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Nightly medals ceremonies key to drawing people

Olympic sponsors and NOCs looking for ‘wow’ factor for their clients



Olympic sponsors and sport committees are unlikely to stay and play in Whistler after watching events if there are no nightly medal ceremonies in the village.

That message was presented to Whistler businesses at a conference Tuesday. A decision on the nightly medals ceremonies was expected Wednesday. (See story page 18.)

Most big sponsors and the national Olympic committees are based in Vancouver for the 2010 Games, with planned four-night stays in Whistler or day trips by bus.

"If the event ends early, say in mid-afternoon, if we have a reason to stay for the evening we will stay here in Whistler, do an activity, have dinner and then take in the ceremonies at the Celebration Plaza at night," Grace Malella, general manager for UK based Sports World, said Tuesday.

"But if there is not a reason to stay then we will get the coach back to Vancouver."

That is worrying news for the community, said Councillor Chris Quinlan.

"I am concerned about their perception around this," he said Tuesday night at a standing room only event to bring Whistler businesses together with agencies that book Olympic packages for sponsors and sport committees.

Quinlan said he planned to meet with representatives of the agencies to explain Whistler's multi-million dollar celebration plan which will see arts, music, and other entertainment spread throughout the village. Whistler plans to have nightly concerts and entertainment at the $13.4 million Celebration Plaza throughout the Games.

"I am a little concerned that our partners haven't shared... how well this is going to run and what an amazing experience this is going to be," said Quinlan.

"It is important that they are aware of the way the community had really embraced this opportunity to provide an amazing experience for the people who are coming and we are going to make the best of Celebration Plaza. It is going to be a hell of a show."

The Vancouver Organizing Committee decided earlier this year that they would move the awarding of the Olympic medals from the Celebration Plaza to the event sites to save money.

The decision, which has been questioned by the International Olympic Committee, is now being looked at again and a final decision should have been made Wednesday.

Pete Moore, director of Olympic operations for SportsMark Management Group said his sponsor clients are looking for something unique to do outside of the time they spend at the Olympic events.

A nightly medal ceremony could be a key part of that.

"It is part of adding to that overall experience that we are looking at," he said.

Both Malella and Moore said that the global economic crisis is also affecting the way their clients are booking for these Games.

It is unlikely that they will book out entire restaurants for the duration of the Games. And gone are the days of the $450 meal per guest.

"It is an unfortunate situation, the economic reality at the moment," said Malella.

"It doesn't mean (our clients) are going to pull their programs but they have to be very conscious about what they are doing.

"I don't work with Panasonic, but just as an example, a couple of months ago they had to lay off 15,000 people worldwide. They are very conscious of not having a journalist come in and go; 'they are swanning it and splashing money all over the place.'"

Both Moore and Malella are now working to line-up how their clients will spend time in Whistler. Both are looking to offer an experience that is seamless and exceptional.

They said clients are very excited about coming to the resort. But, said Moore, if his company is not convinced that the experience will blow the client's socks off they won't come.

"Looking back to Torino and Sestriere (the Italian host of the 2006 Games) it was a very logistically challenging event for our guests to go to," said Moore.

"And a lot of us decided to give our tickets back because we weren't going to give an experience that we felt was going to be negative to the type of people we bring to the Games, and that is what we have to analyze with all of these venues: Is this experience going to be an experience we want our guests to have?"