Archive for the ‘2012 SUMMER OLYMPICS’ Category

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OPENING CEREMONIES IN LONDON

July 28, 2012

Like the rest of the world, I look forward to the Opening Ceremonies of each of the Olympic Games. 

I look forward to how each host country captures its own essence and tells its story to the world.  Sometimes I can relate, because I have been there; sometimes, I am looking for the story of WHO they are.

And because of my chosen occupation in the Events World, I also look forward to identifying the tools used to tell that story.  I keep an eye out for new technologies and tools used to communicate the story of the hosting nation.  What can be adapted? What techniques used contribute to a memorable moment in the Ceremonies themselves?  What might be setting a new trend and adaptable in my own world…and what are the “lessons learned”?

And I admit, along with anticipation of the opening and the lighting of the cauldron, I dread the middle…so I plan what I can do as the Parade of Athletes begins.  I understand why it is included and what it means to the athletes, but as a long-distance viewer , it cannot keep my attention, no matter what.  It is as boring to me as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Rose Bowl Parade.  Over the years, I have come to believe you have to BE THERE- It can only  be appreciated as a live event.  No way is it transferable.

Last night, as I settled in, I, too, had some apprehension.  I’d heard nothing from the Press coverage, but questions of how was Britain going to top Beijing.  Over and over I heard that economically, Britain is struggling.  How could they beat the magnificence of the 2008 Opening Ceremonies?

 Beijing was awesome minute by minute but troubling, at the same time.  I loved the spectacle, but not what I perceived to be the message and story.

(I admit, I have trouble with China.  My memories reflect the one time 30 years ago that I visited.  I was moved by the antiquities, encouraged by small growing signs of modernism in the cities, but appalled by the squalor, bad sanitation, and fear that permeated the countryside.  Masses of Chinese in gray “pajamas” on bicycles jammed city streets, and country lanes where harvesting was still being done by hand.)

Without the personal experience of witnessing the new emerging China, the Olympics there for me was a façade….spend money needed to take care of the people to create a spectacle that broadcast a message I read as WATCH OUT!  The sleeping giant has awakened.  Pay tribute or we will use our might and our disregard for human life against you. (Ok, I admit, most of the world did not see it that way: I am just trying to explain my own perspective and why I felt the way I did.)

Add to that the incongruence of comparing a spectacle in a time of unsupportable opulence worldwide  that was about to crash into the worst downfall the world had seen since 1929, and a time four years later, when not only Britain, but all of Europe and the US are struggling, and one can understand where we were headed when comparing the spectacle of Beijing to the story shared by the Brits.

 So, I was encouraged to hear the producer, when asked by US press,” how ya gonna top it” say.. We cannot top it and that is a good thing as it allows us to wipe the slate clean, reset, and focus on telling OUR story.

And for me, that’s what they did.  

From my perspective, based on a love of history that included a year-long course at the U about the European Theatre of World War Two, and a love of literature, I had a good platform to understand the story of Britain as a country; and in my past corporate life, I learned to appreciate them as people…strong, understated, and with a sense of humor that always catches one unaware.  So, those were my expectations.

As I watched and listened, I was flooded with good memories…not just of a second grade class watching the Coronation of the Queen, but of a wonderful week in Bermuda at a Baxter Labs Symposium, where I made friends with Sir Hans and Lady Krebs of Great Britain.  Sir Hans Krebs “discovered” the Theory of Metabolism and was invited as a guest speaker.  They were traveling from Britain a little early, to give themselves time to adjust to the “jet lag”, so I, too, flew in to Bermuda early to greet them and get them settled in.  As we met for dinner, with tears in his eyes, the elderly Krebs shared how honored they were to be given the VERY suite that had been used as the meeting place of Roosevelt and Churchill during WWII.  They truly felt they did not deserve the honor.   Likewise, I was amazed at Lady Krebs, who at 80+ years old did not think she would risk the moped tour…but not to worry, on her own, she had researched the bus schedules, and she thought she could make each stop we were making…so keep her in the counts for lunch and tea!  In those 10 days, that awesome couple became my friends.

And certainly great times in Britain when I was at Carlson….including  a Goalmakers trip in 1980, many client trips, and certainly wonderful  experiences with the Brits that made up the CMG London Office… not only on their home turf, but around the world with Goalmakers, and in Minneapolis in 1988.

So, for me, my expectations were met; I enjoyed the many subtleties in the story; I enjoyed to a return to telling the story of the host country in hopes we as a world will learn to understand each other…and in keeping with the goals of the Olympics in the first place…hope and peace.  I so appreciated that although it did not shout opulence, a big investment was made judiciously…the location picked to stimulate some badly urban renewal,  the parade of countries became an interactive experience as every nation represented helped build the Olympic cauldron- one leaf by one leaf… the lighting of the cauldron itself continued the story as it paid tribute to the laborers, and a new generation of Brits to “carry on” – as they always have.

For me that was the message to the world. Woven into the Brit story, I definitely heard….hang in there; we will get through this economic reset, we and the world have done it before but it takes some grit and a little humor…keep your eye on innovation and the promise of the upcoming generations.  To me, it was a message we needed – good advice and actions from the elder statesman.

So I was a bit taken aback this morning to see several friends on Faceback were so disappointed.  That certainly has given me some food for thought. 

Was I wrong?  Is this ritual not about telling the story, and commitment to hope and peace, but instead is about TOPPING what came before in a like manner?  Was I wrong to think “spectacle“ for spectacle’s sake would be in poor taste? 

Was I wrong to adjust my expectations when I learned the producer was a film-maker?  I was intrigued with some of the projection techniques he experimented with, and saw several examples of rethinking how to engage the audience in creating the experience.  Was that just wishful thinking on my part? Was that just a reaction that at LEAST it was not a talking head and powerpoint…a different communication medium was used that told a story?

Could the event have benefitted from what most of our own events need…a bit more engagement pre-event to mold the expectations to the event?  I do see that as a lesson to be learned for all of us.

 I need to noodle all this a bit, but for now, I’m feeling good about London meeting my own expectations – but disappointed and sorry it did not meet those of my friends.

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