SBD/July 23, 2012/OlympicsPrint All
LOCOG and London government officials “hit back on Sunday at cynics after weeks of negative headlines, saying criticism over planning mistakes and costs were being outweighed by a surge in public excitement as the gala opening ceremony nears,” according to Mohammed Abbas of REUTERS. Britain's “famously caustic” media also “seemed to adopt a more positive stance as thousands turned out to cheer the Olympic torch relay through London.” London Mayor Boris Johnson said, "The mood is perceptibly changing. People are starting to get really excited here in London about the arrival of the torch. ... The last remaining clouds of dampness and Olympo-scepticism are going to be banished" (REUTERS, 722). In Toronto, Rob Longley writes the “moaning about the impending traffic woes and security concerns was replaced by talk of the weather Sunday as Londoners flocked outdoors to the parks and pub patios in search of a long overdue sunburn.” And if the public “needed a little rallying cry to kick off the opening week of the Games, the venerable Sunday Times supplied it with a screaming headline spread over two broadsheet pages.” The headline read, "Stand By, World, London Is Going To Outdo Beijing" (TORONTO SUN, 7/23).
ALL THAT GLITTERS IS GOLD: U.K. Sports Minister Hugh Robertson “predicts a ‘grim week ahead’ as the world's press casts it forensic eye on London.” But he said, “The moment the starting gun fires, everyone's attention is on the sport. The only thing people will be taking about is gold medals.” He said outcry over the shortfall in G4S’ preparedness to provide security for the Olympics is a “classic example of all the extraneous crap you have to try not to focus on.” Robertson: “You can analyse to death why this all happened, but the fact is last Wednesday we had a problem and we had to fix it, which we did.” He added, “I think the International Olympic Committee are a fantastic organisation. (The President) Jacques Rogge is a fundamentally decent human being. ... FIFA on the other hand, are very different. They are utterly untransparent. I don’t see any evidence of the things that their attempts to change anything are having any effect, and I would want to see evidence of things having fundamentally changed before we considered bidding for a World Cup again” (London INDEPENDENT, 7/23).
CHAIRMAN'S CHANT: In a special to the London DAILY MAIL, LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe wrote under the header, "We've Had Accusations -- Now It's Time To Lighten Up For 19 Days Of Spellbinding Sport." Coe wrote, "The words fiasco, chaos and crisis become the £50 of journalistic currency and the organising committee portrayed as dysfunctional, out of touch and about to inflict grievous and irreparable wounds to our national reputation." He continued, "Sometimes you fight back because the reportage bears no resemblance to reality. Sometimes you have the insatiable desire to start every explanation to your inquisitor with: ‘Lighten up. We are staging the greatest celebration of sport that the world’s best athletes of their generation are going to lay before us'" (London DAILY MAIL, 7/21). In N.Y., John Burns wrote Coe is “eager not to seem complacent,” and the former Olympian “oozes the resolve that once faced down competitors on the track, saying he has no regrets about taking on the challenge of the Games.” Coe’s friends and associates said that if he can make a success of the Games, then “a place in Britain’s sporting pantheon will be secure.” But if he “fails, his legacy may be permanently scarred” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/21). The GUARDIAN’s Owen Gibson writes Coe is “hard to ruffle,” but even he has “appeared slightly unnerved in recent weeks.” Still, he “retains an unshakeable conviction that the Games will be a triumph.” Coe said that he is “not surprised the torch relay that arrived in London this weekend has been such a hit around the country, reaching an estimated” 10 million people. Coe believes it will go "up a notch" again this week in the capital. He also “believes the Games will showcase the best of Britain -- on the field of play and off” (GUARDIAN, 7/23).
SECURITY: In London, Terri Judd updates the security around the Games and the performance of G4S and cites a security operator as saying that the situation "had barely improved, with a third of his work force failing to materialise, while the chairman of the West Midlands Police Federation said officers were ‘shocked and alarmed’ by the lack of G4S training.” A security contractor yesterday said that a “third of his staff were still not arriving for duty.” He was instead “sent predominantly female university students, employed through G4S's ‘Bridging the Gap’ recruitment campaign, who he turned away.” The security contractor said, "They have minimal training. They are all girls under 20 and I did not feel comfortable leaving them to carry out duties at night" (London INDEPENDENT, 7/23). IOC President Jacque Rogge said of security, “The problem has been identified, the problem has been addressed in a good way, the company will compensate for the extra costs for the Government and really it’s time to move to another issue. We are interested in the end result and the end result is satisfactory. We are not going to enter in the blame game, we are not going to point fingers because this is useless” (London TELEGRAPH, 7/23).
