August 11, 2012 09:06 PM
They were putting in Olympic lanes, and everyone said traffic would be a disaster. They were putting cruise missiles on top of buildings, and everyone said security would be a nightmare. They were telling people to leave the city, and everyone said the Underground would fail.
The bleak atmosphere was similar to the one that gathered around a family preparing to host a Christmas party. Somewhere in east London, the mom was rushing about frantically organizing things and taking care of last-minute details before the extended family arrived. Everyone else was being asked to do small things they didn’t want to do, and that left plenty of time to grumble and complain.
My cab driver from Victoria station to my hotel was like the family’s aggravated son. He had been excited when London won the Olympics seven years ago, but the more he listened to talk radio and heard about road closures, the more agitated he became. He spent most of the drive apologizing for how much longer the drive was than it should be.
“They’ve got everything shut down around Buckingham Palace for the cycling this weekend,” he said. “It’s going to be dreadful.”
He had made plans to avoid the coming calamity by taking two weeks off during the Olympics. It was a tactic a lot of Londoners took during the first week of the Games.
■ ■ ■
I had my own sense of dread about these Olympics. I was worried about the weather, the failure of security contractor G4S and the lines for venues.
The news that came from London the past six months turned an Olympics I was looking forward to into one filled with foreboding.
My first day didn’t help matters.
I planned to buy a mobile phone for emails and calls after I arrived. But I wasn’t prepared to do it at Westfield Stratford mall. The mall, which is the biggest in Europe, acts as the de facto entrance to the Olympic Park. It had five different mobile phone retailers. It took me an hour to figure out which phone to buy from which store.
When I tried to set up my email account on it two hours later, I discovered it was too outdated for our corporate email system. That meant I had to spend another hour walking back to the mall from Olympic Park and an hour after that swapping it out for a phone that did work. All in, I spent four hours of my first day just trying to get a phone that I could use.
Fortunately, things got easier from there. And Danny Boyle had a lot to do with that. There was an enormous difference in the country’s mood after the opening ceremony. Everyone collectively seemed to think, “Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.”
And it wasn’t. For them or for me.
During the next two weeks, I spent my days bouncing from sports to meetings to interviews. I saw handball, archery, diving, beach volleyball, shooting, rowing, swimming, gymnastics, basketball, tennis, track and field, track cycling, volleyball and boxing. I ate 18 Cliff bars, chewed 60 sticks of spearmint gum, and ate more boxed sandwiches than I can remember. I worked at seven different Starbucks.
I saw Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt make history, and went to a party attended by Jessica Ennis and the actor who played Matthew from “Downton Abbey.” I snuck in speed tours of Westminster Abbey, Churchill’s War Room and the Tate Modern. I visited Hampstead Heath with a college friend and heard her 2-year-old son, who is being raised in London, point at a deep gray sky and say, “Ahh, it’s sunny!”
I was called a wanker outside a tube stop and identified as an American “because [my] teeth are white.” I heard a Scottish emcee taunt the prime minister and coin a new phrase for raking sand between beach volleyball sets. “It’s rakey, rakey time!!!!”
I watched the lights flicker on and heard the closing-time-bell ring at a half-dozen pubs. I felt underdressed at Wimbledon and got damp with rain watching women’s marathon runners race through a downpour.
I heard music everywhere. “Born in the USA” after Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as sand was raked at beach volleyball and LCD Soundsystem’s “This is how it Starts” during a 1,500-meter semifinal.
I marveled at the bag of tricks organizers used to keep people smiling for two straight weeks. They hired jazz dancers to perform in front of a long line for the Javelin, they gave away free water and ice cream on a hot day, and volunteers kept things humorous with an array of jokes. “They look OK, but I’m not sure about you lot.”
By my last trip to the park, it was clear London was a different place than it had been when I arrived. Great Britain had been through some dark times over the last year or so. Austerity measures had made the nation feel weak, and the riots that hit London last year left its citizens uncertain about the future. But the Olympics and Team GB’s overwhelming medal success had changed that.
