Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recommended Reading


Students in "Seminar Abroad 2012: London Olympics" have been assigned to read several books to give them some perspective of the magnitude of this once-in-every-four-year spectacle.  Michael Payne's "Olympic Turn Around" tells the story of the IOC's miraculous transformation from virtual insolvency in the early 1980s to the multibillion dollar marketing juggernaut that it has become.  IOC member Dick Pound gives readers an unvarnished behind-the-scenes look at some of the machinations that drive the Olympic Movement and occasionally muck it up in "Inside the Olympics."  John Davis' "The Olympic Games Effect" illustrates the power of the Olympic brand, and describes how a few companies have leveraged their sponsorship of the Olympics to catapult their corporate identity to heights not otherwise attainable through conventional marketing strategies.  Finally, "Understanding the Olympics" by John Horne and Garry Whannel is an excellent primer on the phenomenon of the Olympic Games with a chapter on the bidding process that led to London's hosting of Games of the XXX Olympiad.  Happy reading!      

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Seminar Assistants

Micaela Hamakawa (left) and Kate Walker (below) will serve as faculty assistants for Seminar Abroad 2012: London Olympics.  Both graduated high school this week (woo-hoo!) and will begin their college careers in the fall.  Before then, however, these young ladies signed on for a little summer assignment as sort of a preview to study abroad. 

Micaela is from Wilbraham, MA, and happens to be my daughter, while Kate, from Argyle, TX (northwest of Dallas), is the niece of faculty chaperone Dr. Sharianne Walker.  Micaela will attend Furman University in Greenville, SC, while Kate will study engineering at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook 'em Horns!).

ATC Liaison

Teddi-Jann Covell, a career air traffic controller with the Federal Aviation Administration, will serve as the delegation's air attaché.  Teddi-Jann resides in Orono, Maine, and is the sister of faculty chaperone and professor of sport management, Dr. Dan Covell.  An experienced traveler and sport enthusiast, Teddi-Jann is looking forward to being in London during the year's celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Flashback Detroit 1968

In yesterday's edition, The New York Times ran a fascinating and little-known story about Detroit's dogged campaign to bring the Olympic Games to Motor City, USA ("Flashback Friday: Detroit’s Olympic Dream").

Writer Joanne Gerstner recounts that Detroit bid an astounding seven times; first in 1944, then from 1952 through 1972, and she details the 1968 bid effort that included a series of films that featured Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh and Michigan Governor George Romney.  The film is reminiscent of the documentary style of the time, and while the technical quality resembles a home movie, it is remarkable for its content as a bid city marketing piece of nearly 50 years ago. 
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
In 1963, after the USOC designated Detroit as its applicant for the 1968 Olympics, President John F. Kennedy filmed a message to the IOC, saying the city would give “the warmest and most cordial welcome in the U.S.”
The article leaves readers pondering "what if," and speculating how a city's hosting of an Olympic Games might impact its course of history. 


Thursday, May 24, 2012

2020 Olympic Games

Yesterday at its meetings in Quebec City, the IOC Executive Board designated Istanbul, Madrid, and Tokyo as "Candidate Cities" for the 2020 Olympics, and eliminated Doha (Qatar) and Baku (Azerbaijan) in the process.  Thus, the three finalists will engage in a 15-month campaign to convince the 100 or so IOC members that it is deserving of the honor -- and burden -- of staging the Games of the XXXII Olympiad.   

Among the three, Tokyo is the only city with prior hosting experience having organized the 1964 Olympic Games, and is seeking to improve on its third-place finish in the voting for the 2016 Olympics that was awarded to Rio de Janeiro.  Madrid is making its third consecutive bid, and hopes that 2020 will be its charm, after finishing in third- and second-place, respectively, in the voting for the 2012 and 2016 hosting rights.

In its report to the Executive Board, the IOC Evaluation Commission rated Tokyo's bid as "very strong," while it gave Madrid a grade of "strong" and Istanbul the lesser designation of "good potential."  For my money, this is a two-horse race with Tokyo in the pole position and an all-but winner given the Euro Zone predicament that is sucking Spain's coffers dry.  Concerns over Turkey's capacity and infrastructure, in addition to its bid for the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship (Euro 2020) raise serious questions about its prioritization and understanding of the gravity of such bids.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Coming Soon: An Olympics in the USA (again)!

