8 PR Lessons that London 2012 Can Learn From Previous Olympics


Olympic events have traditionally been spectacular successes but a few of them are also known for glaring gaffes and downright disasters which could have been avoided with a little bit of alacrity. These disasters can be a critical lesson for the administrators of the upcoming London 2012 Olympics to avoid attracting world attention for all the wrong reasons. Here are some of the major Olympic faux pas and how they need not have happened in the first place.

More photogenic girl used to dub real singer

  1. Don’t go by mere looks because they can be deceptive

At the Beijing Olympics, in a move that attracted tremendous flak, the administrators brought in a 9 year old to lip sync ‘Ode to the Motherland’ instead of the original 7 year old sensational singer just because the elder child was perceived to be prettier and did not wear pig tails! When the real reasons spilled out, the bad press it generated was colossal.

 Lesson: It is important to understand and respect the sentiments and culture of foreign media and journalists. It pays to be culturally sensitive.

  1. Neglecting the official mascot can create confusion

At the Sydney Olympics, a parody of the official mascot became so popular that it simply dwarfed the official mascot. Many athletes even posed for medal photographs with Fatso, the Fat Arsed Wombat, a caricature created by a radio show.

Lesson: Your mascot must be universally appealing. Test it if you must. If your mascot does not hit the popularity charts, use the PR machinery to push for support.

Disappointment at NBC's delyed airing of Olympic games

  1. Don’t allow deal fallouts to affect broadcast arrangements 

Imagine withdrawing live services of an Olympic telecast and showing prime events with a tape delay only because the broadcasting partner and the event organizers could not work out a deal. This actually happened during 2010 Winter Olympics. The culprit? NBC!

Lesson: Events of the size of Olympics just cannot be handled this way. The broadcasters and the organizers must work in perfect synchrony to avoid such potential disasters.

  1. Institute a robust anti-drugs policy to keep controversies at bay

    Jones' delayed drug abuse discovery shocked world

The 2000 Olympics was infamous for the Marion Jones doping scandal. The US sprinter’s shame cast a shadow on other honest and clean performances. There should have been a more effective system in place to deal with such indiscretions by over-ambitious athletes.

Lesson: Instant and strict action against offending athletes is imperative regardless of their star power and so is comprehensive drug testing.


Flakey security paves way for Israeli massacre at Munich games



5. Security should be the topmost priority The Munich Olympics 1972 saw 11 members of the Israeli team lose their lives to a terror attack. Apparently, the organizers and local administration were complacent in matters of security.

Lesson: Foolproof security is an absolute necessity in such events. In case an attack does happen, there must be solid plans in place to deal with the danger.


Cry for reform after judges' collusion at Olympic skating event

  1. Prevent Behind-the-scene underhand dealings at all costs

The figure skating event at the 2002 Winter Olympics saw a queer development. Judges from different countries apparently colluded to influence the results. The expose led to a huge embarrassment for the administrators and merciless flak from the alert media.

Lesson: Transparency and fairness of results and a system to detect manipulation by the unethical judges must be put in place.

Notorious "black power" salute shifted focus to politics

7. Don’t allow politics to interfere with the event

Olympics, 1968 saw a notorious black power salute given by black American athletes Tommy Smith and John Carlos during the medal ceremony. This shifted the focus completely from the sports to politics during the entire games.

Lesson: Every attempt must be made to insulate the game from politics. Everyone involved, must be given clear guidelines to avoid such situations.


Lax security made way for stabbing and crippling attempt at skater

  1. Institute foolproof protection for athletes and participants

The 1994 Winter Olympics was infamous for the stabbing of skating star Nancy Kerrigan by her rival Tonya Harding’s ex-husband. The organizers should have systems to prevent such hooliganism and personal vendetta to manifest in the games.

Lesson:Security for athletes must be of the highest level to prevent such embarrassing incidents.

Global events such as the Olympics are followed by millions across the world. There is simply no room for blunders at events of such magnitude. Organizing and planning must be perfect to the last detail. Engaging a professional PR machinery in place can help manage the aftermath of such embarrassing disasters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *