Observations from London

It's only been a week since the 2012 Olympic Games began, although some days from inside Olympic Park it seems a lot longer.

It's only been a week since the 2012 Olympic Games began, although some days from inside Olympic Park it seems a lot longer.

I've been on the ground working with clients at five Olympic Games since 1996, and each is as unique as it is challenging.

Here are a few observations about these Games:

  • London Calling: From the Prime Minister to US Presidential candidates to the everyday Londoner, the past 30 days have been excruciating, with every detail of “readiness” scrutinized. Would Heathrow Airport be up to the crush? Will public transit be overwhelmed? In the final run-up, a combination of security gaffes, transportation issues and the much maligned Olympic Route Network owned the news. But, at least so far, the naysayers have gotten it wrong. With relatively minor glitches, the London Games have operated pretty smoothly. The City of London and the Local Organizing Committee put together seven years of preparation and detailed, active communications to make this work. The Games are always a crucible for the Local Organizing Committee, but they have been transparent about challenges and adaptive in their solutions…so far.
  • “Socialympics”: While the term itself is a medal contender to land on the banned buzz word podium of 2012, there's no denying the role of social engagement during these Games (for better or worse). These are not the first Games of the social era, yet the direct impact on athletes, governing bodies, and rightsholders has never been more pronounced. The International Olympic Committee has finally relaxed certain guidelines to allow ticketholders, fans and sponsors to actively share their Olympic experiences. At the same time, two athletes were disqualified by their teams due to insensitive tweets, and a British teen was detained by police for “malicious communications” after tweeting a distasteful remark about Team GB diver Tom Daley. This week, watch for a grassroots movement among US athletes at #wedemandchange, as they seek to overhaul IOC guidelines on sponsorship. Needless to say, the Olympic environment is a fascinating backdrop to debate the complex outcomes when individual rights and what's morally right clash.
  • Viewers 2, Tweeters 1: NBC's coverage of the Games has taken a lot of body blows - from tape-delay tactics, to self-inflicted spoilers to editorial decisions. The #NBCfail hashtag continues to ride near the front of the Twitter peloton – but American television viewers have had their say. The verdict: They like what they see and they are spending a lot of time watching (perhaps, as some now speculate, because they know the outcome already). First week ratings have been through the roof. As I write this NBC is averaging 35.6 million viewers a night, the biggest ratings for any Summer Games staged outside the US since 1976. To me, it once again proves the power of combining the pinnacle of human achievement with well-packaged storytelling. The Olympic Games continue to have a unique pull on our popular consciousness.

JJ Carter is president and senior partner, US West region for Fleishman-Hillard.

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