Now that the USOC and IOC have achieved detente over their longstanding and sometimes acrimonious dispute on revenue sharing (see New York Times article, below), an American city might actually be in serious contention to host an upcoming Olympics.  After consecutive -- and humiliating -- rebukes from the IOC that saw NYC finish in fourth place and Chicago ousted in the first round of voting to host the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, respectively, the USOC swore off further bidding until the contentious issue was resolved.  Over the better part of the last decade, the IOC and the rest of the Olympic community outside of the United States chafed at the arrangement that paid the USOC 20% of worldwide Olympic sponsorship fees (more than all the other 204 National Olympic Committees combined) and 12.75% of the U.S. television broadcast rights fee (that NBC extended beyond this year through 2020 for $4.38 billion). Details of the new deal will spill out in the coming days, but would-be Olympic cities across the land of the free and home of the brave are put on notice that it is open season once again for American bid cities.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

2012 Olympics Quick Facts

Country:  United Kingdom
Area:  94,000 sq. mi. (slightly smaller than Oregon)
Population:  63 million
Capital:  London (greater metro population about 8.6 million)
Government:  Constitutional monarchy
Head of State:  Queen Elizabeth II
Head of Government:  P.M. David Cameron
Economy:  Seventh largest in the world and second in the European Union
Currency:  British Pound (GBP), currently $1 = £.63 GBP or £1  = $1.58
Games of the XXX Olympiad:  July 27-August 12, 2012
No. of sports:  26
No. of medal events:  302
No. of athletes:  10,500
No. of participating countries/territories:  205
No. of tickets:  8.8 million
No. of media:  21,000
No. of foreign visitors per day:  350,000
Cost:  $14.5 billion (to date)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Many observers have commented that the 2012 London Olympics will mark the zenith of social media as we know it, and as the article by Mike Wisniewski (forwarded to me by Maria Cokotis in the The CareerCenter) points out, the International Olympic Committee has taken a tough stance against athletes, coaches, or officials transmitting content electronically from competition venues and inside the Olympic Village, as well as sending communiques that even hint at commercial endorsements or comment about other athletes' performances; nevermind grousing about the officials, judges, and referees.  Last I checked, we're talking London 2012, not Stalinist-era Soviet Union or even Pyongyang 2012!  The IOC policy begs the questions of enforcement and punishment.  For example, can the location of a tweet be precisely identified and will athletes who violate the rule be expelled from the Games or have their medals taken away?  With the plethora of app-enabled devices at every athlete's disposal, the no-posting/tweeting rule will be hard enough to police, but what does it say about the organization that seeks to squelch the growing tide of social media addicts?  This should be a fun experiment to observe . . . up close and personal!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Can't We Go Already?

In addition to the series of briefings and guest speakers at the pre-departure meetings, students watched videos of London's bid presentation that secured its hosting rights, as well as clips showing the London Organizing Committee's preparations and progress in the lead up to this summer's Olympic Games.  
You can see from the photos that students were attentive (or otherwise in deep contemplation) and taking copious notes.  Hopefully, these orientation sessions gave students a sense of what to expect in terms of the cultural, social, economic, and political dynamics, as well as some perspective of going to a mega sport event on the scale of an Olympic Games.  

Fac Chap Redux

Dr. Dan Covell, who has served as faculty chaperone for the CISB seminars abroad since the program's inception, joins the Western New England delegation for his third such assignment.  An associate professor of Sport Management, Dr. Covell has taken an avid interest in international sport and the students will benefit from his considerable expertise in Olympic sport history.  In addition, his familarity with London gained as a study-abroad student will ensure that we dine at only the finest English pubs in the city!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Program Note

A little background on the CISB Seminar Abroad program.  In 2006, when I started teaching at Western New England University after spending nearly 17 years with the U.S. Olympic Committee (the last six as international relations director), I thought it would be a great idea to expose students to some of the inner workings and behind-the-scenes activities at the Olympics.  Thus in 2008, my colleague Dr. Dan Covell and I took the first group of 13 students to Beijing for China's historic first-ever hosting of an Olympic Games (photo is of intrepid students at the Great Wall).  That inaugural experience was such a hit with the students that we decided to take a second group of 11 students to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, again with Dr. Covell's willing assistance.  This, too, was an history-in-the-making event, because it was the first time that the World Cup Finals were played on the African continent.  Now, in its third iteration, "Seminar Abroad 2012: London Olympics" will take 15 students across the pond to witness London's third hosting of an Olympic Games, the first city to score this trifecta.  Question: which cities have hosted an Olympics -- summer or winter -- on two occasions?

