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.

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.



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 cacha├ža 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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