Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Feeling Great (-ish) RE: IOC Vote for '24 and '28

Around noon July 11 word arrived (in the form of back-to-back media advisories from the International Olympic Committee, LA2024 and Paris 2024 and a live stream) that an unanimous vote in Switzerland will change the game for summer Olympic Games bids and hosting.

And now the world officially knows, for the first time in a single IOC Session, Olympic leadership will award both the 2024 and 2028 summer Olympics through a vote set to take place in Lima, Peru, two months from now. 

If IOC President Thomas Bach has his druthers, the dates for the next Games of Los Angeles and Paris will be known as early as August, with the September decision a mere formality. During his remarks with the mayors of Paris and L.A., the notion of "everyone wins" came up repeatedly, and this is apt. 

I applaud change and innovation. It also was good to see the official (and outstanding/flawless) presentations by Los Angeles and Paris earlier today. See the base of this post for the YouTube versions.

During the joint press conference featuring Bach and the mayors of both bid cities flanked by the bid leadership, I was trying to get a read on Casey Wasserman. 

On one hand, there must be some relief. The Olympics WILL RETURN to Los Angeles. Bravo!

On the other hand, there's gotta be a twinge of ... I don't know the right words ... a waft of sour grapes over the decision. Like two Olympians worthy of gold, two Olympic-level committees brought their A-Game, and the IOC is trying to divvy out two top-of-podium medals as if only a millisecond or micrometer separates the two champions from victory. Don't both "Olympians" in this fight deserve to know THE victor for posterity? 

I singled out Wasserman for a read on this because I believe it was his passion and communications savvy that kept LA in the race even with Boston's false start win early in the 2024 domestic race. Though I can only armchair quarterback on the Olympic bid front, I've been in a similar seat-- for comparison, I sat at PRSA and PR Week Award ceremonies awaiting word as to which client (mine or another agency's) would take home top honors, and tie wins kinda suck more than getting a silver! 

Wasserman's game face was all smiles, but I can't help wonder what he said behind closed doors with family or closest associates with less skin in the game. Was he beaming with glee or relief, or a little bit disappointed that his team will always have to wonder "who won, damnit!?"

But this is just speculation and Olympic armchair quarterbacking. I am thrilled that Los Angeles and Paris will follow Tokyo's 2020 Games in some order. The 2020's will be an outstanding and thrilling decade for summer Olympiads, period. Everyone wins, indeed!

Photo via LA2024



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Atlanta Beltline In Bloom

Out for a walk on the Atlanta Beltline last Friday, I came upon a couple of artists sizing up their nearly-completed work du jour.

Covering the westward wall of the Midtown store Paris On Ponce, an oversized garden nicely took shape on view in the setting sun.

After watching the workers dismantle their operation for the night, I asked if they'd make time for an interview the following morning, which they did. What follows are some notes from that Saturday conversation.

Artist name (main artist): Louise Chen a.k.a. Ouizi

(Rhymes with Sherman Hemsley's sobriquet for Isabel Sanford on "The Jeffersons")

Website: www.louisechen.com

Career: Not much of a written CV is online but there are many photos of murals, drawing paintings; said she started painting murals about four years ago and works are now on view in a few U.S. cities (Detroit, Raleigh, Richmond, Va.) as well as in China (Shanghai). She is a California native. Digging her work.

Second artist name (introduced as 'assistant' for the project): Taylor White

Website: www.taylurk.com

Taylor White Self-Portrait Taylurk.com
Career: Extensive CV goes on and on online; lots of mural images including one of an outdoor piece completed in collaboration with Ouizi. Also dig her work, though it was distracting to speak with her given intensity of her gaze (I've gotten lost in eyes like hers).

Project: Floral mural on western exterior of business named Paris on Ponce in Midtown Atlanta

Duration of Project: Part of week starting June 19-20, 2017, as invited artists participating in the OuterSpace Project.

Ouizi received the invitation to participate and traveled to Georgia from Detroit, wher she is now based. I believe they mentioned Taylor now resides in Michigan as well.

