Managing Planning for an Olympic-Sized Event

For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, the host country will a South American nation: Brazil. The announcement was made today amidst considerable fanfare around the globe, as Rio de Janeiro beat out Tokyo, Chicago and Madrid to win the title of 2016 Summer Olympic Games host.

The Games are still seven years off, but today’s announcement made me think about how massive an undertaking this level of event planning must be (a digression from the usual crisis-focused posts)—otherwise, why would the selection be made so far ahead of time?. Between refurbishing—and even building from scratch—venues to handling necessary infrastructure-related challenges, the list of minutia becomes a force to be reckoned with in a matter of seconds. Plus, the city has to be able to physically accommodate the hundreds of thousands of visitors between the viewers, athletes, media and sponsors that pour in from around the world.

Then there’s the issue of branding—an activity that must take place on a city, country and, in this case, continent-wide level. Based on the 2008 Beijing Games, I got a little bit of perspective from the folks at Lenovo and Ketchum, who partnered to launch a branding campaign around Lenovo’s sponsorship of the Games, in conjunction with its recent purchase of IBM’s PC division.

That effort alone, which was relegated to a single company, seemed staggering. I’ll be interested to watch the progression for the 2016 Games, and I’d love to hear stories from any readers who might have experience with planning an Olympic-sized event.

By Courtney Barnes

  • Abby

    Being from Chicago, I experienced the publicity and PR that goes into potentially having the Olympics in your city. Throughout 2009 there have been multiple television commercials and posters up all around the city (like in the air ports) trying to get the citizens of Chicago excited about holding the Olympic games.

    Despite the cities efforts, Chicago residents were still very hesitant about having the games in their city. Many people thought that they would get stuck paying for portions of the Olympic sized costs in taxes and bills. Others thought that the Olympics would distract government officials from spending money on other important city issues.

    Although there was a big PR push in Chicago, I think there could have been more done to excite the citizens and prove to them how much of an honor it would be to hold the Olympic games in Chicago. Also I think officials should have done a better job at explaining the details of the operation to the hesitant citizens.

    Just goes to show how much work really goes it to these Olympic-sized events.

  • matt

    The City of Calgary, Alberta hosted the WorldSkills09 Competition this past September. It is basically the Olympics for Trades. As an employee of the Public School Board and a member of the communications team I can attest to the incredible amount of coordination and communication required between every single sponsor, venues, school boards (Public,Private,Catholic,Universities and Colleges), the City and the WorldSkills organization. Branding and promotion may in fact be the ‘easier’ (for the lack of a better word) part of the communications process.

  • Ellie

    As a college student aspiring to be an Event Planner, I always have thoughts like this. I wonder what kind of work goes into such an enormous event. I become overwhelmed just thinking of the planning that goes into something like the Olympics.

    There has to be a tremendous amount of coordinating between all the different venues, architects, planners, sponsors, the government… it is amazing to think of everything that goes in to one event.

    On the other hand, I cannot imagine how fulfilling it is to see such huge events take place. I hope to experience that feeling in the near future.