SBD Global/July 30, 2012/Olympics

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  • World Heaps Praise On London, Boyle For 'Sensational' Opening Ceremony

    Danny Boyle's Opening Ceremony Friday night received overwhelming praise from the world's media.

    The London Games Opening Ceremony has been hailed as a “whimsical, riotous and very British” triumph by viewers from around the world, who heaped praise on Artistic Dir Danny Boyle’s tribute to Britain, according to Tedmanson & Karim of the LONDON TIMES. A billion people are "estimated to have tuned in" to the three-and-a-half-hour show. The Opening Ceremony "appeared to be an instant hit with many." Its "British sense of humour and vibrant soundtrack" were celebrated by viewers from other countries who "flooded social media sites" such as Twitter and Facebook with praise over the Ceremony. Queen Elizabeth's cameo appearance was "a particular highlight for the non-British audience" (LONDON TIMES, 7/28). In London, Matthew Engel wrote that the Opening Ceremony produced entertainment of "unprecedented ingenuity and wit," which was also "a match visually" for the '08 Beijing Opening Ceremony. However, Boyle "understandably got carried away." Well, "who wouldn’t be?" There was "a stadium to command, a vast and not inflexible budget, and an expected global audience of a billion." Future Olympics need to find "a less ambitious and less punishing way to start than this." That said, "it was a sensational evening" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/28). Also in London, Gillespie, Ungoed-Thomas & Mansey wrote that the Opening Ceremony "had everything: thunderous music, dancing beds, cycling doves and a first-time actress who stole the show." The public "had been promised magical moments," and they got them "by the bucketload." The "outstanding one" came when the Queen appeared in her first acting role and uttered the immortal words, “Good evening, Mr. Bond,” to Daniel Craig in a scene filmed at Buckingham Palace. Gillespie, Ungoed-Thomas & Mansey opined: "Did his gamble pay off? The simple answer is yes. London really had done it" (SUNDAY TIMES, 7/29). In London, Tristram Hunt wrote that Britain "ebbed and flowed, succeeded and failed in equal measures, but offered an attractively contradictory, complicated, and above all creative conception of these Isles of Wonder" (GUARDIAN, 7/28). In Toronto, Reguly & Waldie wrote that "the message wasn’t just that Brits are an odd folk; it was that Britain’s past is more important than its future." They continued, "But what a past! Your country should be so lucky." The Ceremony began with "a flat start," but had "a lovely texture and momentum, not too fast, not too slow, dazzling in parts, never overwhelming, always anchored by the best British music and the best-known names in literature and culture" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/27).

    START ME UP: In Toronto, Cam Cole wrote that Boyle "shone his offbeat, occasionally whimsical light on the touchstones of Britain's cultural heritage from Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling, the Beatles to Arctic Monkeys, sheep to socialized medical care, the Industrial Revolution to the World Wide Web (NATIONAL POST, 7/27). The AP's Leicester & McClam reported that James Bond and the Queen "teamed to give London a wild Olympic opening like no other." Boyle "turned Olympic Stadium into a jukebox, cranking up world-beating rock" from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and The Who to "send the planet a message: Britain, loud and royal proud, is ready to roll." It was a "brilliant introduction to kick off a 17-day festival of sports" (AP, 7/28). The BBC's Tom Fordyce wrote that "no one expected" the Opening Ceremony to be "so gloriously daft, so cynicism-squashingly charming and -- well, so much pinch-yourself fun" (BBC, 7/28).

    CONTRASTS WITH BEIJING: NPR's Madhulika Sikka wrote that the show was "in sharp contrast to the militaristic precision of Beijing's spectacular '08 effort." Boyle brought "wonder and whimsy and wit to the proceedings, without skimping on any of the patriotic touch points that are a must" at any Olympic Opening Ceremony. James Bond escorting the Queen to the Olympics was "enough to earn my respect and my gratitude" (NPR, 7/27). In Salt Lake City, Bill Oram reported that it was "certainly a go-big-or-go-home production." It "almost needed to be after the dazzling ceremony" at the '08 Beijing Games (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 7/27). In New Delhi, Sukhwant Basra wrote that Britain has "the kind of heritage that resonates across the world, especially the English-speaking one. It was "an easy connect." Basra added, "Your correspondent was overawed by Beijing, this one he enjoyed" (HINDUSTAN TIMES, 7/29). The CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR's Mark Sappenfield wrote "in an opening act rare among those in the history of Olympic Opening Ceremonies, the London organizers did something extraordinary: They were honest." In a night that "crackled with British music, literature and humor," it was an opening act about the Industrial Revolution "that made this night as memorable as the one in Beijing four years ago" (CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, 7/27). In Beijing, Mu Qian reported that Beijing '08 Olympic Opening Ceremony Co-Dir Wang Chaoge had "mixed emotions" about Friday night's show. Chaoge said, "On one hand, I didn't want it to exceed my work; on the other hand, I hoped to see another show that amazes the world. Now, both my wishes are fulfilled. Objectively speaking, there's no way that you can compare the two ceremonies. We each had what the other didn't" (CHINA DAILY, 7/29).

    U.S. REACTS: In Chicago, Philip Hersh wrote that "an atmosphere of whimsey and party won out over pomp and circumstance" during a show that "allowed an economically beleaguered Britain to pat itself on the back." The Opening Ceremony "took on the overall air of frivolity that usually prevails at the closing rather than the opening" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/27). In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote that "whatever it was Friday night, it was bloody well wonderful." London decided to be its "dizzy, disjointed self, welcoming the Olympics to its cluttered backyard with a wink and nudge and belly laugh that should resound through these Games' history" (L.A. TIMES, 7/27). Also in L.A., David Rooney reported that Boyle's "epic opera of social and cultural history was a vibrant work of unfettered imagination that celebrated  a nation, but even more so, its people. Boyle "injected playful irreverence, unexpected humor and even darkness." The "biggest surprise" was an actual acting cameo from the Queen. The show was unique in that it "acknowledged the nation's people and its innovative creative spirit more than its leaders or its past as a grand empire" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 7/27). In N.Y., Cassell Bryan-Low opined that "no star was bigger, however, than the one who appeared on tape: Queen Elizabeth II." Boyle "didn't shy away from the grittiness he is known for in his movies." It was "at times quirky." The show focused heavily on British culture and Britain's "strong musical tradition" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/27). Also in N.Y., Alessandra Stanley wrote that Britain "confidently opted for a celebration of individuality, idiosyncrasy and even lunacy." The whole show "veered from cute to creepy and from familiar to baffling." It showed "a love of movies that celebrate British eccentricity" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/27). The N.Y. TIMES' Sarah Lyall wrote that the Opening Ceremony showed an "insane portrait of a country that has changed almost beyond measure since the last time it hosted the Games, in the grim postwar summer of '48" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/27).

    SOCIAL ISSUES: In London, Beth Stebner reported that Americans reacted "with confusion to the glorification of free universal health care" during the Opening Ceremony. The show included a segment where "dozens of skipping nurses and children in pajamas leaping acrobatically on massive hospital beds, with a large 'NHS' displayed." It was a "celebration of Britain's national health service," which has provided free taxpayer-funded health care to everyone in the country since its foundation after World War II (DAILY MAIL, 7/28). The AFP reported that the Opening Ceremony "did not shy away from weighty social issues." The show had "a celebration of free health care, the trade union struggle, the battle for women's rights and a fleeting lesbian kiss." Boyle "drew accusations from the British political right that it had strayed into 'leftie' issues (AFP, 7/29). In London, Beal & Sabey reported that the show "won rave reviews across the globe." The Times of India declared it "dazzling," adding that London had "presented a vibrant picture of Great Britain's rich heritage and culture" (THE SUN, 7/29).

    FRENCH IMPRESSED: LE PARISIEN called the Opening Ceremony “grandiose, inventive and offset, drawing deeply in the British identity.” It was a show that was “uplifting in these times of crisis” (LE PARISIEN, 7/27). LE JOURNAL DU DIMANCHE wrote that Boyle had promised “something different” and he held true to his word. The Ceremony “dazzled the world Friday night” (JDD, 7/28).

    NOT AS IMPRESSED: EL PAIS opined that “Britain offered to the world [an image] of what it is: a country with more past than future” (EL PAIS, 7/28). In Rio de Janeiro, GLOBO ESPORTE wrote that the show from McCartney and the lighting of the torch by a group of seven young British athletes were the “high points of the historic night in London.” The Ceremony was not “as engaging as the one in Beijing in ’08, but it left its marks” (GLOBO ESPORTE, 7/27). GLOBO ESPORTE also noted that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff “applauded the Opening Ceremony of the ‘12 Games.” However, she also said that the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in ’16 “would have an even more beautiful and animated party” than the one put on by the British (GLOBOESPORTE, 7/28).

    GERMANY REACTS: In Hamburg, John & Dornhauser reported that many German athletes enjoyed the Opening Ceremony. Tennis player Angelique Kerber tweeted: "what a night you can not describe the feeling...!!! GOOSEBUMPS." German field hockey player Julia Müller seemed to had Paul McCartney's "Hey Jude" stuck in her head and tweeted: "Good night #olympics2012! Going to bed with a NaNaNa NaNaNaNaaaa #happy." Müller's field hockey colleague Moritz Fürste tweeted: "Unbelievable...What a night. I feel like on my first day of school... ;-) What a night." Track cyclist Maximilian Levy already looked ahead and tweeted: "Gotta admit those are the moments for which I compete! would love to experience it again in rio :)." In addition to the German athletes German Olympic Sport Association President Thomas Bach praised the Games' Opening Ceremony as well. Bach wrote in a statement, "This was a fantastic Opening Ceremony with lots of surprises, humor and ideas. The ceremony appealed to everybody with its playful ease and presented Britain's culture and great sport tradition in a modern way" (HAMBURGER ABENDBLATT, 7/28).

    CHINESE REPLAY: The London TELEGRAPH reported that a British theater producer "has been approached to put on a stage version" of the Opening Ceremony for Chinese audiences. David King, 56, was contacted by Beijing hours after the £27M ($42.5M) show was viewed by a global audience of over a billion. Contacts in Beijing - where he already "stages a hugely successful" annual Christmas show - asked him to bring a new Olympics style musical "by the end of the year." King revealed that the Chinese audience "were particularly encapsulated" with the rolling British countryside set and want a stage version. They have asked for the "farmyard animals and a cricket match" (TELEGRAPH, 7/29).

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  • Despite Venues Being Labeled As Sold Out, Games Left With Rows Of Empty Seats

    Spectators sit amongst empty seats prior to Egypt's men's football match against New Zealand Sunday.

    London Games organizers "sought to quell growing public frustration" on Sunday over empty seats across its venues, according to Grohmann & Collett-White of REUTERS. Britons who tried to buy tickets to the Games but were told they had been sold out are now "angered" at the site of "dispiriting images of rows of vacant rows at football stadiums, Wimbledon, the aquatic centre and beyond." More empty seats were reported on Sunday, including at the equestrian dressage at Greenwich Park, "despite the draw of Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter Zara Phillips making her Olympic debut." Olympic organizers "launched an urgent inquiry into the seating fiasco" to find out who had not taken up their places and why, "given the degree of public outcry" (REUTERS, 7/29) The AFP wrote "the embarrassing sight was blamed on accredited bodies," which include the IOC, sponsors and media. A LOCOG spokesperson said, "We believe the empty seats are in accredited seating areas, and we are in the process of finding out who should have been in the seats and why they weren't there." One angry punter at the Olympic Park told BBC television that he "blamed corporate ticketholders." He said, "It's not fair. There's thousands of people who would have got into that swimming pool to watch the races this morning and couldn't get in" (AFP, 7/29). LOCOG and the IOC said that it is "not just because of the Games' sponsors failing to take up the seats." The BBC's Claire Heald pointed out that 8% of tickets have been made available to sponsors, 75% to the public, 12% to National Olympic Committees and 5% to the Olympic family, which includes the IOC and media. An IOC spokesperson said that the gaps are "due to people from a range of those different groups not filling them up" (BBC, 7/29).

    COE DOWNPLAYS CLAIMS
    : In London, Booth & Gibson noted troops have been drafted in to fill empty seats at North Greenwich Arena. London Games organizers Sunday morning said that more troops will be issued with "last-minute invites to take seats in venues when blocks of seats are found to be empty" (GUARDIAN, 7/29). The AP noted Olympics sponsors Coca-Cola and Visa claimed that they "gave away most of their seating quotas to the public in promotional offers." Coca-Cola said its competition allowed prize winners "to choose the event they really wanted to attend." The soft drink company said in a statement: "We have also invited some long-standing partners, employees, and customers to attend the Games. We believe that usage levels of our tickets have been extremely high so far." Visa said in a statement: "We make great efforts to ensure that our ticket allocations are fully used" (AP, 7/29). In London, Andrew Johnson noted LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe has insisted Olympic venues were "stuffed to the gunwales," as he tried to calm the row over empty seats. One corporate sponsor pointed out that Olympic family members had been allocated four or five tickets for the same time and had to decide to which event they would go. The sponsor added, "There are people with tickets for five venues at the same time." However, Coe "sought to play down the row at a press conference." Coe said, "Let's put this in perspective. Those venues are stuffed to the gunwales. The public are in there." He added that about 150 students and teachers from the local area were "brought in to fill empty seats" on Sunday, and an extra 1,000 tickets were "sold to try to fill venues" (INDEPENDENT, 7/29). British Olympic Association Chair Colin Moynihan said that seats at Olympic venues "should be resold if they are still empty 30 minutes into events at the London Games." Moynihan added, "There must be a way where seats are empty half an hour in to an event that they can be filled by sports fanatics -- we owe it to the teams, and we owe it to the country. The organizers can pretty quickly know who has acquired those seats and go to those people, especially if they're sponsors, and say are those seats going to be taken?" Coe said that it was too early in the Games to carry out his threat to "name and shame" sponsors. Moynihan's proposal would "cause more difficulties than it would resolve" (BLOOMBERG, 7/29).