LIGHT MY FIRE: The AP’s Rob Harris noted there is “an answer to the question of who will light the Olympic cauldron at Friday's opening ceremony,” but organizers are “not saying." Gold Medal-winning rower Steven Redgrave "is the favorite with the bookmakers to light the flame.” Robertson said, "It is the most closely guarded secret in the book. There is a tiny community of three or four people who are doing this. Personally, I would love to see Seb do it because I think he has contributed more to the Olympic movement than anybody else in this country” (AP, 7/21).
IOC President Jacques Rogge said that he is “optimistic the London Games would be a success thanks to the enthusiasm of ‘the country that invented modern sport,’” according to Owen Gibson of the GUARDIAN. Rogge said, "What I believe will be very visible is the identity of the London Games. … It’s going to the country that invented modern sport in the second half of the 19th century, included sport in its school curriculum, loves sport, knows sport well. This will come out of these Games." Rogge also said he was “reassured” of the security situation following presentations from the LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe and the British government. Rogge “resisted calls from President Barack Obama for the terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Games to be recognised by a minute's silence during the opening ceremony.” Rogge insisted "the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident" (GUARDIAN, 7/22).
CUTTING SOME SLACK: Rogge said that “no action would be taken against individuals if they wear clothing, for example, made by a competitor of official London Games sponsors.” He added that the IOC and LOCOG would “not be heavy-handed.” Rogge: “Our position is very clear. We have to protect the sponsors because otherwise there is no sponsorship and without sponsorship there is no Games. However, you have to be balanced and reasonable and I am sure that is going to be the case” (AP, 7/21). The AP’s Gerald Imray noted the IOC “will not take disciplinary action before the London Olympics against officials accused of illegal ticket sales.” Rogge said, “[There are] more than 20 people involved and a lot of organizations and commercial ticket resellers. The rights of the defense require everyone has the chance to explain his or her case. We expect the results of that probably by the end of September, beginning of October, because it is a huge work” (AP, 7/21).
MEMORIAL REJECTED: In Chicago, Philip Hersh wrote as worldwide pressure "grows for a memorial to the 11 Israeli victims of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre during Friday’s opening ceremony,” the IOC “continues to be resolutely opposed.” Rogge “rebuffed those calls” at a Saturday press conference. Rogge said, “We always pay deep attention to recommendations coming from the political world. We are not necessarily following this advice.” Hersh wrote the IOC “clearly is fearful of the potential uproar that could follow from the nearly two dozen Arab countries and some two dozen more primarily Muslim countries sending teams to London” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/22). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s David Feith wrote under the header, “A Newsman’s Olympic Stand.” The Games can “inspire displays of sound political judgment.” This year's “first medalist in that category” is NBC's Bob Costas, who will “include a minute of silence for the 11 Israeli Olympians murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Games.” Noting the handling of the murders by former ABC News broadcaster Bob McKay, Feith wrote Costas "takes up McKay’s admirable tradition -- before tens of millions of TV viewers” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/21).
Early returns "suggest that Comcast’s plans to authenticate the London Olympics -- making sure the Games’ online feeds are available only to cable and satellite subscribers -- will be the cable industry’s most successful verification process to date," according to John Ourand in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Signs are "promising, at least for Comcast’s systems." In the week leading up to the opening ceremony, 90% of Comcast subscribers "who tried to authenticate (around 100,000 total) were successful." Only 10% of the Comcast subscribers "who tried to authenticate were not able to do it." Comcast Senior VP/Digital & Emerging Platforms Matt Strauss said, “That’s the highest we’ve ever seen with authentication.” Comcast’s 90% success rate for the Olympics so far is "significantly higher than the cable operator’s previous authentication efforts around big events," such as Turner’s “March Madness on Demand.” However, some of its subscribers are "unaware that they’ve even been authenticated." Up to 75% of its authenticated subscribers "completed the process in-home, where Comcast recognizes IP addresses." An action as "simple as clicking on an Olympic link via NBCSports.com or Xfinity.com, after logging into a Comcast email account, can lead to authentication." For Comcast, "most problems have come from subscribers trying to log in from work." NBC Sports is "allowing a one-time four-hour pass to people who have problems logging in" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/23 issue).