Completion Date: June 24, 2017

Inspired by: Classic artists (no specific names provided), contemporary artists, Dutch bokays and botanicals, female artists, Chinese water colors, current tag and graffiti artists or muralists, Banksy (sort of, more so for White) and the illustrator Edward Gorey (when prompted by this blogger's inquiry specifying his name).

Reflecting later, I also considered possible inspiration from John Currin. None of us could think of a female muralist with a following. Escher landscapes like those posted on this blog may also inspire this duo of Ouizi and White.

What else the artist Ouizi wants readers to know: "Women are amazing and should be able to do what they want all of the time forever."

What else I want readers to know: As a P.R. person, if Ouizi was my client I'd encourage her to open and loosen up more when some free publicity walks onto the scene. She's got great stuff -- talk about it!

I was also taken aback to find on June 28 that both artists left behind a mess of empty paint cans and other supplies in a manner akin to litterbugs. Crestfallen, I snapped the photo at right. Sure hope these cans and crap are not still outside on my next Beltline stroll.

They also spent some time trashing the deck at Paris On Ponce with their drivable lift. Forgivable but perhaps avoidable (they made it through almost a week without incident so why pulverize in haste to complete the task at hand?).

Here's a tip for any outdoor or other muralists (and please forgive my Middle-aged mansplaining): Whether or not s/he is revered or loathed, or one "doesn't pay much mind to [her/him], I bet Banksy's crew members clean up after themselves.

Even the eight year olds I asked about the trash knew when it was time to put litter in its place or put away their toys. Sheesh!

Bottom line: Art lovers and Beltline fans can do themselves a favor by making way to Ouizi's latest work now on view up close at Paris On Ponce or from a distance from the nearby rooftop of Ponce City Market facing northeast beside the Beltline bridge over Ponce de Leon Ave. Enjoy!

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver except Taylor White's 2016 Self-Portrait



Friday, June 23, 2017

It's Olympic Day!

Happy worldwide Olympic Day to you!

As noted on past posts about the occasion to this site, June 23 celebrates the birth of the modern Olympic Movement in 1894. So, happy 123rd Birthday, Olympics!

For 2017, a series of events launched weeks ago with many culminating at special gatherings to encourage people to get out and get active.

I intend to celebrate with a brisk morning walk on the Atlanta Beltline near Piedmont Park (a friend and I recently walked it at 4 a.m. and it's a whole new park after dark).

The International Olympic Committee pages for Olympic Day share more history and current events tied to today. Here in the United States, the USOC also delves into Olympic Day participation options.

LA2024 and Paris2024 are also encouraging participation with a full roster of activities.

From a Los Angeles Olympic bid press release:

LA 2024, the LA84 Foundation, the USOC and The Foundation for Global Sports Development are hosting sports clinics for 500 young Angelenos at Will Rogers State Beach, hosting the American flagship Olympic Day Celebration. Young Angelenos will participate in eight Olympic and Paralympic sports including track and field, fencing, table tennis, volleyball, sitting volleyball, rugby, handball and gymnastics, joined by more than 30 Team USA Olympians and Paralympians.

The U.S. Olympic Committee interactive map of hundreds of Olympic Day events (about 2,400 of them) by state is available to show the coast-to-coast reach of this occasion.

Over in Paris, their Olympic Day press release details options:

In 2017, the whole of France will be decked out in the colours of Paris 2024 during this day, with some 100 activities offered over the whole country. In Paris, Olympic Day will become "Olympic Days" with the creation of a large sports field in the heard of the capital over two days, [creating] a full-scale preview of what the Olympic and Paralympic Games might be like in Paris in 2024. 

Public activities in the City of Light include a cross-city kayak, cycling and running event.

If time permits, here in Atlanta I may head downtown to Centennial Olympic Park to fist-bump the statue of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of all things modern Olympic, and wish his likeness a happy Olympic Day 2017 as well.

Photos via IOC


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Learning and Sharing Some Olympic Intel

About a week ago, the kind of "you've arrived" e-mail about which bloggers dream dropped in as a surprise inbox missive.