    UNDER REVIEW: In London, Paul Kelso noted Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that he was leading a review of the reasons, and Moynihan "urged him" and Coe to find a solution. Moynihan: "We welcome the fact that Jeremy Hunt has taken responsibility to put an inquiry together with Seb Coe and LOCOG to get to the bottom of the issue" (TELEGRAPH, 7/29). Also in London, Kelso noted Coe will urge int'l federations to ensure they use areas reserved for them in Olympic venues "to avoid embarrassment of swathes of empty seats." Coe is "intending to have frank discussions with some of the federations whose sports were poorly attended by officials and guests permitted to use the 'Olympic family' seats." Coe also intends to remind them of their "responsibility to use their seats." If they are not used, LOCOG "plans to recycle tickets and ensure that seats are filled by military personnel and local children" (TELEGRAPH, 7/29).

    TICKET TOUTS: In London, Sophie Tedmanson noted Scotland Yard launched an "investigation into the black-market sale of Olympic tickets by three official ticket agents" covering the Games. The investigation comes after a Sunday Times exposé in which Olympic officials and agents "were secretly filmed selling thousands of top tickets for up to ten times face value." Detectives from Operation Podium, set up by Scotland Yard to tackle Games-related ticket fraud, launched the inquiry last week "after studying more than 20 hours of recordings provided by the newspaper." Officers will seek to question agents representing the Olympic committees of China, Serbia and Lithuania and "could make several arrests during the Games" (LONDON TIMES, 7/29). Also in London, Sandra Laville wrote ticket touts are "exploiting the row over empty seats" by standing outside the Olympic Park and other venues, despite the threat of arrest by undercover police. Police have already arrested 16 individuals for touting since the London Games kicked off. Two men have also been arrested for the alleged theft of two Olympic ticket lane passes. Undercover police arrested five people on suspicion of ticket touting outside the park just hours before the Opening Ceremony and a further 11 on Saturday. Detective Superintendent and Head of Operation Podium Nick Downing "warned touts to stay away." He said, "We have been, and will continue to seek out and take robust action against anybody who tries to cash in on the 2012 Games in this way" (GUARDIAN, 7/29).

    REACTIONS TO THE ROW: In London, Owen Gibson wrote "on just day one they have had to deal with one of the problems that habitually bedevils Olympic organisers;" namely how to deal with the sometimes dysfunctional "Olympic family." LOCOG is "fairly sure that the majority of empty seats" on day one of competition were ones intended for accredited members of the "Olympic family." Often, the seats are in prime positions and easily visible on TV. Then there is a separate category of potential no-shows -- the 1.1 million tickets reserved for sponsors. And then there is a third reason, "less talked about by the press for obvious reasons" and that is seats for the media. The problem is "exacerbated by the fact that the public are so keen to attend." It is "dangerous for the organisers because it reinforces the perception of some" that the Games is too much about corporate sponsorship (GUARDIAN, 7/29).

    ATHLETES ALSO UPSET: In N.Y., Bruce Orwall wrote fans are not the "only ones who are frustrated." On Saturday afternoon, Indian tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi tweeted: "Been trying for 6 hours now to buy my wife a ticket to watch me play tomorrow. Still no luck, and the grounds here feel empty. ABSURD!!!" Bhupathi's doubles match was Sunday (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/29). In Sydney, Samantha Lane noted Australian swimmers and the Olympic team boss Nick Green have "lamented the vacant seats that dotted the Olympic aquatic centre." Australian swimmer Cate Campbell, who won a Gold Medal in the 4x100m relay, said that her father "had to watch her from the nosebleed rows." Green said, "I was at the swimming...we would have loved to have had more Australians in there, of course, if we were given the allocation, but it's a problem that LOCOG will have to address" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 7/30).