Thank You, Alumni Association!

As a committee, Dan Colton, Emily Savino, and Dennis Rinaldi put together a grant proposal on behalf of the Seminar Abroad 2012 student delegation to do a community service project while in London, and submitted it to the Western New England University Alumni Association, which resulted in a $1,200 grant!  This is the first time that a student-initiated proposal in conjunction with a CISB Seminar Abroad program won a grant, and the students are to be commended for their stellar effort.  At the same time, we are grateful to the Alumni Association for its support of the students participating in Seminar Abroad 2012: London Olympics!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Boss on Board

Dr. Sharianne Walker, professor and chair of the Sport Management Department, will round out the Western New England University delegation to the 2012 Olympic Games.  A veteran international traveler in her own right, Dr. Walker accompanied the University Men's Soccer team on its summer exhibition tours to Europe in 2008 and 2011.  Dr. Walker is the founding chair of the Sport Management Department, which program has experienced robust growth and success since its inception, and is celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2012.

Got Tickets!

Speaking of tickets, we were lucky to snag tickets to eight events, including Equestrian at Greenwich Park, with its view of River Thames and St. Paul's Cathedral; Women's Volleyball at Earl's Court, an historic facility that hosted four sport events during the 1948 Olympics; Badminton at Wembley Arena, adjacent to iconic Wembley Stadium; Tennis at the grass courts of Wimbledon; Men's Hockey at Riverbank Arena (Olympic Park); Archery at Lord's Cricket Ground, cricket's spiritual headquarters and the most famous place in the world for that other bat-and-ball sport; Women's Basketball at the Basketball Arena (Olympic Park); and Athletics (track & field) at Olympic Stadium.

Identification Badges

Longtime readers of this blog know that for each CISB Seminar Abroad program, we create unique badges that serve to identify us as members of the official University mission -- or delegation -- to a particular event.  The badge is attached to a lanyard, and each delegation member wears it at all times, because in addition to containing important emergency contact information on the reverse side, it has been known to open doors to places not otherwise accessible to the ordinary tourist!  The badge at left is for Golden Bear, our delegation mascot, who previously traveled to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.  This year's ID badges were designed and produced by Jenn Mears. 

Students' Own Torch Relay

The Olympic flame is a longstanding tradition that dates to the Ancient Games, where a fire was lit and maintained for the duration of the competitions.  In the modern era, the flame was reintroduced at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, and the idea of an Olympic torch -- and relay -- sprung from the Nazi-inspired propagandist pageantry and symbolism of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  Each successive OCOG, or Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, has designed its own torch in a style of its choosing, which is used in a relay that culminates in Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremonies.  Here, Marisa Harris gets her chance at being an Olympic torch bearer after it was passed to her by Emily Savino, while Lauren Silvis (at left) eagerly awaits her turn.  This particular torch is from the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Stateside Seminar

Throughout the 2011-12 academic year, the 15 students in "Seminar Abroad 2012: London Olympics" met during bi-monthly working sessions to learn about the upcoming Olympic Games and hear from a series of guest speakers about London, the U.K., and international sport. The students have been working on various assignments as part of their delegation "duties," such as preparing media releases for their hometown newspapers, engaging in fundraising activities, making in-venue posters, and designing identification badges and commemorative t-shirts.

Chariots of Fire

As part of "Seminar Abroad 2012: London Olympics," students have been assigned to write book or movie reviews of Olympic-themed material, and one such subject is the critically acclaimed "Chariots of Fire," a story about two British runners at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris.  The 1981 film won four Academy Awards, including for Best Picture, and is being re-released July 13 in the U.K., two weeks before the opening of this summer's Olympic Games.  Even if you haven't seen the movie, you probably are familiar with the musical score by Vangelis, which has been used often for effect in slow-motion scenes to parody apparently victorious subjects.  You can hear the music and see a clip here-->

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Olympic Flame

Today at the site of the ancient ruins of the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece, the Olympic flame was kindled and will begin its journey to London, where on July 27 it will make its way to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.  Owing to protest spectacles surrounding the torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there will be no worldwide relay this time; instead, the flame will take a lap around the Greek countryside before being flown to the UK for its 70-day run up to the Opening Ceremonies.  A bit of trivia:  an Olympic flame was lit at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, but the tradition of the torch relay began with the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.