Friday, December 18, 2009

Blue Christmas


"Avatar" has been on the brain of late. Almost everyone's brain, it seems.

Close to home, at my desk in fact, it's been mostly "Avatar" as my Edelman team worked on some events to support IMAX auditoriums opening at AMC Theatres in New Jersey and Florida.
So it was an easy decision to purchase a ticket to "Avatar: An IMAX 3D Experience" for one of the first local Metro Atlanta theatres -- I took in the film at midnight this morning. Great stuff!

While watching "Avatar" unfold, numerous adjectives came to mind to describe it: Original. Creative. Spectacular. Surprising. Miraculous. Awesome. Awe-inspiring. Jaw-dropping. Stunning. Dazzling. Amazing. Breathtaking. It was fun to later read many of these words in the reviews of my favorite film critics.

First thoughts exiting the theatre: Yes for Oscars, but only for effects and soundtrack.

"Avatar" really delivers on the entertainment front -- beautiful scenery, excellent score and thought-provoking themes. Several times there were subtle (or not so subtle) references to superb films of the past. It is likely I will have to see it a few times to really absorb it all.

My lone "complaint" or negative criticism of "Avatar" is that during the mental compilation of all those adjectives, I realized that the words coming to mind to describe the film actually, consistently have more syllables that most of the dialogue.

It seems a shame to me that the writing for "Avatar" never tee'd up an Academy Award-worthy actress like Sigourney Weaver, one of the "Avatar" co-stars, to deliver a thoughtful monologue, lesson or detailed point of view. Rather than empower her with captivating words and emotions, as in Weaver's performance in "Death And The Maiden," for example, James Cameron & Co. gave Weaver's "Avatar" scientist a lot of monosyllable exclamations and pseudo-surly (and almost monosyllable) banter.

And regarding Weaver's chain smoking for dramatic effect: WTF!?! Totally unnecessary -- they might as well have had her carrying around a shot glass of bourbon. Or, hey. How about some Na'vi crack?

More than once I also sensed there was a LOT of stuff filmed for "Avatar" that got scrapped to cut it down to just more than two hours and forty minutes. In the mad rush to showcase action-action-action there was not a lot of character development. But the action does deliver. Fortunately, the dialogue (one syl la ble at a time as it was) in "Avatar" was not a distraction as was the comically-stupid script of the "Star Wars: Episode II" action scenes.

I looked, but could find no obvious nor subtle "Avatar" connection to the Olympics, except to ponder what sports contests might be played on Pandora, the planet in the film.

Of course, athletics (specifically long jump, high jump, marathon and sprints), archery, equestrian (on the horse-like and dragon-style creatures of "Avatar"), and shooting (on the human side) would be other-worldly options.
Maybe the Na'vi Olympiad will make the cut for "Avatar II -- The Sequel" (or would that be aptly titled "Avatar's Avatar" for part two?).
Avatar photo via this blog

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Don We Now Our Sports Illustrated Apparel

Awesome news via the Associated Press: Sports Illustrated's new edition (on newsstands tomorrow) features Stephen Colbert in a U.S. Speedskating uniform!

As noted in previous posts, The Colbert Report and Colbert Nation recently rescued the national governing body for speedskating, raking in more than $250,000 in donations when another title sponsor pulled out of their arrangement.

Kudos to Colbert -- that photo cover is awesome, and I can't wait to read the sports media cover story. Bravo, SI, for celebrating Colbert's contributions to Vancouver 2010 and sport.

Photo via the Associated Press

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sochi2014.ru Afterthoughts

The more I've reflected on it during recent days, the more the new Sochi2014.ru logo is growing on me.

But also, it still troubles me. Here's ... the .RUb:

While the logo is original and "a first" to incorporate the organizing committee's URL into its official mark, this logo may also prove to be "the first" that -- in the future -- will cause Olympic historians and anyone to look at the Sochi logo with a smirk of "What were they thinking?"

Why?

From my view, with the fast pace of the Internet changing and being constantly reinvented --taking only months, weeks, days or hours for something/anything online to become "outdated" -- the Sochi2014.ru mark puts a neon sign on their Games for thinking short-term marketing over long-term staying power (will the URL even function come 2016?).

In other words, I think it's logical that in 10 years (or fewer?), the Internet will have changed to the point where ".ru" or ".com" or ".gov" (or any similar nomenclature for a Web address) will be extinct, leaving future generations to gaze upon Sochi2014.ru and scratch their heads with wonder "what is the purpose of .ru? What does '.ru' mean?"

Oh, bother. It's likely the International Olympic Committee, Russian Federation and Russian Olympic Committee -- as well as the Sochi 2014 Olympic officials -- considered all of the potential T.ruth or Consequences of their decision.

America's Office Champion

A week or so ago a press release arrived from the U.S. Olympic Committee and sponsor Adecco, noting the video contest underway to determine "America's Office Champion."

After viewing the contest details, sample video and official rules, I have a couple of colleagues in mind to nominate, and if time permits, a video entry will be posted by the Dec. 22 deadline -- at first glance the entry process seems pretty simple (and topping the posted sample video should not be difficult).

"America's Office Champion" will not only head to three A-list events of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, but also the nominator may gain some spending money in the form of an Amex gift card (interesting since VISA is the official card of the Olympics), or a Flip Video device (sweet!).

If only I could nominate my girlfriend via her employer (would like to get her to Vancouver for a few days while my assignments there are underway).

Good luck to those who enter -- if you do, please post word of the entry via the comments section below so that readers here may view and vote for you.
Image via Adecco

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Odds & End of Year


The last few days, post-Thanksgiving, I spent a bit of time cleaning house and my office, preparing for the new year (early 2010 Spring cleaning, or late 2009 Spring cleaning, if you please).

