Catching Up With Martin Sorrell: Lasting legacy is 'London at its best'
August 13, 2012 09:10 AM
|WPP CEO Martin Sorrell
He elaborated on that and more during a conversation last week with SportsBusiness Journal Olympics reporter Tripp Mickle.
■ You were in China in 2008. How do these Olympics compare?
SORRELL: They were very different. Both were extremely good.
Beijing was extremely well-organized, as London was. Beijing was more methodical and formal. London was warmer and clearly, more quirky.
The opening ceremonies [in 2008 and 2012] were equally good. In China, you couldn’t help but be impressed by the scale, the technology and the difficulty. It was much more ordered. Much more militaristic.
London was much more quirky, intellectual and full of inside jokes for people in the U.K. Having said that, Danny Boyle did a fantastic job.
■ Was it worth the estimated $14 billion cost?
SORRELL: It’s much easier for China or Brazil or Russia to justify. For fast-growing markets, one of the ways to reposition your country is through the Olympic Games, World Cup or Formula One. For a mature market like the U.K., it’s much more difficult to justify the infrastructure investment. But it accelerates the infrastructure investment. It drags forth airports, hotels and the likes.
■ What will the London Games be remembered for here in London and the U.K.?
SORRELL: There are two things the bid talked about: one was legacy for East London, which has been considerable. I know there are naysayers, but if you look at before and after, visitors are amazed by that legacy development. The question is do we continue to use it in an effective way.
The second is the impact on youth. Will it encourage young people to be healthier in the aspect of their life and encourage them in life? I thought it was interesting whilst GB was losing on [penalty kicks] to South Korea, you had unpaid athletes … Mo [Farah], Jess [Ennis] and Greg [Rutherford] all winning gold, and we had our highly paid footballers losing on [penalty kicks]. I thought that was an interesting juxtaposition.
■ There was a lot of grumbling coming into this. What has surprised you most about how the Games went?
SORRELL: This must have been the first time the media got behind something in this country. A media member told me that the turning point was when Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France the Sunday before.
A lot of people were concerned about the opening ceremony. Part of it was relief, but more of it was genuinely being impressed by it. It didn’t have the scale of Beijing, but it did have some scale. You walked into the stadium and it was all of England’s green and pleasant land. … Everyone I spoke to said it did play well on television.
There have been the blips. There was one tragic incident there with the bus driver and cyclist.
■ How will they be remembered around the world?
SORRELL: London at its best. Not just London but Weymouth and Eton Dorney. Britain will be seen as a country that can organize something extremely well, is quirky but has a good bit of humor. … The stadium was amazing. The torch lighting was incredible — to bring a new twist to it. It will be remembered as well-organized, well-executed and something of beauty.
For example, the triathlon was very well done visually. The marathon on Sunday looked extremely good using all the tourist hot spots. Despite being a small country, it’s a country that hasn’t lost its touch.
■ A decade ago, the Olympics were under fire for corruption. Now they seem to be on a run of over-delivering for sponsors and advertisers. How would you describe their health?
SORRELL: Jacques Rogge has done an amazing job. There were concerns. There was a change in leadership. Jacques has done an incredibly good job in repositioning the Olympics. There are similar challenges for FIFA. There are similar challenges for Formula One. This is all about the professionalizing of sport. It has to be professionally run and carefully run. … It will become more and more important.