 48 hours, and she looks forward to spending more time there. Of the future and prospects for an Olympic "four-peat" in Rio de Janiero in 2016, Coughlin said the focus only on the near future.

"It's way too soon to tell for Rio," said Coughlin. "I'm focused on the next year and a half."

Coughlin resides in the Bay Area of Northern California, so we also talked about San Francisco's Olympic connections including the Beijing-bound 2008 Olympic Torch Relay. Readers of this blog may recall the Mayor and other officials changed the relay path to minimize risk of anti-China protesters who lined the original route in equal numbers to Olympic fans.

"I was supposed to light the cauldron," said Coughlin, describing the ceremony that was to be the climax of the day's route through the city. "Instead, I carried the torch in the Presidio ... with Herschel Walker and [former San Francisco Mayor] Willie Brown.

"I still have the torch, and we're making a stand for it," said Coughlin.

Photo with plums via California Dried Plum Board
Photo at Beijing Olympics via and Getty Images

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