Tonight I came across a couple of items clipped from New York Times features of 2009 -- so that the papers may be tossed, posting the items here for perpetuity.

The first is a photo from the Jan. 1, 2009, edition of The Times featuring a Yale University photo exhibition review by Ken Johnson. The photo (shown with post) is by Karin Rosenthal and is titled "Belly Landscape" (clever title, eh) from 1980. Any one of the Rio women in my Dec. 4 beach volleyball post might well be suited for a "30 years later" photo should Rosenthal choose to pursue a similar study in 2010.

Also tagged and saved another New York Times photo from the paper's Sept. 4 report that "Avenue Q" (one of my favorites) was closing shop after a great run (thank goodness they reopened down the street in Manhattan as I hope to get my parents and sister in to see the show in 2010). The photo was by Sara Krulwich -- great shot of the puppets on a backstage shelf awaiting their "final" curtain call (unfortunately, the image is not available online -- drat!).

The last item (at least for tonight) is a cutout saved from an auction catalog or art sale advertisement featuring a painting by Roy Lichtenstein (anyone know the title?). This one reminds me of the need to invest in some larger-necked dress shirts (seems I've outgrown a few from my closet in the days since the office where I work switched from "casual Fridays" to casual everyday).
Photo by Karin Rosenthal via The New York Times; Roy Lichtenstein image via this site.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Life's A Beach

OK, I was a little harsh poking fun at Rio this week, so here's a friendly follow-up to kiss and make up.

Today Reuters posted a cool video of a Brasilian family who plays beach volleyball in Rio de Janiero, and they had some good messages to the world regarding sportsmanship and preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Good stuff. I sure hope they are still playing when we get back to Brazil (my girlfriend and I visited the beach in this video in 2006 and it is fabulous!).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Deck The Halls

Today's Olympic "awwwww" moment popped up as a TV station in Charlottesville, Va., reported that a local elementary school is decorating a Christmas tree Vancouver 2010 Olympic ornaments and decor.

There's been a surge of Olympic-related Christmas gear appearing on online auction sites of late as well (like the Eric Heiden decoration shown with this post).
And of course the retail outlets in British Columbia stocked the shelves with some curious 2010 Christmas schwag (technically not schwag since none appears to be free).
I'm wondering when there might be a "Twelve Days of Christmas" Olympic gift pack ready for market (seems like an easy licensing option for sponsors of the U.S. Olympic Committee).

'Tis the season! Here's hoping each day now to Dec. 25 includes at least one reference to "five ... golden ... rings ..."
Photo via this eBay seller (disclosure: eBay is a client of Edelman, the P.R. firm where I work)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rio vs. Robin Williams

The most ridiculous "news" item today -- other than CNN airing their own admission that they shamelessly just played (for the umpteenth time) the unverified-by-CNN Tiger Woods voicemails -- came in the form of an Associated Press brief stating that the Rio 2016 Olympic organizers are looking for legal options given Robin Williams' Olympic bid-related comments on "The Late Show with David Letterman" recently (see the full episode with Williams):

"Some citizens and officials in the Brazilian city are upset with comments the comedian made on a recent appearance on ... Letterman, saying Rio received the 2016 Olympics because it sent '50 strippers and a pound of blow' to compete with Chicago’s entourage that included Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey ... Rio’s Olympic Committee said its lawyers will analyze whether legal action against Williams is possible."

I hope the lawyers in Rio aren't seriously wasting time on this "issue" as there are certainly more important items to tend to in the 2016 Olympic city preparations.

C'mon, everyone knows by now it was more than 100 strippers ... and a kilo of blow, and Pelé was place-kicking ludes into the mouths of IOC members! (Just kidding, IOC, Pelé and Rio 2016 -- I look forward to again visiting Brazil many times now to 2016).

It was good to see Robin Williams in the news, though -- glad he is healthy again. Just thinking of him crying over this Olympic legal issue brings back thoughts on the disturbing scene in "One Hour Photo" when Williams' character had a nightmare (yikes!).
As my septuagenarian middle school algebra teacher used to exclaim, "Oh, for crying out tears in the sink!" (I think she would say the same of Rio "legal issue" for Williams, no algebra required.)
Photo of Robin Williams via this site; Rio 2016 logo via this site.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sochi, .RU Kidding Me?

Late yesterday I heard that the Sochi 2014 Olympic office planned to unveil their new official logo today, delayed by recent news events in Russia.

A few minutes ago I found the new Olympic logo news online, and my brain is still processing Sochi2014.ru (that's it!).

Knee-jerk initial reaction: Not crazy about this logo design, which for the first time is simply a custom font with the URL for the organizing committee. Unlike the clever "intercrossed C's" for Calgary 1988, the Northern Lights-inspired look for Lillehammer's 1994 logo, or the detailed skyline/snowflake for Salt Lake 2002, the Sochi 2014 Olympic logo does not really stir the soul.

According to the Associated Press ...

" ... The word 'sochi.ru' appears above the number '2014' in an apparent reflection, symbolizing the southern city's water-based location on the Black Sea ... Interbrand produced the logo, which was subsequently approved in a series of national and international surveys, [officials] said. [Officials] said the new logo would help break Western stereotypes of a Russia stuck in the past, instead promoting the country as a dynamic and modern nation capable of reaching out to new audiences in a digital age."

Borrowing a phrase from an English:Russian translation site: Ya ne paneemau.