CALL TO ACTION: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir noted, “Verification (or authorization) should be easy and quick,” and it “looks simple in the short demonstration video” NBC sent to cable, satellite and telephone company providers. Replays and highlights of most sports "will be immediately viewable on NBC’s video archive." But events that NBC "wants to showcase during its prime-time broadcast -- gymnastics, swimming, diving, beach volleyball, track and field, for example -- will not be available to repeat until the prime-time broadcast ends on the West Coast.” NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel said, “Sure, we have fears that people who are asked to take action, to click for access, are going to be deterred. We learned two years ago that the consumer needs more education. A portion of the population is getting comfortable.” Zenkel added, “The core of our business is still prime time” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/22). Strauss said that one of the "tools to organize content is what Comcast calls the 'ultimate viewer’s guide,' which is available at www.xfinity.com/nbcolympics." It “enables subscribers to navigate the Olympics coverage and search by sport or athlete.” Strauss said that subscribers also can “program DVRs to record coverage of a specific athlete or sport.” In Philadelphia, Bob Fernandez notes, “Not only will the guide track the cable channels, it also knows what events among the 32 sports will be streamed that day." There will be "on-demand clips for each medal-winning event, in addition to other clips, totaling more than 1,000” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/23).
RARE COMPANY: In L.A., Ed Sherman wrote NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus “joins a select group,” as Olympic coverage in the U.S. "has been guided by two men" -- Roone Arledge and Dick Ebersol. Lazarus “ultimately will be held responsible for producing ratings and, just as important, critical acclaim for the network's $1.18-billion investment in these Games.” While Lazarus will be “held accountable from all angles,” he tried to “downplay his role.” Lazarus said, “I don't have an individual goal on the mark I want to leave on the Games. I think that we want to come out of this with a sense that the viewing population of America says, 'That was a fun two weeks; I can't wait to do it again'” (L.A. TIMES, 7/21).
Twitter's Olympics hub, part of a partnership with NBCUniversal that will be announced as early as today, "is one of the first times Twitter will serve as an official narrator for a live event," according to Shira Ovide of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. NBC will "tout the website with on-air promotions and links to athlete interviews or video clips." With the partnership, Twitter "hopes to use the Olympics as a launch pad into a more sustainable business." Execs want the six-year-old service "to find a larger audience, especially amid doubts about Twitter's ability to become a serious money maker." Twitter VP/Media Chloe Sladden said, "This is a way for new users to sample Twitter." NBC said that no money "is changing hands in its Twitter partnership and that it won't share in revenue from ads that Twitter is selling to Olympics sponsors for its Games website." Brands such as General Electric and P&G "already have bought ads on Twitter to promote their association with the Olympics." Twitter "declined to comment on the money it hopes to generate from the Games." During the Games, Twitter will use its Olympics events page "to highlight insiders' views, and to encourage people to watch NBC's on-air and online coverage." Twitter will "embed its own staffer with NBC's social media team in London to ensure fresh news, interviews and links to TV highlights will show up on Twitter" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/23).
USA Basketball Chair Jerry Colangelo acknowledged that the "wheels were in motion for a 'sea change' to shift basketball's showcase global event from the Olympic stage to a World Cup format patterned after the enormously popular world soccer tournament, but cautioned there were speed bumps ahead," according to Larry Fine of REUTERS. Colangelo said, "I understand some of the logic relative to the consideration of change. But I also am a realist that it takes many parties to come to the table and agree internationally, let alone within your own country. Those kind of decisions usually take time." He added that the issues "were not tied to competitive balance or concerns over the stress on NBA players after a long pro season." Colangelo: "I think it's primarily financial. I think the soccer model of FIFA and the World Cup has been so successful and has generated enormous revenues that it's something to at least look at. ... If there's going to be some age limit on the Olympics, how many exceptions and what's the age? Is it 23 or 25-and-unders? And what about the players? Many of our players have been outspoken, they think it should be the players' decision. They've loved the (Olympic) experiences. You can't make that kind of a decision in a vacuum. You have to weigh all of the people involved in this process" (REUTERS, 7/22). In Boston, Christopher Gasper wrote Lakers G Kobe Bryant is "right" in referring to NBA Commissioner David Stern's "proposal to limit the NBA players in the 2016 Olympics to those 23 and under [as] 'stupid.'" If Stern "got his way, the US Olympic team would go from a virtual who’s who to just who." Gasper: "It’s not about jingoism, but capitalism." Stern's age limit "would apply only to the Olympics because the NBA can’t make a lot of money off the Lords of the Rings" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/21). In Orlando, Brian Schmitz wrote, "Why kill the passion of patriotism that stars such as Kobe and others have displayed for the Olympics? We often grouse about the money and motivation of NBA stars, but the Olympics has brought out the best in them. Don't lock them out -- at any age" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 7/21).