The P.R. firm (specifically, a public relations peer met on the Road to Rio last year) wrote to extend an official invitation to an Olympic press conference hosted by "Brand X" (embargoed) and the International Olympic Committee.

After sharing my enthusiastic reply ("Ummmmm, twist my arm!") and a bit more conversation on specifics, I found myself booking my first all expenses paid trip to anywhere (in this case, New York), arriving Tuesday night at the Omni Berkshire.

Part of this post (well, this sentence and most of what appears above it) was written at 3:45 a.m. as I could not sleep over the anticipated news on Wednesday.

Not long after my itinerary got locked and loaded, a handful of fellow Olympic-minded reporters and outlets started breaking the news and speculating on the reasons and timing.

However, it's now official, today in New York's 620 Loft & Garden venue, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and IOC President Thomas Bach joined fellow Intel staff on stage and live from Oregon and Utah to announce Intel is the newest IOC TOP Sponsor. Intel's new worldwide Olympic sponsorship will run from 2017 to 2024 and commence in time for the Games of PyeongChang this winter.

The complete press room for the event is online. Here's one of several videos Intel released.



The ceremony included additional executives from Intel and The Olympic Channel (specifically, the network's CEO Yiannis Exarchos, a veteran of the Games since they reached his hometown in Athens 2004, I learned).

Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings helped press a button at Intel's global headquarters to officially launch the sponsorship.

Back in New York with our media audience, Bach presented Krzanich with a 2018 Olympic torch and an invitation to join the upcoming torch relay.

"Through close collaboration with the Olympic family, we will accelerate the adoption of technology for the future of sports on the world's largest athletic stage," said Krzanich.

Paraphrasing Intel's press release, Intel's contributions to the Olympic Movement will include tech developments rolled out in sequence. Advancements include Intel's 5G platforms to be deployed during Korea's Games.

Intel drone light show technology will create new skyward images at Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Virtual Reality (VR), 3D and 360-degree content development is on deck, too (we tried out some VR headsets with live feed to Park City's ski jump training center and the views were amazing).

Here's another video with an aspiring Olympic snowboarder for Team USA.



On VR specifically, Krzanich and company explained there will be at least 16 live VR experiences from key competitions in PyeongChang.

Imagine the gold medal hockey game with a VR view from inside the net facing center ice, or 360 elements surrounding a luge athlete hurling toward the finish line. Intel's freeD sports technology (already in use with MLB and other network sports) is another emerging tech element demoed on site.

When I asked about the history of the Intel:IOC partnership, Krzanich responded that talks began during and after the most recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) only a few months ago. If a look at the punch list for today's flawless announcement looked daunting, imagine the massive effort commencing to meet deadlines for February 2018.

I, for one, am really excited about this sponsorship. Some really smart and forward-thinking minds collaborated in a pressure cooker of time, and the potential this sponsorship brings to the Olympic Family, other sponsors, the broadcasters, media, athletes and, of course, fans will forever change the Games in positive ways. I am so appreciative to have enjoyed a front seat at the launch.

After the formal Q&A, I spoke with Bach and his communications handler about the history of technology innovations at the Games, bringing up that when Bach competed in 1976, live broadcasts and improving color coverage may have been the "hot new thing" and whether he ever imagined the potential for such a big tech announcement on his watch at the IOC.

"I think nobody could expect that the [technology] development would move so fast," said Bach. "If you see the potential [of Intel's] 5Gs is offering, and how fast it's coming, if you asked people three years ago if would have said it may take maybe another decade but here we are already and it is fascinating to see."

Thank you very much to Intel and their Olympic P.R. team for the opportunity and support in the form of providing travel and accommodations for the journey to their announcement.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver






Sunday, June 18, 2017

Paris 2024 -- Part One: The Arrival

About a month ago -- May 12, to be exact -- I boarded an Air France flight at LAX bound for Paris.

Ooh, la la -- what an amazing experience the trek to the Paris 2024 IOC Evaluation Commission events proved to be. 

Now, before diving in to the French connections made during six days in the City of Light, a quick note from the similar LA2024 experience the prior week.