It may take some time, and reading a few hundred pages of "Dr. Zhivago," to help me respond "da" to the new Sochi 2014 logo, but I'm sure in time my five-ringed brain will come to terms with the [dot] .ru - infused logo, and eventually the Sochi 2014 typeface will get added to favorite fonts.

I do like the video for the new logo, and encourage folks to view it in Russian or English. The views of the Black Sea and snow-capped Russian mountains are inspiring.

In honor of the new logo, I'll send a Moscow 1980 Olympic pin to the first international reader of this blog who posts a comment with their views on this new Sochi 2014 logo. Thanks/спасибо for reading!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Skating Through Vegas

When last I posted, my team from Edelman was on site at Las Vegas working with our client the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009.

Whew! Time flies!

That week was a blur of early morning live TV reports, long walks on miles of aisles of exhibits and evenings with IAAPA members or communications peers (and, I must admit, a trip or two to some roulette tables during brief down time throughout the week).

Though there was no energy to post to the blog that week, and Thanksgiving week is traditionally an "IAAPA recovery" week (this year my "recovery" included a 2,000-mile round-trip holiday drive to Oklahoma for family time), tonight I must post some IAAPA highlights to keep things timely. Thanks to all for patience during the break since the most recent post.

About Las Vegas: Still trying to decide my mixed bag of love, fear and loathing from the experience.

There's plenty to love -- the Strip impressed me, as did the Bellagio fountains, the Venetian, the airport, most of the hospitality/taxi drivers and "locals," the Las Vegas Convention Center and the grand scale of so many other places (the massive hotels reminded me of Beijing's skyline and grandeur).

I'm still speechless about the Cirque du Soleil show "O" which we witnessed from the third row -- breathtaking. (Disclosure: Cirque du Soleil is a client of Edelman, the P.R. firm where I work.)

Will also remember fondly the night flight into the city and the departure flight takeoff over The Strip, Lake Mead and the Grand Canyon as I collapsed with sheer exhaustion from the Vegas experience.

A review of some favorite Vegas films is in order, with "Casino" and scenes from "Rain Man" coming out of the archive for viewing later this week. I was happy to view "The Hangover" last week, and seeing it post-Vegas gave some new perspective.

So, in Las Vegas with IAAPA, I was determined to find "IAAPA's Olympic connection" for the blog. By day three of the Expo, things were not looking too good -- not even a plush toy with some vague reference to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic mascots.

But then one of my colleagues pointed out that the exhibiting company Xtraice was in da house.

"What is Xtraice?" I wondered.

Turns out, it is a waterless surface on which anyone may "ice" skate -- on figure skates, speed skates or any other skating blade -- on what is billed as "ecological ice" on a synthetic, near-ice-slick surface.

I was impressed to learn that Xtraice is now used for sports training by some of the official governing bodies for skating sports worldwide, and the Xtraice surface may also be useful for tropical nations like Aruba or Guam to train for winter Olympic sports on ice.

The IAAPA:Olympic connection was further affirmed when I learned that two-time Olympic figure skater/two-time World silver medalist Surya Bonaly was on site at IAAPA Attractions Expo skating in the Xtraice booth!

Olympic figure skater Surya Bonaly was one of the friendliest Olympians encountered to date. In addition to being a great sport (showing up for a very early morning live TV segment), she took time to speak with IAAPA attendees (including bloggers) throughout the week. Turns out she is now a Las Vegas resident, as she became a U.S. citizen a few years ago. It was cool to learn more about her Olympic Oath experience in Albertville (representing all athletes in the Games in Bonaly's home nation, France), and her Olympic Village visits in Lillehammer (see video).

One of my teammates later informed me of a Vegas adult establishment with an Olympic theme, but I will have to save research of that establishment (if it still exists) when we return to Las Vegas for IAAPA Attractions Expo 2011.

video

Monday, November 16, 2009

Vegas, Baby!

It happens once a year ... at least for the last 11 years of my P.R. career, that is.

Edelman (the agency where I work) partners with our client the International Association of Amusement Parks of Attractions, and my team embarks for a one-week gig in the press office at IAAPA Attractions Expo.

For the first time in the association's 90+ years, IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 is in Las Vegas, and tonight (Monday night, Nov. 16) is sort of like Christmas Eve as more than 1,065 exhibitors are working through the night to finalize their booths that span 500,000 square feet of the Las Vegas Convention Center's cavernous South Hall.

Good times!

As we are in the business of getting media to visit this global gathering for the $24 billion international industry event geared to operators and vendors of theme parks, amusement parks, water parks, zoos, aquariums, casinos, family entertainment centers and museums, the last couple of days involved reaching out to press outlets in the region -- some local news reports are already popping up, and we'll look forward to engaging more throughout the week.

The real fun, too, comes from discovering what's cool and new for the next year in the attractions industry. One exhibitor of the past -- Dinner In The Sky -- still tops the list of "most extreme" followed closely by the HUSS "Fly Away" ride that visited Atlanta the first year we worked with IAAPA.

I'll try to post more from the IAAPA Attractions Expo later in the week. And, of course, I'll be on the hunt for some Olympic connections to the theme park industry while on site (does anyone out there recall the IZZY-themed roller coasters as part of Busch Gardens' sponsorship of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games?).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

New Avatar Stills


It's only been a month since Sigourney Weaver visited Atlanta, and thanks to the magic of YouTube, several hundred folks got to see and hear the "Avatar" star chat about the new film by James Cameron (a few folks also watched it on this blog -- thank you).

Tonight I found some new still photos from "Avatar" are now online, including one of Ms. Weaver in her role as a scientist, so who could resist the option to re-post on this click-driving topic? Enjoy!

