Beijing's 'social change' message wins over IOC

NEW YORK: Weber Shandwick Worldwide SVP of public affairs Mike

Holtzman heads off to Beijing later this week to finalize the details of

a contract renewal to support the Chinese Olympic Organizing Committee

after helping it to secure the 2008 Games for Beijing.

As PR counsel to the winning bid committee, Holtzman and his team were

guests at the party thrown by the Chinese government in its Moscow

embassy on the night the IOC awarded Beijing the Games.

A team of three - Holtzman, deputy John Gans, and WSW Singapore staffer

Sharon Ho (who had been based in the Beijing bid committee's office for

the six-month campaign) - had set up a "war room" in the Moscow

Radisson, which also housed the international media.

They worked 21-hour days in the final week, coaching their Chinese

clients on their final presentation, arranging translations, and lining

up last-minute interviews with key international media.

Beijing's final presentation to the IOC was made by China's vice premier

Li Lan, Beijing mayor Liu Qi, and the Bid Committee secretary general

Wang Wei. The job of coaching this senior trio was a sensitive one, said

Holtzman. "I couldn't tell them what to do - I just helped magnify their


The team organized two massive pre-vote press conferences, both of which

attracted 300 broadcast journalists. The final conference, on vote day,

saw 1,400 registered media.

Journalists were chosen carefully for interviews in the last few


"There was a risk that we would get hit with negative questions, so we

kept a fairly low profile," explained Holtzman.

Toronto's pitch, supported by GCI's office in that city for the past 15

months, was that its bid was "all about the athletes." Paris chose to

emphasize its central location in an effort to please international

broadcasters conscious of time differences, as well as the ease of

access it afforded.

Osaka's message centered around its image of hospitality. It also made

play of the fact that it respects human rights.

Istanbul tried to leverage the fact that it has Europe's youngest

population, which could benefit from the Olympics.

But in the end, the IOC was seduced by Beijing's argument that the Games

could act as a catalyst for social change in China. This was always the

clear message of WSW's campaign, reflected in almost all the coverage of

Beijing's bid in the week before and days after the vote.

- See Editorial, p. 8.

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