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  • The Athlete Grant Program Provides Support For Olympic And Paralympic Brazilian Athletes

    Through the Athlete Grant Program, Brazil's Ministry of Sports has provided financial support for 111 of the 259 athletes in 32 sports at the London Games. The program also provides financial support for 156 of the 186 members of the Brazilian delegation at the Paralympic Games. The Athlete Grant Program is the largest individual sports sponsorship initiative in the world. The program targets high-performance athletes who achieve outstanding results in national and int'l competitions. Established in '05, the program has already awarded more than 18,000 grants to athletes, for a total investment of R$284.4M ($142.2M) from the Brazilian federal government. In '12, the Athlete Grant Program provided support to 4,243 high-performance Brazilian athletes from 53 sports in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This number represents a 33.3% increase from the 3,182 athletes who benefited from the program in '11. Regardless of whether athletes have other sponsorship deals, established athletes may also receive financial support, which is a new deal to the program in '12 (SECOM).

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  • Tokyo 2020 Announces Stadium Details, Including Retractable Roof

    Japanese officials and Olympic athletes announced details about the Olympic Stadium that Tokyo will have ready for the 2020 Summer Games. The Olympic Stadium in Tokyo will be extremely advanced – and, at the same time, will be on the same site as the stadium built for the '64 Summer Games. Japanese Olympic Committee VP and Tokyo 2020 CEO Masato Mizuno said, “This is the jewel in the crown of our venue plan.” The Kasumigoaka National Stadium in central Tokyo will have state-of-the-art all-weather features, including an Olympic Games first: a retractable roof. In addition, the field will be natural grass, and suited to host a variety of sports, including athletics, rugby and football. An int'l contest was recently launched to solicit entries for the final design of the new stadium; the competition jury will be overseen by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. The stadium will be ready to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup, to be held in Tokyo (Tokyo 2020).

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  • Olympics Notes

    REUTERS' Karolos Grohmann reported that LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe said that "the Olympic flame and cauldron is not a tourist attraction," defending a decision to keep it out of sight of thousands of Olympic Park visitors. Lit at the Opening Ceremony on Friday, the cauldron "will not burn above the stadium as it is usually the case in other Games, but will remain inside the Olympic stadium and will not be seen by ticket-holders to the events there." Coe, when asked why visitors to the park were not given the chance to see it, said, "It was not created to be a tourist attraction" (REUTERS, 7/29).

    NOT WELCOME: The London TELEGRAPH reported that G4S "has barred its senior executives from enjoying corporate hospitality in light of its security fiasco" for the London Games. The group confirmed that "it had decided not to allow staff to host any corporate Olympic events" after suffering a reputational battering following its failure to hire enough security guards. G4S said that "its customers would still be able to use allocated tickets to attend." G4S CEO Nick Buckles will not be attending (TELEGRAPH, 7/29).

    HOT PANTS: In Sydney, Samantha Lane reported that Britain's track cycling team will unveil revolutionary battery-powered hot pants in London's Olympic velodrome. The team's physiologist said that "the technology will change track cycling -- and potentially other sports -- forever, in a similar fashion that high-tech suits have changed swimming." The pants will keep "British athletes' at the ideal temperature of about 38 degrees" before they compete. The designer, adidas, which made an agreement with the British team to keep the technology secret until the eve of the Games, has spent 18 months perfecting the pre-race warmers after national coaches saw the potential (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 7/30). 

    CYCLISTS ARRESTED: In N.Y., Alice Speri reported that "Olympic-related protests are out of the starting blocks." London police said that "more than 130 cyclists were arrested Friday night on a mass ride near the Olympic Park." And on Saturday, a catch-all group protesting against corporate sponsors and the Olympics themselves mounted a peaceful protest (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/28).

    SHOW ME THE MONEY: In Beijing, Wang Zhuoqiong reported that Quanzhou Epoch Travelling Goods GM Fan Jinfeng said that "the company made bags for the Netherlands team and has provided bags for leading sports brands including Asics, adidas and Dunlop." The deals involving the Games are worth only $500,000, about 6% of the company's annual revenue. However, Fan said that "participating in the Olympic Games helps the manufacturer upgrade its brand and attract more top brands to work with it." According to Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group, 65% of London Olympics merchandise is made in China, including mascots, cups and clothes (CHINA DAILY, 7/28).

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