Photo via Yahoo! Movies

Stamp Of Approval








When it comes to investing in Olympic memorabilia, most of my dollars wind up going to fellow eBay customers selling five-ringed schwag from recent Games. (Disclosure: eBay is a client of Edelman, the P.R. firm where I work.)

So it was cool to find in my mailbox a copy of the David Feldman Olympic Auction Catalog from Feldman Galleries, Geneva, for the upcoming sale "Olympic Games -- The Loaring Collection-Part 1." The 165-page glossy auction book, for the sale on Nov. 24, is filled with gorgeous Olympic antiques and memorabilia spanning 1896 to 2004.
Sort of reminds me of that Sotheby's Auction in the James Bond film "Octopussy" -- the scene where Roger Moore switches a fake for a real Imperial Easter Egg by Carl Fabergé.

This is not the first major Olympic auction for which I've considered a few bids. But this one may be the most risky for clearing out my wallet and bank account. But check out the items!
  • 14 lots featuring museum-ready artist proof versions of the rare Athens 1896 postage stamps issued by the Greek postal service (combined estimated value: €101,000 to €197,000) (!!!)
  • Gold medal winner's trophy from the 1920 Antwerp Games, featuring a nude figure (in gold) holding a victory wreath aloft atop a marble base (est. value: €6,000)

  • A "Ticket Master" official pass booklet of ticket specimens for the Games of the Xth Olympiad at Los Angeles (est. value: €3,000)

  • Olympic torches from Berlin 1936, London 1948, Rome 1960, Mexico City 1968, Munich 1972, Moscow 1980, Sarajevo 1984, Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988 and Atlanta 1996 (est. value: Each €1,200 to €4,000)

There are a handful of items closer to my budget: A non-Nazi poster for the Berlin 1936 Games, pins from the London 1948 Olympics, participation medals (awarded to all athletes) for Mexico City 1968, and a few badges for various Olympic Congress events hosted by the IOC.

It's not too late to view the auction catalog or bid (advance or live bidding) via http://www.davidfeldman.com/ -- just don't bid on my want-list posters, pins, etc.! See you on Nov. 24, and on eBay.

Photos via the David Feldman Nov. 24 Auction Catalog

Friday, November 6, 2009

Colbert Puts Canada On Notice

Apparently on last night's edition of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert invited U.S. Speedskater Joey Cheek to help put "Canadian Iceholes" (a.k.a. "syrup suckers!") ON NOTICE in an on-air retaliation for limited access to training options at the Richmond Olympic Oval in Greater Vancouver.

Though I missed the telecast, the online clip tells the tale and is punctuated by one rendition of the Canadian "national anthem" that brought down the house. Fun to see Colbert donning Cheek's gold medal from Torino.

Photo via this blog.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Better Know An N.O.C. -- Iceland

With all this week's chatter about the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, I thought for "B.K.A.N.O.C." installment No. 3 it might be best to peek at an undoubtedly winter sport nation.

You can imagine my surprise to find that the Atlantic nation of Iceland (ICE) earned numerous Olympic medals across the history of the Modern Games, but not one medal was in a Winter sport!

According to the IOC directory of national Olympic committees, Iceland did well earning medals in Beijing, LA84, Melbourne '56 and Sydney 2000. Several summer Iceland Olympic memories come to mind.

First, in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Village at Georgia Tech, my colleagues and I ("Village People") often commented that the athletes of Iceland House (situated in what is now a sorority house near Bobby Dodd Stadium) were unanimously the most gorgeous people in the Olympics. I ran into one of the Atlanta Olympic athletes from Iceland in 2004, on the metro rail to Beach Volleyball, and she was just as beautiful at the latter Games as in '96.

Also, during the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Games, several of the athletes participated in an early version of chat rooms, and one athlete who wrote back to me was a skier from Iceland who had one of those dreamy, umlaut-infused names like the Icelandic woman in the outstanding Robert Altman film "The Player." She, too, was a bombshell beauty. We finally met in person at Iceland House in downtown Salt Lake in 2002 (I was biting my wrist like the Lenny & Squiggy on "Laverne & Shirley" credits).

No Iceland post would be complete without mentioning Bjork's performance at the 2004 Athens Olympic Opening Ceremonies.

There is not yet much info on the team that Iceland will field for Vancouver, but no doubt they will make an impression in the new Olympic City next year. Get to know an NOC: Iceland. And look out for your opportunity to meet Sumicelandicgudmansdottir.
Photo via the Iceland National Olympic Committee site and via this Bjork fan site.

100 Days Out Brings Olympic P.R. Trifecta In

The 100 Days to Vancouver milestone marked a flurry of activity online and in the news. It was refreshing to see the Olympic headlines gaining prominence again in anticipation of the big B.C. party coming soon.

There was a party in my inbox as a handful of public relations agencies/contacts sent over their Olympic wares tied to 100 Days as well.

The first arrival was some detail from Polo Ralph Lauren regarding the newly unveiled Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony uniforms to be donned by Team USA in February. There's a complete line of Olympic gear from this official outfitter. According to their news:

"The Closing Ceremony Parade Uniform for both men and women are vintage-inspired and modern in design with a functional cotton fleece pant, a patriotic navy and red wool shawl cardigan, and a newsboy hat adorned with the “Look of the Team” logo adding a distinct feel of American spirit. Underneath the shawl cardigan, the women’s uniform will feature a classic navy ribbed turtleneck while the men’s uniform includes a traditional plaid shirt made of woven flannel. The men’s uniform also boasts a sophisticated tie featuring unique patriotic elements."

Looks good to me. Their nods to the 1932 Winter Games wear at Lake Placid is classy.