Chris Kay, a 63-year-old retired civil engineer who I walked to the Olympic Park with that last day, put it this way: “The Olympics is a morale booster. It’s not a good time for us. This is a shot in the arm and a reminder we can do something big.”
■ ■ ■
By the time I left Friday morning, London was loose and upbeat. The Olympics were almost over, and though tickets had been scarce and business had been slower than expected, optimism replaced the city’s doom and gloom.
My cab driver to Victoria station was chipper even in his British pessimism.
“How’s it been?” I said.
“Absolute crap!” he answered.
Business had been rubbish, he said, but he’d learned from a passenger who’d helped organize another Olympics that business is always rubbish during the Games. It’s not until four or five years after the Games, when people who watched decide to visit the host city, that businesses see increases. And he was OK with that.
“The roads have been absolutely dead,” he said. “It’s been lovely, really.”
It was 60 degrees and sunny outside as the cab sped through central London. I looked out the window as we drove past Number 10 Downing Street and Trafalgar Square. London was just waking up, and I couldn’t help but think that my cabbie was right.
The Olympics had been lovely.
August 10, 2012 01:30 PM
Greg Wyshynski (left) of Yahoo's "Puck Daddy" and Mickle
The two met at Miller’s, a busy corner pub near St. Pancras and the speedy Javelin train that ferries people to and from Olympic Park. It’s Wyshynski’s first Olympics and he’s been to almost every venue at the London Games. The pair talked about their experiences at the Olympic Park, venues, athlete parties and impressions of London 2012. Among the discussion:
■ “The beer comes to you. They have men walking around with giant suitcases of beer. … Frankly, I don’t know why they weren’t in the Parade of Nations.”
■ “Fencing … it was like ‘Tron.’ Every time they hit somebody, it glowed a different color.”
■ “The coverage leading up to the Games was so negative. … All that stuff has gone by the wayside now that Great Britain is winning a gold medal every three minutes.”
August 10, 2012 01:28 PM
Wednesday night’s coverage finished with a 16.8 rating and 29.1 million viewers, marking the most-viewed second Wednesday for any Summer Games since the 1976 Montreal Games. The telecast, which featured gold-medal victories for U.S. beach volleyball players Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, U.S. sprinter Allyson Felix in the 200 meters and U.S. hurdler Aries Merritt, is also up 11 percent and 17 percent, respectively, from the same night in Beijing.
August 10, 2012 10:51 AM
NBC earned a 15.3 overnight rating for prime-time London Olympic coverage Thursday night, which featured Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt becoming the first Olympian ever to win consecutive gold medals in the men’s 200 meters. While overnight figures are subject to change when final numbers are released later today, that figure is down 7 percent from a 16.4 overnight for the same night four years ago in Beijing.
Last night’s telecast faced competition from five NFL preseason games. Denver, which has ranked fourth among all U.S. markets for Olympics viewership, ranked near the bottom of markets for last night’s NBC Olympic prime-time telecast, as many viewers tuned in for quarterback Peyton Manning’s debut for the Broncos in a game against the Bears.
August 10, 2012 10:06 AM
USA Boxing's failure to win any men's medals in London hasn't dissuaded Golden Boy Promotions and CBS from televising the pro debuts of U.S. boxers.
In July, Golden Boy announced plans to sign an unspecified number of fighters from the Games, backed by a commitment from CBS and Showtime to put them on the air. CBS is holding Oct. 15 and Dec. 15 as air dates, with Showtime handling production.
Two of three women on the U.S. team won medals, with middleweight Claressa Shields winning gold on Thursday and flyweight Marlen Esparza claiming bronze. But the nine U.S. men all were eliminated short of the semifinals.
“Certainly, it would have been good for the country and for our network if they had been a little more successful,” said Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports. “But that doesn’t change our programming approach. The team still represents the cream of the crop of young U.S. boxers. And participating in the Olympics is still an achievement.”
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer was in London this week to scout and, presumably, recruit talent. Schaefer said last week that he didn’t want to discuss further plans until after the Games.
