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Catching Up With: Omega's Stephen Urquhart

Omega President Stephen Urquhart
Omega President Stephen Urquhart has overseen the TOP sponsor’s marketing and hospitality effort at five Olympic Games. In Sochi, Omega built its first sponsor showcase pavilion in an Olympic Park since Beijing in 2008. He spoke with SportsBusiness Journal Olympics writer Tripp Mickle from the veranda there about how the Sochi Games are going and Omega’s hospitality program there.

How would you grade the organization of the Sochi Games?
URQUHART: Preparation obviously was the biggest part because they had to prepare everything. They’ve done a great job to build this in seven years. Nothing existed here. I was here a year ago. It was all mud here. The stadium was built. I was there for the one-year countdown, but the hotel I’m staying in, the Radisson, there was nothing.

Were you concerned at all?
URQUHART: No. You have to believe in people. If they say the Games will be ready, then they will be ready. Which they are, 99 percent ready.

How does your hospitality program here compare to other Winter Games?
URQUHART: It’s on par with other Winter Olympics. Some markets aren’t interested as much. We have six waves. Toward the end, a lot of China and Japan will be coming. It will be more geared toward sport.

In London, we could make it more lifestyle. There’s lots to see in London. You can show a whole lot of stuff. Here there’s sports. That’s all there is, basically. We had to adapt a bit. It will be fine. Everyone is happy.

I read about contingency plans for advertising if there’s a terrorist attack. Is that something you’ve had to think about at all? Did you develop a back-up ad?
URQUHART: No. Honestly, no. What would we do? We never hesitated one minute to do it. We’re confident they’ll take all the precautions they wanted to and they have to. I feel for the moment (security is) not oppressive. It’s well done.

There’s been a lot of criticism of hotels. Is it fair or overblown?
URQUHART: We came here and did the groundwork. We got everything done. We’re very happy with the hotel we have. One of the staff hotels has a few problems, but they can be overcome.

People understand: It’s a brand-new venue. It’s not going to be perfect. One of the (opening ceremony) rings didn’t open up. That’s OK.
We have to be fair. Probably, they took on a lot. They were so ambitious. I don’t know what will happen afterward. There are all of these hotels that have to be filled up. But I can’t really talk for them.

You and I were in Beijing and there was a lot of concern that there was a lack of traffic in the Olympic Park. Do you think it will be a problem at all in the park around your showcase pavilion?
URQUHART: It’s hard to say. We do this mainly to host our events here. It’s nice to be visible. The more people, the better. But you’re right. Beijing, considering the size of that endeavor, the traffic wasn’t great.

What are you looking forward to most?
URQUHART: For it to end without any issues (laughing). I’ve never been a fan of speedskating, but the timekeeping we’re doing, to see it behind the scenes, was unbelievable. The (bobsled) obviously given our history with it is important. I love the bob. Some of the halfpipe and snowboard is fantastic. I definitely want to see one or two hockey matches. There are a lot of good sports.

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Related Topics:

Olympics, Russia

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