Perusing the Polo photos and models/Olympians, both on the Polo media site and on another Olympic blog (this one showing some merchandise that was part of the Rockefeller Center festivities for 100 Days), I must admit the gargantuan horse and rider RL logo was a bit much for my taste (as a Polo customer and fan since fifth grade -- my closet has many casual and semi-formal Ralph Lauren items -- I often wish their high quality and stylish products to be available sans logo).

But the 2010 logos will certainly show up on NBC Olympic broadcasts from Vancouver (remember the whole controversy of Michael Jordan wearing having to cover up his sponsor logos on the medal stand in Barcelona? Will that apply again in 2010?).

Sidebar: One of my uncles works in a movie set and design operation in Texas, and at one point in the late 1980/early 1990s he visited one or more of Mr. Lifschitz's (Ralph's) homes to complete some design work. Will have to check the facts on this family lore before revisiting the Ralph connection again in the future.

Next to arrive in the inbox was a nice note from the P.R. team for McDonald's, reminding me of their 2010 Vancouver Olympic contest for kids (just wrapped up entry phase) and the company's extended timeline of Olympic involvement. Per the press site:
"McDonald's Olympic Pride continues to shine throughout the host country of Canada and throughout the world. McDonald's is preparing for its eighth Games as the Official Restaurant and feeding the athletes. Plans are in place to share the excitement of the Games with millions of customers across the globe as a Worldwide Partner of the Olympic Movement."
As noted in previous posts, my personal Olympic journey is intertwined with the Golden Arches all the way back to "When The U.S. Wins, You Win" in grade school and the Atlanta Olympic Village (1996) locations of McDonald's across Georgia Tech.

Suggestion for future Games: I'd be "Lovin' It" if McDonald's Vancouver 2010, London 2012, Sochi 2014 or Rio 2016 Happy Meals would include PINS rather than plastic toys.

Another in-box P.R. arrival was from one of my colleagues at Edelman, the firm where I work. Our client 24 Hour Fitness announced Wednesday the names of the athletes on deck for their Vancouver programs. According to the press release:

"[24 Hour Fitness'] partnership [includes] six U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls for the 2010 Games: Snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, pairs skater Rockne Brubaker, short track speedskater J.R. Celski, Paralympic skier Chris Devlin-Young, speedskater Tucker Fredricks and skier Julia Mancuso. The athletes joined Team 24 Hour Fitness as they strive toward making the 2010 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team and medaling this winter at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

It will be fun to witness how these and other athletes progress, work out, Tweet and shine before and during the Games of Vancouver.

As I wrap up this press release-infused post, it is worth noting that on the 100 Days milestone I also stumbled upon some P.R. gone bad. Apparently an embargoed** press release related to the torch relay struck a nerve with a reporter in Seattle. Call it Schadenfreude, but some of the comments are hilarious.

**offered/delivered to reporters in advance of publication date as a courtesy to aid with timely news delivery
Images via McDonald's, 24 Hour Fitness and Polo Ralph Lauren (Polo image is via Yahoo! News/Associated Press)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

T-Minus 100


Today marks just 100 days until the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Excitement is building ... just watched Team USA interviews and winter sport stunts in Rockefeller Center on NBC's TODAY Show.

I have yet to really start hunting for Vancouver tickets -- opening and closing ceremony are top priority, with snowboarding on the wish list, too (anyone out there already got their tickets?). I suppose after The Colbert Report announced sponsorship of U.S. Speedskating, tickets for the Oval will be on the hot ticket list, too.

Hope to see you in British Columbia in just 100 days!

Photo via Vancouver 2010.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Better Know An NOC: The Colbert Nation!


Last month, on this blog, I added a feature inspired by Comedy Central and The Colbert Report's smart and funny "Better Know A District" segments.

To date, this blog's "Better Know An N.O.C." (national Olympic committee; B.K.A.N.O.C.) visited Aruba and Zimbabwe's national sports teams.

On tonight's edition of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert answered the call of U.S. Speedskating's plea for a new sponsor (their main funding source declared bankruptcy and pulled the sponsorship) and The Colbert Nation (!!!) is now the official sponsor of U.S. Speedskating!

The Associated Press' entertainment reporter Jake Coyle appears to have scooped other outlets (save Colbert) with this news.

Like U.S. Speedskating's deep heritage and excellence in the sports world, Stephen Colbert consistently impresses me greatly on many levels, and his award-winning work is outstanding and hilarious. Seeing how Colbert interacted with Olympic speedskating legend Dan Jansen was great fun, and an even better surprise came with the on-the-air sponsorship paperwork signed with U.S. Speedskating's leadership in the studio.

So, as you watch Olympic speedskating heat up the ice now through Vancouver 2010, you better know the newest NOC on the planet: The Colbert Nation (let's make it official via the International Olympic Committee with TCN named as The Colbert Nation's competition acronym?).

On tonight's show we got a peek at U.S. Speedskating's new "Colbert-infused" uniforms -- I can hardly wait to learn The Colbert Nation's national anthem to be played just after "The Star Spangled Banner" when the U.S. wins gold.

Anyone can lend their support to the team by answering U.S. Speedskating's "win a trip to Vancouver" contest now in progress. The Colbert Nation's logo is now part of the contest page on U.S. Speedskating's website, and is sure to be added to the site's main sponsor page soon. Somebody get Stephen Colbert to Milwaukee/West Allis, Wis., on the ice at The Pettit National Ice Center!

Bravo, Stephen! Bravo -- That's The WØRD.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What Will You Do In The Next 1,000 Days?