Schaefer made it clear before he headed to London that he was interested not only in American talent, but in others. The company has deep promotional ties in Mexico and also promotes British star Amir Kahn, a silver medalist in 2004. Four fighters from Great Britain’s team remained alive entering the semifinals. But no boxers from Mexico, Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic — three Spanish-speaking countries that are most likely to produce fighters who are marketable in the U.S. — made it to the semis.
While Showtime and CBS are willing to air Olympians who hail from outside the U.S., the network’s commitment is based around the Americans. They announced the deal before the Games in the hope that it would percolate interest among fight fans.
“We were hoping that the idea of seeing these Olympians make their debut on CBS stuck with people while they were following the Olympic Games,” Espinoza said. “So if somebody caught their eye, we would have the seed of an idea germinating; a hint that this was coming. We wanted people to anticipate their pro debuts.”
The Olympians’ debuts will mark the first time boxing has aired live on CBS since 1998. NBC is scheduled to air its first pro fight card since 2004 in December.
August 10, 2012 10:05 AM
In order to keep up with demand, it has called in five replacement orders since the Games began. The organization exceeded its total Beijing sales in the first 10 days the store was open and exceeded Vancouver in even less time.
The store is located in the front of USA House and covers two stories. The upstairs features apparel from its top three suppliers — Ralph Lauren, Nike and Oakley — while the downstairs features apparel from Outerstuff, mugs, pendants and other items.
The store was designed with help from Nike, Ralph Lauren and Polo, which gives it the same feel as a department store, with branded areas for each company’s products. The brands also provided store specialists to assist shoppers and manage merchandise.
Peter Zeytoonjian, USOC managing director of consumer products, said the brand’s assistance in creating a good retail environment, the diversity of apparel, the USOC’s new logo and the number of London-based expatriates visiting the store all combined to deliver strong sales the last two weeks.
“Everything has done fantastically well,” Zeytoonjian said.
The USOC also is selling the apparel in the U.S. at Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Polo Ralph Lauren stores. Its goal is to hit $100 million in retail sales around the Games. The USOC would not release current sales figures, but on Thursday said merchandise sales have more than doubled those from Beijing.
The USOC and its licensees already are making preparations for Sochi 2014. Nike and Ralph Lauren are close to finalizing their product lines and will finish that process in September.
Zeytoonjian said he expects sales for Sochi to be bigger than Vancouver.
August 10, 2012 10:04 AM
From left, Radiate Group's Jan Katzoff, The Marketing Arm's Mary O'Connor and IMG's Gary Pluchino
TRIPP MICKLE PHOTO
The group met at Casa Brazil, home to Rio 2016, in Somerset House on the Strand. It was comprised of Jan Katzoff, the Radiate Group’s executive vice president; Mary O’Connor, The Marketing Arm’s vice president of Olympic marketing and global partnerships; and Gary Pluchino, IMG senior vice president and head of global Olympic consulting. Between them, they work with more than 20 Olympic sponsors.
We split the conversation into two parts. The first, which was posted Thursday, focused on sponsors. Friday’s outtake focuses on organizers, London’s legacy and what Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 can learn from London.
■ How did the London organizers do?
KATZOFF: The first two days were really rough on transport. We definitely had our hands full. I will say to their credit they helped us attack the problem and fix it. But it was a very rough start, like a lot of them are.
From that point on, for our clients, it’s been one of the best operations I’ve ever seen. The fact that they decided to take money and put 100 (bag scanners) in instead of 30 means you can go in and not have to wait in line. That initial guest experience is fantastic. It’s not like Beijing where people are (irritated) before they get to the venue.
T3 (private cars for sponsors and Olympic executives) was the only thing that didn’t work.
O’CONNOR: We had a pretty rough couple of days.
■ What was so bad in the first days? T3 service?
KATZOFF: It wasn’t just the T3.
O’CONNOR: It was all of it. We had multiple motor coaches and passenger vehicles not show up. I’ve never had days where zero vehicles show up. I had those days.
To the credit of LOCOG, they gave passes with every ticket to the Tube. That access allowed every partner, regardless of the issues, to have an alternative at hand. There was an instant plan B. If you’re good at what you do, to your guests, it’s seamless. You just say, “I guess we’re taking the Tube today.” And you go onto the Tube and it becomes a cultural experience and it’s easy.
