Friday, June 23, 2017

It's Olympic Day!

Happy worldwide Olympic Day to you!

As noted on past posts about the occasion to this site, June 23 celebrates the birth of the modern Olympic Movement in 1894. So, happy 123rd Birthday, Olympics!

For 2017, a series of events launched weeks ago with many culminating at special gatherings to encourage people to get out and get active.

I intend to celebrate with a brisk morning walk on the Atlanta Beltline near Piedmont Park (a friend and I recently walked it at 4 a.m. and it's a whole new park after dark).

The International Olympic Committee pages for Olympic Day share more history and current events tied to today. Here in the United States, the USOC also delves into Olympic Day participation options.

LA2024 and Paris2024 are also encouraging participation with a full roster of activities.

From a Los Angeles Olympic bid press release:

LA 2024, the LA84 Foundation, the USOC and The Foundation for Global Sports Development are hosting sports clinics for 500 young Angelenos at Will Rogers State Beach, hosting the American flagship Olympic Day Celebration. Young Angelenos will participate in eight Olympic and Paralympic sports including track and field, fencing, table tennis, volleyball, sitting volleyball, rugby, handball and gymnastics, joined by more than 30 Team USA Olympians and Paralympians.

The U.S. Olympic Committee interactive map of hundreds of Olympic Day events (about 2,400 of them) by state is available to show the coast-to-coast reach of this occasion.

Over in Paris, their Olympic Day press release details options:

In 2017, the whole of France will be decked out in the colours of Paris 2024 during this day, with some 100 activities offered over the whole country. In Paris, Olympic Day will become "Olympic Days" with the creation of a large sports field in the heard of the capital over two days, [creating] a full-scale preview of what the Olympic and Paralympic Games might be like in Paris in 2024. 

Public activities in the City of Light include a cross-city kayak, cycling and running event.

If time permits, here in Atlanta I may head downtown to Centennial Olympic Park to fist-bump the statue of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of all things modern Olympic, and wish his likeness a happy Olympic Day 2017 as well.

Photos via IOC

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Learning and Sharing Some Olympic Intel

About a week ago, the kind of "you've arrived" e-mail about which bloggers dream dropped in as a surprise inbox missive.

The P.R. firm (specifically, a public relations peer met on the Road to Rio last year) wrote to extend an official invitation to an Olympic press conference hosted by "Brand X" (embargoed) and the International Olympic Committee.

After sharing my enthusiastic reply ("Ummmmm, twist my arm!") and a bit more conversation on specifics, I found myself booking my first all expenses paid trip to anywhere (in this case, New York), arriving Tuesday night at the Omni Berkshire.

Part of this post (well, this sentence and most of what appears above it) was written at 3:45 a.m. as I could not sleep over the anticipated news on Wednesday.

Not long after my itinerary got locked and loaded, a handful of fellow Olympic-minded reporters and outlets started breaking the news and speculating on the reasons and timing.

However, it's now official, today in New York's 620 Loft & Garden venue, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and IOC President Thomas Bach joined fellow Intel staff on stage and live from Oregon and Utah to announce Intel is the newest IOC TOP Sponsor. Intel's new worldwide Olympic sponsorship will run from 2017 to 2024 and commence in time for the Games of PyeongChang this winter.

The complete press room for the event is online. Here's one of several videos Intel released.

The ceremony included additional executives from Intel and The Olympic Channel (specifically, the network's CEO Yiannis Exarchos, a veteran of the Games since they reached his hometown in Athens 2004, I learned).

Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings helped press a button at Intel's global headquarters to officially launch the sponsorship.

Back in New York with our media audience, Bach presented Krzanich with a 2018 Olympic torch and an invitation to join the upcoming torch relay.

"Through close collaboration with the Olympic family, we will accelerate the adoption of technology for the future of sports on the world's largest athletic stage," said Krzanich.

Paraphrasing Intel's press release, Intel's contributions to the Olympic Movement will include tech developments rolled out in sequence. Advancements include Intel's 5G platforms to be deployed during Korea's Games.

Intel drone light show technology will create new skyward images at Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Virtual Reality (VR), 3D and 360-degree content development is on deck, too (we tried out some VR headsets with live feed to Park City's ski jump training center and the views were amazing).

Here's another video with an aspiring Olympic snowboarder for Team USA.

On VR specifically, Krzanich and company explained there will be at least 16 live VR experiences from key competitions in PyeongChang.

Imagine the gold medal hockey game with a VR view from inside the net facing center ice, or 360 elements surrounding a luge athlete hurling toward the finish line. Intel's freeD sports technology (already in use with MLB and other network sports) is another emerging tech element demoed on site.

When I asked about the history of the Intel:IOC partnership, Krzanich responded that talks began during and after the most recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) only a few months ago. If a look at the punch list for today's flawless announcement looked daunting, imagine the massive effort commencing to meet deadlines for February 2018.

I, for one, am really excited about this sponsorship. Some really smart and forward-thinking minds collaborated in a pressure cooker of time, and the potential this sponsorship brings to the Olympic Family, other sponsors, the broadcasters, media, athletes and, of course, fans will forever change the Games in positive ways. I am so appreciative to have enjoyed a front seat at the launch.

After the formal Q&A, I spoke with Bach and his communications handler about the history of technology innovations at the Games, bringing up that when Bach competed in 1976, live broadcasts and improving color coverage may have been the "hot new thing" and whether he ever imagined the potential for such a big tech announcement on his watch at the IOC.

"I think nobody could expect that the [technology] development would move so fast," said Bach. "If you see the potential [of Intel's] 5Gs is offering, and how fast it's coming, if you asked people three years ago if would have said it may take maybe another decade but here we are already and it is fascinating to see."

Thank you very much to Intel and their Olympic P.R. team for the opportunity and support in the form of providing travel and accommodations for the journey to their announcement.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Paris 2024 -- Part One: The Arrival

About a month ago -- May 12, to be exact -- I boarded an Air France flight at LAX bound for Paris.

Ooh, la la -- what an amazing experience the trek to the Paris 2024 IOC Evaluation Commission events proved to be. 

Now, before diving in to the French connections made during six days in the City of Light, a quick note from the similar LA2024 experience the prior week.

For arriving media during that experience, the organizers and U.S. Olympic Committee were very generous in providing an Uber account for use in the City of Angels -- much appreciated. It was reassuring to know that upon arrival I could quickly get my own transportation to our downtown media hotel.

So on the approach to Charles de Gaulle airport, I took similar comfort in knowing -- via text from our Paris hosts -- that "someone will meet you at the airport to coordinate transportation."

I envisioned getting through customs, picking up my bag then searching for a welcome committee volunteer or similar to help me board a bus into Paris. 

You can imagine my surprise and delight to find my greeting smiling with his sign "Beinvenue, Monsieur Wolaver" only two steps off the plane and into the gateway. In moments, I was whisked through the diplomat line at customs, acquired my checked back (expedited) and invited to relax in the back of a Mercedes-Benz limousine-style sedan for the drive into the city.


ATR Reporter Kevin w/Mayor Hidalgo
Two hours later our international media entourage joined Paris 2024 communications team members on a floating restaurant on the Seine, later joined by the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, who spoke with each of us 1x1 with a personal welcome.

We also shook hands with several Olympians including Paris 2024 Co-Chairman Tony Estanguet, the three-time Olympic champion in canoe/slalom.

We drank so much wine I don't recall much about the walk and ride to the hotel except the Saturday night riverbank crowds, the strobe and search lights atop the Eiffel Tower, and the warm glow of an exciting welcome to Paris on the eve of my 44th birthday. Welcomed, indeed!

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver

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