As of Oct. 31, 2009, it's just 1,000 days until the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

To commemorate this milestone, the Olympic organizing committee posted a cool video featuring dozens of staff members sharing what work they will complete during the next 24,000 hours and 142 Mondays before the London opening ceremony.

A few video highlights include how staff will:


Sell more than 9 million tickets; recruit more than 70,000 volunteers, generate more than 500 million views on the 2012 Olympic website, process more than 400,000 invoices, plant nearly 1.2 million trees, shrubs and plants, pass the flame among 8,000 Torchbearers.


What will I do during the next 1,000 days? Blog about the Games, of course!


And that's no hot air (as was the London 2012 balloon launched to showcase 1,000 days, as shown in photo).


Photo via Matt Dunham of the Associated Press

Friday, October 30, 2009

Get On The Bus



Live, from Victoria, B.C., it's ... the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay!

With thanks to my colleague Shari Burnett, the photo with this post is from behind the scenes at this morning's arrival of the Olympic Flame from Greece to the Province of British Columbia.

Looks like the torchbearer process is similar in 2010 to that of 1996 (and Olympic torch relays since). The runners in the photo are lined up in uniform before boarding their shuttle to be dropped at their designated spots for running duty.

Go, Victoria! Go, Canada!

Photo courtesy Shari Burnett of Edelman Vancouver

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Avatar, Sigourney, Gorillas -- AWESOME!








At lunch last week my friend Heather shared a hot news tip: One of my all-time favorite actresses, Sigourney Weaver, would be in town over the weekend for a Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International press conference.

HELLO! I was so there!

Weaver is the honorary chair of the Gorilla Fund, and she returned to Atlanta to preview the organization's October 24 fundraiser and rare big screen showing of "Gorillas In The Mist" in Atlanta.

This would be my second introduction to Ms. Weaver via the Gorilla Fund, but the first for which I could prepare questions, bring a Flip Camera and consider blog posting follow-up options.

I knew from a 2007 Gorilla Fund event that Ms. Weaver knows her stuff on gorilla conservation.

A Yale grad like my best friend, the former "Ripley" of Aliens and "Dana" of Ghostbusters and "Katharine Parker" of Working Girl (not to mention her crush-inducing co-star role in The Year of Living Dangerously and scary avenger role in Death & The Maiden or creepy suburban '70s wife role in The Ice Storm and cheery First Lady role in Dave) star is poised and thoughtful in her conversations with nonprofit leaders, media and fans alike. I'm so glad not be be inflicted with the condition of her character in Copycat.

The press event, and Ms. Weaver, did not disappoint -- she took several minutes to answer my questions about the upcoming James Cameron epic film Avatar.

My first Weaver Q&A query was a two parter: "How are you going to leverage the worldwide publicity opportunity of Avatar to share the message and mission of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, and what specific entertainment peers have you engaged one on one regarding the Gorilla Fund (and their responses)?"

The video with this post (also available at www.YouTube.com/nickwolaver) provides Sigourney's Avatar answers, background on her work with the Gorilla Fund since "Gorillas In The Mist" as well as her answer to my follow up question (insert Chris Farley/SNL humble tone voice) "What is your favorite Olympic-related memory and why?"

For the Olympic ask, I was relieved that Ms. Weaver did not tell me to "Get off my MOUNTAIN!" (Mount Olympus, that is). When we got of the elevator at the Woodruff Arts Center, as the doors opened and a breeze and fellow-fan (an excited woman) entered, it took all of my tongue-biting strength to keep from uttering my favorite Aliens line, "Get away from her, you bitch!"

BONUS: Ambassador Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta and civil rights legend, joined Sigourney Weaver on the dais at the event. I was not able to speak with him, but will post more about Young's Olympic, and Gorilla Fund, endeavors in the future.

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the Avatar interview with Sigourney Weaver, talking about how the film portrays human impact on a planetary scale, and the extent to which James Cameron's themes in Avatar complement the mission of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International organization.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Better Know An N.O.C. -- Zimbabwe



As noted last week, some Olympic wit is inspired by Stephen Colbert's outstanding "Better Know A District" series.

So with the One Happy Island of Aruba and its national Olympic committee (NOC) as the premiere NOC featured, I kicked of this blog's "Better Know An N.O.C."

Today's B.K.A.N.O.C." (from the other end of the English alphabet spectrum): Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is situated in the southern part of Africa, and via the International Olympic Committee's recently upgraded website, I just learned that Zimbabwe has numerous gold, silver and bronze medal winners spanning three Olympiads.

At the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Zimbabwe fielded a team of women's hockey players who took home the gold (who knew?! -- apparently the IOC, and some tough women in Zimbabwe!).

More recently, in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2004 Athens Olympics, Zimbabwe's "national treasure" Kirsty Coventry swam for no fewer than 11 (!!!) medals, including four gold, six silver and one bronze medal in the pool. This lady could be a perfect date for Michael Phelps!

OK, I admit now to being under a rock -- seriously, until tonight I had no clue about Ms. Coventry's feats, which are World Class.

Now one must also wonder, were the members of the 1980 gold medal field hockey team the previous "national treasure(s)" until Ms. Coventry dove into Olympic competition?

Zimbabwe did not yet enter any winter Olympiads, but their summer Games attendance is consistent since 1980. The NOC office is in the capital city Harare.
Interesting to note that resemblance of Zimbabwe's iconic balancing rocks to the VANOC logo for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games (the Inukshuk).
Photos via Kirsty Coventry's Facebook profile and via Samwise Gamgee via Wikipedia. Additional sources include NBCOlympics.com (a past client of Edelman, the P.R. firm where I work), as well as Olympics.org and Wikipedia.