PLUCHINO: I’ve taken the Tube a lot. I’ve had absolutely no problems. This overcrowding concern, the doom-and-gloom thing, you’re-going-to-have-to-wait-30-minutes-to-get-down-the-steps, it hasn’t happened.
■ On the T3 issues, what was the issue?
KATZOFF: It was the way the navigation system (GPS) was programmed and was point-to-point (from official venues to official venues). When you look at the size of what we’re operating here, it just wasn’t practical. I’ll give you an example: I’m staying at the P&G headquarters hotel. They won’t do a T3 drop-off (for VIPs) there. But they’ll do a T3 drop-off at the Park Plaza Westminster, which is a 20-minute walk away. So if you’re lucky enough like Visa to be at the Chancery Hotel, which is a T3 stop, you can use the cars. Otherwise, it’s difficult.
PLUCHINO: The T3 cars I’ve taken, some of it is the GPS. Early in the Games the GPS went down.
KATZOFF: And there’s a lot of drivers not from London. And that’s the biggest problem.
PLUCHINO: Exactly. When your entire system is based on a system technology and you don’t have a backup plan, what happens?
The other thing for the first week of the Games was the (live site at) Hyde Park was not as well attended as some of our clients would have liked or even the mayor’s office would have liked. What was the reason for that? It was promoted as a ticketed venue. That implies cost. Well, it was a free ticket. They were looking to get 150,000 people a day in there. That didn’t happen.
■ These Olympics, with the exception of Olympic Park, are really fragmented. Venues like Earls Court and Horse Guards and Wembley and Wimbledon are spread out. The Olympics easily get lost in London. How has that affected the Olympic atmosphere in the city?
PLUCHINO: There’s good Olympic vibe at Olympic Park because you have hundreds of thousands of people there. I would agree that in central London because it’s spread out that maybe it’s lacking that Olympic feel, that Olympic buzz.
Iconic venues like at Horse Guards Parade made the London Games special.
O’CONNOR: From a hospitality and entertainment perspective, (those venues) combine cultural with athletics all in one. It takes people to the tourist spots they want to go to already. We walk people to the beach volleyball (at Horse Guards), they walk through Trafalgar (Square), they see it all. That’s fantastic.
■ If Beijing was China’s coming out party and a chance for all the companies you work with to enter the Chinese marketplace, what will London be remembered for?
O’CONNOR: For our clients, it’s a fantastic all-around experience. I don’t think this Games for us was remotely similar to Beijing in the sense that you walked away thinking, “This is China’s Games.” I wouldn’t say here that people will walk away thinking, “This is a British Games.” There was a great distribution of equity between the different countries that are here. We’re seeing new athletes rise to the top.
Our guests will walk away having had a great cultural and athletic experience. It’s been seamless to them. They’re on the London Eye one minute, Buckingham Palace the next. They’re watching the Dream Team in the basketball arena that night. They’re having dinner at Mosimann’s. It’s a fantastic hospitality opportunity. It was easy. It really was easy, with the exception of transportation.
PLUCHINO: People will be leaving here with a great international feel. Some of that has to do with the fact that London is one of the most international cities in the world. But you still had those 205 countries (competing here) in Beijing, didn’t you? And you did not come away with that international feel. This was truly the world coming together, which is what the Olympics are all about.
It was a welcoming environment for people. I always say it this way. You come to the Olympics, you expect the sport to be the best in the world. That’s a given. You expect the event to be operated well. You expect the stadiums to be brand new. But if you don’t feel welcome and it wasn’t a hospitable environment, that’s what you’ll go home with. I think people will leave these Games with a very good feel for England, London and the Games.
KATZOFF: It’s hard for me to disagree with Mary and Gary. It was the perfect conversion of one of the greatest cities in the world with some of the greatest athletic moments of the world. For people to say they were here to see Michael Phelps break the all-time Olympic record. For people to say I’ve always dreamed about going to Wimbledon. People walk by Parliament or Westminster Abbey and they’re awestruck by having a chance to see them. From the emotional side, the sports side and cultural side, there’s been a really good convergence.
