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

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