London-based PR agencies eye up 2020 Olympics as cities are shortlisted

The announcement of the cities shortlisted to host the 2020 Olympic Games has kicked off a flurry of activity as London's Olympic comms heavyweights jostle for a place with the six candidates.

Ahead of the pack: Usain Bolt wins Beijing gold (Rex)
Ahead of the pack: Usain Bolt wins Beijing gold (Rex)

During recent years, London has become the epicentre of Olympic comms, with UK-based consultants dominating the PR drives behind the bidding processes of major international sporting events.

A source told PRWeek that key agency players had been 'flying all around the world' during the past two weeks and that a number of pitches had already taken place for several of the cities.

Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee named six cities that would battle it out to host the 2020 Games.

Most industry players expect these cities to be split between the traditional bidding powerhouses - Vero Communications, Weber Shandwick, Hill & Knowlton, Jon Tibbs Associates and Bell Pottinger.

No appointments have yet been made, but it is thought some cities are keen to get their bidding teams in place just weeks after the announcement of their candidature.

Mike Lee and his agency Vero Communications have worked on successful bids for London 2012 and Rio 2016, as well as helping to secure the 2022 World Cup for Qatar.

However, industry insiders said that it was by no means a foregone conclusion that Lee would work on Doha's 2020 Olympic bid, noting that in-demand agencies were choosing their cities as much as the cities were choosing them.

Weber Shandwick's global Olympic practice head Svetlana Picou commented: 'We worked with Tokyo on 2016 but every bidding cycle is different. The cities consider all the options on a new bid.'

For 2016, the usual five agencies had all the cities on the final shortlist tied up between them. But Pitch PR's Henry Chappell dismissed the idea that bidding was now a closed shop and said the process was 'becoming increasingly competitive'.

Last week, it was announced that Pitch, which worked on England's unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 World Cup, had been hired by London 2017 to handle the PR to bring the World Athletics Championships to Britain.

'You have your obvious candidates for 2020 but there is no reason why it isn't open to new entrants to the market,' said Chappell.


Baku (Azerbaijan) Odds: 14-1; Bids: 2016 Games (failed to become a candidate)

Doha (Qatar) Odds: 14-1; Bids: 2016 (failed to become a candidate)

Istanbul (Turkey) Odds: 6-1; Bids: 2000 (lost to Sydney); 2004 (failed to become a candidate); 2008 (lost to Beijing)

Madrid (Spain) Odds: 9-4; Bids: 1972 (lost to Munich); 2012 (lost to London); 2016 (lost to Rio de Janeiro).

Rome (Italy) Odds: 9-4; Games hosted: 1 (1960); Bids: 2004 (lost to Athens)

Tokyo (Japan) Odds: 2-1; Games hosted: 1 (1964); Bids: 2016 (lost to Rio de Janeiro)

Odds supplied by William Hill


6 Number of candidate cities for the 2020 Olympic Games

2 Number of Games previously hosted among 2020 candidates

2013 When the host city for the 2020 Games will be elected (7 September)

1960 The year live international TV coverage began at Rome Games

HOW I SEE IT Sports PR executives on the changing demands of Olympic bidding

Henry Chappell, chief executive, Pitch PR

You do have your obvious candidates for 2020, but I do not believe there is any reason why it is not open to new entrants to the market; I think it is becoming increasingly competitive.

Pitch has now worked on a number of bids but in an unconventional way - we are not a lobbying agency as things stand, but there is no reason why we can't start to move into that as we continue to grow as a business. Increasingly, there are different objectives that bids are looking to meet.

Obviously, one is lobbying the voting members of the International Olympic Committee.

But it is also important for some cities to prove that they have got public support, which is often about a PR campaign to promote the bid to the public.

Svetlana Picou, global Olympic practice head, Weber Shandwick

There are a number of factors around which city and country we would want to work with.

We do have conversations with every bid committee. We worked with Tokyo on 2016, but every bidding cycle is different.

I believe that the cities consider all the options on a new bid. The fact that we have worked on every bidding process for many years gives us the advantage of understanding the bidding process and how it has changed through the years.

Bid committees will look at the teams that are in place today, not four years ago.

There are a handful of agencies that bid cities come back to because of their track record. We are in conversations, obviously, and I'm on the road this week.

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