■ What are the lessons from this Olympics for Rio and Sochi?
PLUCHINO: Although we’ve said there have been a few hiccups on the organizational side of things, Rio can learn how to organize a Games. We all know Rio can be logistically challenging. Organization and organizational skills may be a challenge for Rio.
KATZOFF: Despite the fact that organizers spend hundreds of millions of dollars, it all comes down to security and transportation. I hope the takeaway, and we’re going to raise it with the IOC and organizers going forward, is to get aggregators (bus contracting companies) out of the middle and let the agencies or sponsors deal directly with end producers. I don’t ever want to be put into the position we were put into. It’s happened too many times.
O’CONNOR: One great learning they can take away, despite the G4S debacle, is security. We have a tremendous amount of security in the Waldorf (where the Chinese Olympic Committee is based), and they are so well connected with Scotland Yard and Olympics security. The fact that there was a big worry, and everything thus far has been really well handled. Rio is a security concern for all of us. If they can learn from what they did in London to protect people coming to the Games, that would be fantastic.
August 10, 2012 09:15 AM
Most Olympic fans wouldn’t be surprised to see that swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte came away with huge numbers following not only their success in the pool, but also the amount of air time they received. Phelps has gained nearly 1 million Twitter followers in the last two weeks, while Lochte chalked up more than 750,000. Missy Franklin was the big winner of the female swimmers with more than a quarter million new followers for the 17-year-old (see chart below).
The success of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team led to some overnight sensations and a new nickname. The “Fierce Five” all saw more than 100,000 new followers each, with all-around champion Gabby Douglas leading the way with nearly 600,000 new followers.
On the international side, some of the biggest Twitter stories have come from athletes who haven’t medaled. The controversy surrounding the harassment of British diver Tom Daley has led to a large spike in supportive followers, and inspirational South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, the “Blade Runner,” also has added nearly 100,000 new followers after his historic appearance in the Games. Sprint icon Usain Bolt had added more than 500,000 new followers even before his historic victory Thursday in the 200 meters.
Listed below are the Twitter followers for the official pages of notable U.S. Olympians on the day of the opening ceremony on July 27 compared to Thursday.
Twitter Followers Friday, July 27 THURSDAY AUG. 9 ADDITIONAL FOLLOWERS SWIMMING AND DIVING MEN Michael Phelps 292,207 1,227,843 935,636 Ryan Lochte 143,674 897,783 754,109 Nathan Adrian 13,124 118,173 105,049 Brendan Hansen 10,195 38,290 28,095 Conor Dwyer 8,439 42,410 33,971 Cullen Jones 19,419 45,182 25,763 Ricky Berens 12,336 37,622 25,286 Matt Grevers 23,242 39,107 15,865 Tyler Clary 6,180 21,860 15,680 WOMEN Missy Franklin 82,342 341,067 258,725 Rebecca Soni 18,109 69,167 51,058 Dana Vollmer 9,693 59,795 50,102 Allison Schmitt 3,577 49,397 45,820 Natalie Coughlin 58,644 88,399 29,755 Elizabeth Beisel 6,647 20,392 13,745 Jessica Hardy 15,229 26,281 11,052 GYMNASTICS MEN Danell Leyva 13,703 66,076 52,373 WOMEN Gabby Douglas 35,754 600,967 565,213 Jordyn Wieber 62,457 438,030 375,573 Aly Raisman 39,966 382,413 342,447 McKayla Maroney 35,612 322,674 287,062 Kyla Ross 25,690 183,912 158,222 TRACK AND FIELD MEN Tyson Gay 37,865 53,735 15,870 WOMEN Lolo Jones 182,855 287,350 104,495 Allyson Felix 51,869 85,298 33,429 Sanya Richards-Ross 29,830 58,735 28,905 Kellie Wells 7,395 28,361 20,966 Carmelita Jeter 8,924 21,232 12,308 BEACH VOLLEYBALL WOMEN Misty May-Treanor 88,188 133,980 45,792 Kerri Walsh Jennings 83,668 110,088 26,420 INTERNATIONAL ATHLETES OF NOTE Tom Daley (Great Britain/diving) 344,632 1,170,866 826,234 Usain Bolt (Jamaica/track) 634,092 1,174,411 540,319 Jessica Ennis (Great Britain/track) 213,410 602,247 388,837 Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain/cycling) 296,782 510,299 213,517 Oscar Pistorius (South Africa/track) 54,822 125,193 70,371 Yohan Blake (Jamaica/track) 7,222 64,143 56,921
Note: Charts do not include Olympic athletes who are more known for the teams and leagues in which they usually compete, such as NBA players and professional tennis players. Sources: SportsBusiness Journal research, Twittercounter.com
August 9, 2012 08:06 PM
Universal Sports broke a new ad in prime time on NBC Thursday night, encouraging viewers of the Olympics to tune in to the amateur sports channel for more gymnastics, swimming, and track and field action.