Octagon over the past three decades has “turned the marketing of Olympics athletes into a multimillion dollar business aimed at keeping competitors relevant long after the games are over,” according to Abha Bhattarai of the WASHINGTON POST. The firm this year is “representing more than 50 athletes from around the world who will compete in the London Olympics,” including U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps. Octagon Managing Dir of Olympic & Action Sports Peter Carlisle, who reps Phelps, said, “It doesn’t really matter how many medals Michael wins anymore. What we’re looking for now is a legacy, a powerful platform that will be sustainable past his competitive career.” Carlisle said that the new objective is “to focus on Phelps’ broader goals -- to popularize swimming and promote water safety -- and turn them into vehicles for corporate partnerships” (WASHINGTON POST, 7/22). Meanwhile, in Baltimore, Jill Rosen noted Phelps on Twitter Thursday “expressed his displeasure with the new look of team USA's swim caps,” and his “main gripe was their flaglessness.” Phelps wrote, "Front and back of our caps... We used to be able to have front and back side with flags but for some reason there are rules that tell us we cant do that anymore? Smh gotta love an organizing committee telling us we can't do that anymore..." (BALTIMORESUN.com, 7/19).
KING OF THE POOL: In Daytona Beach, Brent Woronoff wrote U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte is “the athlete poised to succeed the soon-to-retire Michael Phelps as the world's most prominent male swimmer,” and his image is “everywhere.” Premier Management Group President & CEO Evan Morgenstein said, "He's got the young girls who think he's hot. He's got the young guys who think he's cool. He's got the moms who think he's the boy next door. So that's three great demographics." He added, "There's no question he's got the looks, he's got the persona, but does he have the longevity? … He's going to be 31 in Rio. How does he take that fan base that's younger than he is and transition it when he's in his 30s? That's tough” (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 7/22).
AMATEUR HOUR: U.S. swimmer Missy Franklin has been called the "breakout star" of the London Games by many observers, and she said, "Everyone has something different to analyze or something different to say, but it’s hard when do you hear it kind of from all these different angles. But that’s when I just have my family and friends tell me, ‘Go out there and do your best.’” NBC News' Matt Lauer noted Franklin "captured the attention of sponsors looking to capitalize on her success ... with her all-American charm and winning record in the pool." However, Franklin is maintaining her amateur status in order to swim competitively in college. Lauer told Franklin, “I’ve interviewed a lot of young athletes in your position prior to Olympic Games and most of them by this age agented-up and they’re lawyered-up and they’re sponsored-up and they’ve got the logos on them, and you aren’t that person.” Franklin: “Swimming in college has always been a dream of mine … and I want to be a part of it” (“Today,” NBC, 7/23).
The AP’s Cassandra Vinograd notes bloggers and other commentators “have been skewering” London Games official mascots Wenlock and Mandeville “for scaring children and projecting a creepy surveillance-state image of the Olympic games.” Organizers would not provide a breakdown of sales so far, but said that Wenlock and Mandeville items “make up around 20 percent of the total London 2012 licensed merchandise, which is expected to generate more than 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) worth of sales” (AP, 7/23).
ON THE CATWALK: The FINANCIAL TIMES’ Carola Long examined numerous NGBs' Opening Ceremony uniforms under a Style section subhead, “Which Designers Have Struck Gold? And Which Have Fallen Flat?” Team USA’s Ralph Lauren uniform “harks back to a more gentlemanly era of sportsmanship, although the berets add a military touch.” The “most considerate touch by the Ralph Lauren designers, however, is the size of their logo.” Long: “No one should have any concerns that they won’t be able see it, because the ‘Big Pony’ insignia is huge.” Meanwhile, Spain’s uniforms are “aiming to make rival competitors laugh so hard they can’t focus” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/21).
Octagon's Dudley carries Olympic torch
through streets on London