SBJ/October 15 - 21, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Most Olympic corporate hospitality plans still on track, organizers say

No one connected to corporate hospitality packaging for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games openly predicts a massive bailout on the horizon. Domestic and global companies who would typically schedule wave upon wave of guests during an Olympics on American soil are not yet abandoning such plans.

Yet with the U.S. economy declining under the weight of many forces, including the financial toll of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Don Dow of Oregon-based DowSport believes in-house corporate hospitality coordinators are leery. Dow said his company has unused "inventory" for the Feb. 8-24 Games in the resort village of Park City, Utah, where most corporate accommodations and hospitality is centered.

This is not necessarily abnormal, Dow said, as European clients often wait to secure bookings. He has a group from Norway coming over to inspect properties at the end of the month.

Spokesman Mike Korologos of Jet Set Sports, the official corporate travel packager of the Salt Lake Games and U.S. Olympic family, plus 12 other national Olympic committees, indicates recent economic and terrorist events have had "no effect ... as it pertains to providing hospitality packages."

"We have not experienced any reductions in our business operations or bookings," said Korologos, responding by fax to written questions. Jet Set apparently has a policy prohibiting phone conversations on this subject.

The members-only Double Eagle Club in Park City is 80 percent sold and anticipating up to 125 guests daily during the Games, said Chuck Mycoff, senior vice president of Chicago-based Intersport Inc., creators of the Double Eagle facility. "We have three corporations accounting for most of the booked space," he said. "Our guests are planning between three and five waves (of people)."

In addition to condo accommodations, Olympic event tickets, food and beverage, Double Eagle Club guests also can attend one of three private ice skating shows scheduled during the 17 days.

Dow said DowSport expects to take care of 250 to 300 guests from 15 companies. Any groups considering reduced presence for the Salt Lake Games were doing so long before terrorist attacks on the United States, the sell-off in the securities markets and the surge of job cuts, he said.

"One customer of ours, a year ago, said they'd bring 30 to 40 people," Dow said. "Three months ago, he said he didn't know how many they'd actually bring."

Chevrolet, a U.S. Olympic sponsor, has not changed plans to bring about 300 dealers and their guests to the Games, according to Kim Ransford, Chevy's Olympics marketing program manager. Dealer trips are tied to sales incentives programs. Larkspur, Calif.-based SportsMark handles Chevy's Salt Lake travel.

U.S. Olympic Committee acting CEO Scott Blackmun confirmed that there have been no sponsor pullbacks or bailouts for Salt Lake, but sees naturally tempered enthusiasm amid the countdown to February. "There is a lot of uncertainty about everything," Blackmun said. "As events unfold, we know everything could be impacted. But we also believe the Games, particularly our U.S. Olympic team, can be a healthy source of inspiration for a lot of people."

THE QUEST BEGINS: USOC President Sandra Baldwin, a residential real estate agent in Phoenix, is expected among nominees for International Olympic Committee membership to be received Oct. 22 by a review panel in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Baldwin's nomination will be submitted by one of the four IOC members from the United States and the lone woman, Anita DeFrantz, a 1976 rowing Olympian and head of the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles.

Baldwin's status as the volunteer head of the U.S. Olympic movement isn't a sure ticket to IOC membership. LeRoy Walker, USOC president from 1992 to '96 and an accomplished Olympic track coach and university educator, did not join the club, while the recent past president, politically connected William Hybl, ascended to IOC membership just as his USOC term was ending.

Baldwin begins her pursuit of an IOC seat after recently appointing Des Moines lawyer Robert Helmick to the USOC's international relations committee. A decade ago, Helmick became the first IOC member to resign what was then a life appointment after some people charged that his work as a paid consultant constituted conflicts of interest.

AIR TIME: IOC President Jacques Rogge last week made a 72-hour private jet tour across the United States to meet with global sponsors. Salt Lake Winter Games chief Mitt Romney, in an effort to catch a few hours of Rogge's time, arranged to fly with Rogge between San Francisco and Chicago.

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