The spot highlighted the Olympic sports network’s upcoming coverage of the 2012 Diamond League track competitions, the 2013 Visa Championships in gymnastics and the 2013 world championships of swimming. It culminates with the tagline, “The home of Olympic sports year-round.”
“That really is the message,” Universal Sports CEO David Sternberg said. “There’s continuity here. Even though the Olympics may end, you can still see these athletes and these sports day in, day out on Universal.”
It’s the second Summer Games that Universal Sports has released an ad on NBC in prime time. It first did so during the Beijing Games in 2008.
The network, which is owned by InterMedia Sports, received $10 million in media value from NBC, which owns a minor stake in the network, during the Olympics. In addition to ads on NBC prime time, it has spots on MSNBC, CNBC, NBC Sports Network and NBCOlympics.com.
Most of its advertising is directed at the final weekend of Olympic competition, which Sternberg hopes will help drive avid and new Olympic fans to the network over the next year.
The network currently is in 35 million homes. Sternberg said he expects to land two new distribution deals before the end of the year.
“We’re hoping to build that (distribution),” he said. “We hope to have a big cable distribution announcement soon. Between now and the end of the year, there will be at least two new distribution carriers.”
Sternberg was in London attending his first Olympics. He arrived this week for an eight-day trip.
“There’s an element of fun and leisure, but I’ve also been here meeting with our international federation partners,” Sternberg said. “We’re extending programming deals and talking about working together on marketing initiatives in the U.S. market. It’s an opportunity to come to one place and see everybody.”
August 9, 2012 05:18 PM
Jet Set Sports CEO Sead Dizdarevic said the British press criticized the company unfairly in the run-up to the London Games.
The media wrote several stories about long will-call lines to pick up tickets bought through Jet Set (known as CoSport in the U.K.). The Monday before the opening ceremony a line that stretched to nearly 1,000 people waited as long as six hours to get tickets.Dizdarevic said that the company discouraged ticket buyers from picking up tickets the first day and did the best it could to manage the line that formed by handing out water and umbrellas to provide shade.
“What the media writes is unfair,” Dizdarevic said. “They look at the single individual who has one issue or another. I can still proudly say that the customer satisfaction is 99.9 percent.”
Dizdarevic said that of 140,000 people who went through Jet Set (CoSport) to buy tickets, only 1,400 customers had issues that they brought to the company’s attention. On a case-by-case basis, the company worked to upgrade those customers’ ticket packages.
“Wherever we could, we did not care about money,” Dizdarevic said. “It was about customer satisfaction.”
The entire ticketing process London organizers used has been under fire throughout the Olympics. British Olympic Association Chairman Lord Colin Moynihan called on the International Olympic Committee to take over the process for future Olympics.
Dizdarevic, who has been involved in Olympic ticket sales since the 1980s, said the IOC should review the ticket sales process in London, but he didn’t have any specific suggestions for improving it.
“The systems for the Olympic Games in general are improving from Games to Games, but there are problems always,” Dizdarevic said. “As long as they have this type of system, problems will continue. There are easier ways for the future, but who am I to tell the world the best ticket system.”