Warning over Heathrow Airport as Olympics' PR weak spot

Heathrow Airport is likely to be a weak spot in the comms handling around the Olympic Games, a PR expert has warned.

London 2012: Mary Whenman and Helen Yiend discuss the handling of comms around The Games
London 2012: Mary Whenman and Helen Yiend discuss the handling of comms around The Games

During a PRWeek podcast looking at the PR issues surrounding the upcoming games, the entry point for many of the UK’s visitors was highlighted by Grayling’s crisis comms specialist Mary Whenman.

Her words came amid a media feeding frenzy over continuing problems at the airport, which has seen long queues at border control during the past few weeks.Whenman, who is MD for corporate and financial at the agency, said she had seen documents showing that 80 per cent of games passengers were expected to travel through Heathrow.

Pointing to problems generated by snow at the airport in recent years, and the human interest stories generated from that, she said: ‘I think we’re going to have a lot of the same when it comes to individual people who can’t get to the Games or miss crucial events they were going to watch.’

Meanwhile, Helen Yiend, account director at M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment, praised the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) for its tight control of comms but pointed to a potential area in which it might be breached.

‘Ambush marketing is going to be something that happens at every Games. I think it’s definitely a key problem, specifically around the Olympic torch relay because it is such a publically involved event. It is going to be rolling roadblocks - it’s not like a specific Olympic venue where you can close it down and control it. I think that will definitely be a challenge.’

Both saw the allocation of tickets as an area that could have been handled better, while the current issues around the planned placement of missiles on top of buildings drew mixed reactions.

Yiend said that the focus around security was a sign that other aspects of the build-up had gone smoothly.

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