For arriving media during that experience, the organizers and U.S. Olympic Committee were very generous in providing an Uber account for use in the City of Angels -- much appreciated. It was reassuring to know that upon arrival I could quickly get my own transportation to our downtown media hotel.

So on the approach to Charles de Gaulle airport, I took similar comfort in knowing -- via text from our Paris hosts -- that "someone will meet you at the airport to coordinate transportation."

I envisioned getting through customs, picking up my bag then searching for a welcome committee volunteer or similar to help me board a bus into Paris. 

You can imagine my surprise and delight to find my greeting smiling with his sign "Beinvenue, Monsieur Wolaver" only two steps off the plane and into the gateway. In moments, I was whisked through the diplomat line at customs, acquired my checked back (expedited) and invited to relax in the back of a Mercedes-Benz limousine-style sedan for the drive into the city.

Speechless!

ATR Reporter Kevin w/Mayor Hidalgo
Two hours later our international media entourage joined Paris 2024 communications team members on a floating restaurant on the Seine, later joined by the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, who spoke with each of us 1x1 with a personal welcome.

We also shook hands with several Olympians including Paris 2024 Co-Chairman Tony Estanguet, the three-time Olympic champion in canoe/slalom.

We drank so much wine I don't recall much about the walk and ride to the hotel except the Saturday night riverbank crowds, the strobe and search lights atop the Eiffel Tower, and the warm glow of an exciting welcome to Paris on the eve of my 44th birthday. Welcomed, indeed!

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver


Friday, May 26, 2017

Those Two Times I Met Roger Moore

I enjoyed the privilege of meeting Sir Roger Moore, the screen star and UNICEF ambassador who died this week, not once, but twice.

One of my friends, Lisa Bigazzi Tilt, was with me on both occasions, and most of the other folks present are still connections and longtime pals.

Just about everyone with us the first time probably was sad like me when news of Moore's passing started to hit the wires.

He was a memorable, friendly celebrity personality as is his wife, now widow, "Kiki" -- who accompanied him both times we shook hands -- was also a friendly person. 

The New York Times' A.O. Scott penned an appreciation of Moore that aptly names the second actor to portray James Bond as "the best" in the role. Though my personal favorite title in the series -- "Goldfinger" -- stars the "original" Bond, Sean Connery, I just smile thinking of each of Moore's turns donning spy shoes and gadgets.

In some ways, meeting Moore in person and experiencing his cheerful, genuine friendliness sealed his ranking as "the better Bond" in my book. Others with fun memories echo this sentiment. 

My first Moore encounter arrived in November 2002 via my longtime client IAAPA, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

Lisa and I were working in the press room at the association's annual trade show in Orlando, now known as IAAPA Attractions Expo.

The 2002 convention was our fourth, and joining us from our public relations agency team was the "newbie" Dawn Brewer, still a great friend as is Lisa.

Moore was chosen to present a speech about his work with children and UNICEF's relevance to the "business of fun," and we enjoyed the longtime James Bond and "The Saint" actor's remarks at an executive breakfast.

Prior to the convention, we also hand-picked a few key media outlets to speak with Moore -- for a knighted celebrity, he was overly generous with his time, and also excellent at staying on message about Expo (which was difficult since national TV outlets like CNN and Fox News only wanted his satellite interviews to focus on the latest Bond film "Die Another Day" which happened to open the same week of Moore's visit to IAAPA's gathering).

Following Moore's breakfast remarks and his trek to a local TV studio for the aforementioned satellite interviews, it was my job to introduce Moore the actor to Roger Moore the film critic for the Orlando Sentinel newspaper -- the scribe Moore wrote a great piece about finally meeting his coincidental namesake. I was standing beside the Sentinel photographer who snapped the image appearing the next day, as shown here:



(Film critic Roger Moore is now writing MovieNation posts, including this remembrance of meeting the actor. Interesting to get a nod as "A P.R. wag" as described by the critic).

