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