Final days helped Sochi's Olympic bid seal win

SOCHI, RUSSIA: Weber Shandwick said more than 30 of its staff worked full-time and more than 120 staff in 29 countries in all aided Sochi, Russia's winning bid to host the 2014 Olympic and Paralympics Games.

SOCHI, RUSSIA: Weber Shandwick said more than 30 of its staff worked full-time and more than 120 staff in 29 countries in all aided Sochi, Russia's winning bid to host the 2014 Olympic and Paralympics Games.

WS Chairman Jack Leslie said the entire bid process, which for his firm began in January 2006, involved a wide range of activities, from helping the Sochi 2014 bid committee host a visit by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission to holding a publicity event in London prior to the start of Wimbledon that featured tennis star Maria Sharapova.

The Sochi bid in total cost $27.5 million, with about 90% coming from the Russian government.

Along with the IOC itself, audiences that WS outreach focused on included all of the national Olympic committees, which nominate and influence individual IOC members; sportswriters who follow the Olympics full-time, including those with trade publications such as Around the Rings; and the Olympic athletes themselves.

What sealed the winning bid by Sochi, however, were the final days of the selection process in Guatemala City, where Russian president Vladimir Putin personally lobbied on behalf of the Black Sea resort.

"In this case Putin's own personal commitment to these Olympics, his presence in Guatemala when the decision was being made, made a huge difference -- as did, by the way, Tony Blair's the last time around, when London won," Leslie said. "The support of the national government is key and in this case probably more important than the norm because they really have to build most of this venue from scratch."

With tightened rules over how the 126 members of the IOC can interact with the bidders - enacted as a result allegations of unethical behavior by IOC members during the Salt Lake City bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics - final presentations by each city are no longer simply a formality.

"We found in Singapore, when we worked with Paris [which lost to London for the 2012 Olympics], that it's become increasingly important because the rules are now much more stringent in terms of how you can contact national Olympic committee members and how much publicity you can do," Leslie said.

Leslie declined to say how much WS received for its work, which effectively ended with the selection of Sochi. WS is currently in negotiations with the Sochi 2014 committee to determine if it will continue to represent the city, Leslie said.

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