We next escorted Moore and his wife to the IAAPA Press Office for a trade magazine interview with another longtime friend, Tim O'Brien, then editor of Amusement Business and contributor to Funworld (IAAPA's monthly). As the interview got underway, a happy accident occurred (at least this is how I recall it when sharing this memory).

When Moore, his wife, O'Brien, our IAAPA client, Dawn and I gathered around a press room table, we offered fresh coffee to the Moores to be sure they were comfortable. Dawn was kind enough to bring the new brew, and without realizing it, upon offering sugar, I swear she said "Here is your coffee ... shaken, not stirred ..." with the straightest deadpan face (or perhaps she did not realize the correlation to James Bond's martini preferences).

A great big laugh was shared by all. Moore's bright blue eyes smiled with the unexpected chuckle (though my guess is that he regularly heard similar lines for most of his post-007 years).

We later joined Moore for an outdoor photo op with a British video game manufacturer who was showcasing an interactive football (soccer) video game for which Moore was not shy to play along and complete a few place kicks. Then like taking off in "Moonraker" or "Live And Let Die" Moore was soon gone in a flash. 

Sadly, I had no camera with me that November afternoon, and the images I snagged from others are no longer available, lost in a move or still packed away in storage. I dropped in the above left image from a EuropaPark event to give an example of Moore and his wife's age and demeanor in 2002. 

We did not think another Moore encounter possible, but the following year on a work trip to New York with Feld Entertainment, our merry band of Ringling Bros. publicists (including Lisa) went out in search of a late-night meal after we experienced the circus at Madison Square Garden.

As we approached an off-Broadway Irish Pub around 40th Street, we noted a town car driver awaiting his passengers when, you guessed it, Moore and his wife emerged from the restaurant.

I happened to be closest and called out, "Mr. Moore, great to see you and your wife again since the theme park convention" (or similar) to which he extended a hand and with his thoughtful gaze and handshake expressed "I remember -- that was fun!" before turning to remind his wife, who smiled back.

And away they went as we turned to find our Ringling Bros. clients standing agape. 

Like millions of others, I enjoyed Moore's "007" roles and campy-by-comparison-to-Sean-Connery approach Moore took to the character. "For Your Eyes Only" is my favorite for his work on the Cortina Olympic ski jump, downhill slopes as well as his climbing scenes at Meteora, Greece, a site I went out of my way to visit as inspired by Moore's work. 

Every single time I play backgammon, Moore's winning game in "Octopussy" comes to mind, and it was fun to see the actual board and dice from the scene in a "007" exhibition during the London 2012 Olympics.

My prom tuxedo was white because of Moore's wardrobe selection to roll double sixes. 

"Cannonball Run" gave Moore an opportunity to poke fun at himself as he did with witty remarks at the IAAPA press events.

And who could forget his "Moonraker" scenes in Rio de Janeiro (the city showcases Moore in many of the sites where he performed)?

Just last week on holiday in Paris, I experienced many of the sites of "A View To A Kill" and its Eiffel Tower opening sequence featuring Moore in hot pursuit of one of my favorite Bond Girls, Grace Jones. 

Moore even reprised his 007 likeness in support of the successful London 2012 Olympic bid, according to this article.

And he drove a Volvo P1800 like my parents' first car as a couple in Oklahoma City (I've wondered for awhile whether my dad selected the Swedish sports car inspired by the actor's role on "The Saint").

It will be fun to share these memories of Roger Moore for years to come, and to smile about them any time a 007 marathon appears or Carly Simon's "The Spy Who Loved Me" plays on the radio. R.I.P., Roger Moore.

Images via Pinterest and EuropaPark website

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

LA2024 Dazzles on Days Two and Three of Evaluation Commission

Days two and three of the 2024 IOC Evaluation Commission visit to Los Angeles were as jam-packed for media as they were for the future Games selection team.

The combined LA2024 and U.S. Olympic Committee media relations crew treated attending reporters to a full Thursday of venue visits including two university campuses, a Metro station press conference and multiple photo opportunities or bid-centric press events.

May 9 began early at Staples Center, where IOC members took turns shooting hoops on the LA Lakers' home court. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman and IOC Member Anita DeFrantz also practiced layups and cheered when visiting delegates found "nothing but net" through informal basketball play.