U2 Unforgettable Fire Afterthoughts


As mentioned on previous post, there was just something about hearing Bono sing -- with Larry, Adam and The Edge playing -- "The Unforgettable Fire" live at last night's U2 360 Tour performance at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

I also lamented about leaving my Flip Camera at home just when it was needed the most.

Fortunately, this evening my online searches led me to a YouTube video from the U2 360 concert in Barcelona.

Had my Flip been on me yesterday evening, this is what the Georgia Dome U2 video would resemble (the presumably Spanish camera operator was standing in about the same stage left section as my location in Atlanta ... but I was even closer).

Enjoy!

Photos via http://www.u2.com/

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Adam Clayton and U2 at Georgia Dome





If I could play a guitar, it would be a bass, and if I was a famous bass player, I'd want to be just like U2's Adam Clayton. This guy is the baddest bad-ass bass player on earth!

Tonight at the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta, upwards of 75,000 gathered around the U2 360 stage for a night of aural delights. Thanks to a street ticket broker and Luck'O'The Irish, my "seat" turned out to be a standing room spot on the inner circle of the tour's distinctive in-the-round staging.

Multiple times during the outstanding show, Mr. Clayton, The Edge, Larry Mullen and, of course, Bono, passed overhead on a small bridge to the "Red Zone" standing area.

A-MAZE-ING!

This was not my first U2 experience (some may recall my tales of Philips Arena autograph sessions with U2 during March of 2001, as noted on the blog earlier this year) -- thankfully, it won't be the last as my sister and I have tickets for the U2 360 Tour stop at the University of Oklahoma campus stadium (site of the U.S. Olympic Festival '89 Opening Ceremony) later this month.

But tonight's show may be the closest in-concert (as opposed to previous backstage) access to experience U2's spiritual, Brian Eno-infused and glorious music, and tonight's performance will certainly be one to share with grandchildren.

Man, of all the nights to leave my Flip Camera at home (dang!). (Or as they say in Ireland, Shite!)

Mr. Clayton is so calm on stage -- he makes all those deep down notes blow through the band's hits with gusto. From about 15 feet away, he seemed to barely touch the guitar strings while smirking with joy through "Walk On," "One" and "Ultraviolet."
I'd like to think he was smiling back at me when I gave the thumbs up as he perused our section of the crowd (though something tells me his eyes stopped on the "Line On The Horizon" of three cheering Georgia Tech co-eds standing in front of me).

There is something about "The Unforgettable Fire" performed live that just got to me. Though it is not an Olympic tune, allusion to the Olympic Torch Relay is not a stretch. Also got choked up a bit as all of the post-Chicago 2016 bummer thoughts of late caught up with me as Bono and The Edge sang "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

I was really impressed with U2's infusion of video featuring Archbishop Desmond Tutu and references to political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, whose name ever previously crossed my way (but will be part of upcoming study).

Bono reached down from the bridge to pick up a lucky female fan, and it reminded me of a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution photographer getting kissed in the U2 concert photo pit not once but TWICE during her photojournalism career (this lovely photographer showed up in USA Today with that double-smooch story at one point -- she gave me a nice 11x17 glossy print from the 2001 U2 performance at Philips Arena, then a client).
About the only thing that would have improved the experience would have been a surprise appearance by Enya's sister, Clannad singer Moya Brennan, to sing the duet "In A Lifetime" with Mr. Hewson.

I have to wonder (er, hope, er wish and pray) that U2 may somehow turn up in an official Olympic capacity in conjunction with the London 2012 Olympic Games (hello -- how about playing the Opening Ceremony with Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Oasis and Paul McCartney/Ringo Starr!? Anyone at London 2012 taking notes?).

U2's upcoming European leg of 360 includes several Olympic stadiums (specifically, Helsinki, Athens and Munich). If you are near any of these destination venues, taking the 360 Tour is worth the spin!

Photo of Adam Clayton via Flickr
Photo of U2 360 Tour lighting board via Wikipedia and Melicans Matkin
Logo for U2 360 Tour via www.u2.com/tour/index/

Monday, October 5, 2009

Jesse Jackson, Can I Get An Amen?

The first time I met Jesse Jackson, it was 1997, during a press event hosted by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) at the downtown Atlanta Hyatt hotel.

On that evening, Publix Super Markets (a client of the agency then known as Matlock & Associates, the P.R. firm where I worked as an entry level account coordinator at the time) was to present a key SCLC figure -- Joseph Lowery -- with an award, and Jackson was in attendance for the photo opportunity and press briefing before the gala presentation.

Though I've seen Jackson in person a time or two since that event 12 years ago, it was the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid festivities at Daley Plaza last week that afforded time to speak 1x1 with Jackson, albeit briefly.

As shown in the video, Jackson was on site at the Plaza as thousands of Chicago Olympic enthusiasts -- no tears from Jackson this time (remember the night Obama was elected?), but he did take time to offer perspective to attending media regarding Chicago's fourth place finish in the bid process.

Someday my grand kids will hear about the time I made Jesse Jackson smile -- he did so when answering my question about his favorite personal Olympic memory, which Jackson recalled involved "The Tokyo Tornado" 1964 Olympic gold medalist Bob Hayes.



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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Four Score, And Seven Years From Now


In the minutes before the International Olympic Committee first-round voting for the 2016 Olympic city on Friday, in an live, on-screen action that seemed a cross between a game show stunt and a nightly Georgia Lottery drawing, Chicago was labeled "four" on the electronic election devices used at the IOC Session in Copenhagen.