Then two groups of Evaluation Commission members embarked on site visits in separate corteges, with media site visits on a parallel track to the IOC tour experience.

Stop one: The University of Southern California, home of the Trojans and the nation's No. 1 school in terms of total Olympians (451 since the early 1900's). Media heard from Olympic track champion and USC alum Allyson Felix before experiencing a walking tour of a soon-to-open modern dorms that would house the Olympic media village in 2024.

We also toured USC's Annenberg School of Communication, which would house the 2024 Olympic Media Village operations center close to new dorms which reporters visited.

A quick bus ride over to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum lined up with the IOC's morning visit inside the stadium, which apparently included a foot race between Garcetti and at least one Olympic track champion from 1984.

We learned later in the day that more than 50 Olympians met with the Evaluation Commission, with the first women's Olympic marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson sharing a tearful reunion with a fellow LA84 gold medalist Nawal El Moutawakel, who is now an IOC member (both women achieved remarkable "firsts" as female competitors on the same track).

Brief sidebar: The coliseum photo opportunity marked my fourth visit to the venue, and not the first time the cauldron was aglow, but this was the first daytime and ignited flame combination and it was remarkable in that the morning sun and cloudless sky brightened the historic stadium's adobe-hued exterior.

More walking ensued, this time past USC's historic and wonderfully fragrant rose garden (we did, in fact, stop to smell them).

A few hundred meters later we were greeted by -- surprise -- local resident and longtime environmental champion Ed Begley, Jr., on site for an outdoor press conference to promote the fifth anniversary of the LA Metro Expo Line service between downtown Los Angeles and points west.

Our entourage boarded buses to arrive at the University of California at Los Angeles in time for a superior campus dining experience. Several inquisitive undergrads asked me about what our group was doing on site -- our objective, to experience a sample of an afternoon in the potential future Olympic Village.

LA2024's proposal to house the athletes in existing or new dorms is a key differentiator for the bid, saving piles of money while harnessing a fantastic, well-developed and mature tree-filled campus atmosphere. Our hosts pointed out several residences build when the school hosted one of LA84's villages.

We must have walked 5,000 steps on site, including peeks at student gyms, three student swimming pools, Pauley Pavilion (site of Mary Lou Retton's perfect score in 1984) and the school's sports hall of fame celebrating, among thousands of alumni athletes, the school's 420 Olympians.

LA2024 has a strong asset in that the UCLA Olympic Village existed even before the '84 Games, and as announced just after the IOC visit the same day, another batch of several hundred rooms are planned for the campus.

With slightly sore legs and definitely smarting feet, media departed for the beaches of Santa Monica for the IOC's and LA2024's Day Two media Q&A, this time framed by a perfect sunset and light ocean breeze.

The purple and pink skyline over nearby Malibu and Santa Monica Mountains gave attendees a dreamy "Follow The Sun" moment.

As an after-dinner sendoff from the press conference venue, the Annenberg Beach House, a troupe of six synchronized swimmers dove into a logo-ed swimming pool, reminding attendees of LA2024's fast-paced and precise timing executed consistently through the three-day Evaluation Commission process. The swimmers' smiles above the surface, all the while furiously kicking and positioning, may echo the hard work of LA2024's team to prepare and execute the key milestone in the IOC selection process.

Friday morning brought just two press conferences, one each for the IOC and LA2024 officials, again at Staples Center. At the latter Q&A I asked Garcetti and Wasserman to expand on their professional relationship and friendship through the bid process since the IOC had nicknamed them the "1984 boys" who were youthful Angelinos during that summer's Olympiad.

"We met in our 20's," said Garcetti, answering whether they knew each other as kids or teens.

Garcetti went on to explain that his very first official action as LA's newly-elected mayor was to deliver a letter confirming his interest, support and passion for a bid. Now many months later, he confidently summed up the collective efforts of the combined LA2024/City of Los Angeles team.

"We keep looking for a hole in this bid, and we can't find it," said Garcetti.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver



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