This "four" selection -- with Rio de Janiero, Madrid and Tokyo drawing six, seven and eight -- told the voting IOC members what button to push on their voting machine, and half-way around the globe, the notation of "four" inspired several dozen folks (among thousands) at Chicago's Daley Plaza to hold aloft four fingers, with spontaneous chants of "we're No. 4" in jest, as the voting started.

It's widely reported, and completely safe to say, no one anticipated Chicago's elimination from the bid process moments later, with the first round knockout by just a few votes. Actually, (perhaps ironically?) by only four votes.

Standing in the Plaza that morning, at the moment IOC President Jacques Rogge announced Chicago was out, it was deafening silence across the throngs of witnesses on site. I will not soon forget how, in those few seconds of silence, news helicopter rotors chopped the autumn sky louder and louder before WMAQ-TV Chicago NBC 5 cut to Phil Rogers, who was also standing with large eyes, jaw dropped and breath briefly taken away.

Stunned.


Shite!

And as Kevin Kline's Oscar winning character in "A Fish Called Wanda" would say, "DISAPPOINTED!"

But also, no regrets -- I would gladly repeat and re-invest volunteer time (about 100 hours during the past year), resources and financial contributions to the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid if asked to do it all again (part of me started hoping they will try, but Chicago Mayor Richard Daley dashed those 2020 Olympic bid wishes with his apt statements upon return to O'Hare from Copenhagen).

And I am honestly pleased that Rio de Janiero will host the Games of the XXXIst Olympiad in just seven years. Obrigado, IOC!

As I understand it, according to an IOC press release and published reports, the first round voting for the 2016 Olympic host city was ...

ROUND 1
MADRID - 28
RIO DE JANEIRO - 26
TOKYO - 22
CHICAGO - 18

ROUND 2
RIO DE JANEIRO - 46
MADRID - 29
TOKYO - 20

ROUND 3
RIO DE JANEIRO - 66
MADRID - 32

One of my Olympic circle friends theorizes that McDonald's, a Chicago-hometown corporation, did not have as visible a presence with the 2016 Chicago Olympic bid process as did Coca-Cola, a fellow worldwide TOP sponsor of the IOC, did for the 1996 Olympic bid presented and won by Atlanta. I've reflected on the suggested "Ronald McDonald" factor in the 2016 bid, and though I concur McDonald's was not as visible with the '16 bid, this may be by design (the 1996 Olympic bid, after all, took some flak -- especially from runner up Athens, Greece -- as "Coke bought the IOC" in the wake of the Centennial Games selection process).

I believe the first round was split just about the way many Olympic bid pontificators indicated (a very close four-way race). I just didn't think that four votes would spread among Chicago's competition as they did. Some thoughts on where those votes went instead of The Windy City:
  • The questions the IOC members asked of the Chicago bid presenters (in the very early hours CST on Friday morning, aired live from Copenhagen on Chicago's WGN-TV and other network affiliates) hint that the geographic spread (a proposed venue for Chicago 2016 as far away as Madison, Wis.) was a potential item of concern for at least one voting member. (one vote)

  • There's some decades-long allegiance to IOC President for Life Juan Antonio Samaranch, IOC delegate to Spain, whose son is now on the IOC scene with a Madrid 2016 connection. (one vote)

  • As Chicago 2016 leader Pat Ryan stated on his NBC5 interview with Phil Rogers after the loss, in the Western Hemisphere, most IOC votes south of Mexico went to Brazil. (two or more votes)

Of Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo, the phrase "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained" rings true on so many levels. In the case of Tokyo, a former host city, and Madrid, in a nation that hosted the 1992 Olympic Games at Barcelona, a new or renewed appreciation for the past hosting duties may be on the minds of Spanish and Japanese Olympic observers.

I love Chicago and remain thankful that the Chicago 2016 bid effort led me to learn more about the city in-depth (in the last six years, travel took me there an average of three times annually, and some bid volunteer gigs provided even more reason to learn the city of late, including the lessons of the IOC Evaluation Commission in April).

Flying into Chicago on Thursday morning, our flight path took us right over all of downtown Chicago's gorgeous lakefront real estate at sunrise. I will always wish the IOC could have seen the city that morning -- Chicago can be a great future destination for the Olympic Movement.

For certain, in time, more reflections on "what could have been" are likely to come to mind. In the meantime, I'll be sampling some additional brands of cachaça and practicing Portuguese in spare time.
Veja-o em rio em sete anos.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gut Wrenching Anxiety

Upon arrival in Chicago this morning, it was a sight to see O'Hare airport dressed to the nines in Chicago 2016 Olympic bid signage. On the plane, in the concourse, on the CTA train and all over downtown, everyone is talking about THE BID.

It's been awesome to run into fellow Chicago 2016 volunteers and Edelman colleagues/friends on streets. Strangers have come up to ask about 2016 and the logo embroidered on my shirt, some to ask where the Olympic bid gear is available, others to chime in with their two cents, pontificating on the outcome of the IOC vote in less than 24 hours.

In just a few hours on the ground, have now met at least one former resident from each of the cities competing with Chicago; the Japanese CTA employee, the Madrid home-towner who works at a translation office, a Brazilian-born colleague who is eight months pregnant. No matter one's favorite in the vote, everyone has something to say.

Over at Daley Plaza, where tens of thousands are expected to view the decision tomorrow morning, more than a dozen media/satellite trucks are already set up, with more jockeying for nearby street parking. City officials and Chicago 2016 volunteers are working around the public farmer's market making final set-up decisions, and the Picasso statue is donning a giant 2016 logo "medal" and laurel wreath. This is awesome!

It almost feels like the Olympics are already on here. Nervous knots in many stomachs, to be sure. No matter what happens, tomorrow will be quite memorable.

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