Michigan wrestling manager Emily Martin is currently in London as part of a two-week intensive “Behind the Scenes at the London Olympics” study-abroad program through U-M’s School of Kinesiology and Sport Management program. While in London, she and 26 other students will meet with Olympic executives, corporate sponsors, London programming committees and other officials directly related to the staging of the 2012 London Olympics. Emily will share some of her experiences in a CKWC-exclusive “London Calling” blog.
FRIDAY, MAY 11
I hate goodbyes. I often do everything in my power to avoid them. So fittingly, I’m not going to say goodbye to London because that’d be rubbish.
Dodging all goodbyes, we boarded a train to Loughborough University this morning, an English university that participates in an accredited exchange study-abroad program with U-M’s School of Kinesiology. Loughborough will play host to the London 2012 preparation camps for Team GB and Team Japan. They are also a global leader in the design and scientific testing of sport apparel and equipment. Brands like Adidas and Nike rely on researchers for design innovation in footwear, clothing and other sport-specific equipment in order to optimize performance. Callaway golf clubs are designed exclusively at the university and trials are about to get underway in the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, just to name a few notable projects.
The University Business Developing Manager outlined his strategy to satisfy an influx of athletes this summer on Loughborough’s campus. From security protocols to bed counts, he has thought of it all. He repeatedly stressed that his job is to accommodate the athletes, coaches, trainers and support staff in order to make their transition from training preparation to the Olympic stage as easy and routine as possible. “We’ll measure our efforts on medal counts and the feats of the athletes that will prepare and train here. More than anything else, we want to see them win and stand on the podium.”
Working tirelessly to make sure every detail is logged and every potential pitfall has an escape route, individuals across the world want to ensure that all their Olympians have to do is perform. But along the way, something connects them to athletes with particular stories — characters in the narrative. Before they know it, they’ve stood up alongside the rest of the crowd. And soon after, they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than right there cheering for gold.
From tours of Olympic sites to humbling conversations with London sport outreach programs, I’m not sure that I deserved these moments, but I will be forever grateful. And gauging from my one sighting of Her Majesty, the Queen is definitely a Jake Herbert fan.
Photo Count: 500+
Coffee Count: 21
WEDNESDAY, MAY 9
Where do I even begin…
As we walk into corporate offices and through what are soon-to-be Olympic venues, I have no words. No words can describe the generosity we’ve experience in London. Every individual — from the receptionists, to the presenters, to the guides and to the six-figure executives — show tremendous respect and generosity to a group of 20-somethings hanging onto their every word. Olympic media correspondents from the UK’s Telegraph and BBC, officials representing the British Olympic Association and Team GB, London Olympic Organizing Committee personal and members of the TOP sponsorship program have spoken with candor and such truth. I continually find myself leaning back in my chair to process and file these moments as extraordinary.
Sitting down with the Director of Public Relations and Media of the London 2012 Olympic Organizing Committee (LOCOG) opened my eyes to the complexity of the Games and the potential for significant organizational miscues. She outlined her team’s marketing and communications strategy on one slide. One slide. She went on to stress the importance of simplifying every objective when dealing with any operational structure: “From a youth-league football team to a team working to put on the world’s premier sporting event, you have to make your communications strategy simple, easy to understand and known to everyone involved.” In essence, executing the 2012 Olympic Games in London is like putting on 26 World Championships in the span of 17 days. Communication, open dialogue and a cohesive purpose are as important as ever.
Accordingly so, one of LOCOG’s tasks is to promote the 2012 London Games and showcase the brilliance of the British people to the world. Yet, it’s not solely an external effort as it is internal. The country of Great Britain must support their athletes and, ultimately, stay home this summer. London organizers are encouraging their friends and neighbors to become engaged in the Games even if they don’t have tickets to set foot inside Olympic Stadium. The current emphasis around community participation involves the 70-day torch relay beginning now, which I’ve been told will come within 10 miles of 95 percent of the population. If the torch relay is the first homework assignment of the London Games, it arguably deserves a grade-school gold star.
Photo Count: 517
Coffee Count: 18
MONDAY, MAY 7
It seems as if every artifact of the city is its own novelty. Bookstores, art museums, old cobblestone streets, bike shops and bright red telephone booths give London its character. Even ordering coffee, a task I felt so confident completing in the States, is unique and not easy across the pond. “What is white coffee? You mean it just has milk in it? Did you just call American coffee watery syrup? Maybe I should start drinking tea instead. Is that what you want? Okay, tea it is.”
Baristas aside, my favorite day thus far did not include the posh conference rooms of IMG Worldwide or the iconic sights of this metropolitan city. My favorite day in London was the day I met Neil. Neil is the Chief Executive of the Community Sports Program in east London, whose path to work each day crosses directly adjacent to Olympic Stadium. As the director of a community outreach program that works alongside the Leyton Orient Football Club, a professional English soccer club playing in the lowest level of competition, Neil has a critical yet grassroots position in sport. He works to bring the game of “football”(what is known to us as soccer) and a host of other sports to youth across one of the poorest areas of London. The community center meets with a child and builds a relationship with him or her for an extended period of time in order to see that individual grow. “It’s more than just the numbers anymore. We want to get kids involved to make them better sons, better friends, better husbands. Our unemployment rate here is much higher than the average for the city. Our poverty rate is higher. I’d be a fool if I wasn’t passionate about what I am doing.”
After negotiations and many visits from the United States Olympic Committee, the community center’s main recreation building will be given a facelift and used as the training site for USA Wrestling, Volleyball, Boxing and Taekwondo during the London Games this summer. With a gleam of pride in his eyes, Neil also informed us that our Olympic teams will be leaving behind extra equipment (mats, balls, nets, gloves, etc) for his kids to use after the Games are over.
It’s about legacy.
Photo Count: 391
Coffee Count: 14
FRIDAY, MAY 4
After just under a week of living in London, I think that I may be in love. Every child, parent and grandparent speaks English in an accent that sounds like a lullaby. Every street has fresh food stands or markets where preservatives are prohibited. The “Underground” (subway system) is home to the hustle and bustle of speed walking, a national sport. Each corner provides museum after monument after statue of rich history. Everyone’s wardrobe includes hipster slacks — complete with cuffed pant legs — and thick-framed glasses that I only wish I could wear in the States without scrutiny.
We recently spent an entire day in London Offices of IMG Worldwide, a global sport marketing and management company that represents elite athletes and entities from Tiger Woods, to Rafael Nadal, to the University of Michigan itself in the rapidly emerging IMG College division of the corporation. IMG also works with Olympic sponsors that hold exclusive rights to the Games. One of the speakers was the Director of Consulting and International Olympic Marketing, a 2001 Michigan alum and former Olympic silver medalist in women’s rowing. She told us the story of her journey from Ann Arbor to the 2004 Athens Olympics to IMG in London. There was a moment in her story that epitomizing the path of the Olympic athlete. In between anecdotes of Michigan memories and outlines of promotional strategies, she said, “Sacrifice what you are for what you will become.’ It’s been clear that the Olympic dream is very much at the heart of every stakeholder in the Games. From corporate to competition, it’s all about the aspiration to do more, be more.
The Director of Olympic Management Global Sponsorship Marketing at Visa, a coveted TOP Olympic sponsor, along with the likes of Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Samsung, is also an alumnus of the University of Michigan. He gave us tremendous insight into the massive publicity catalyst that is the Olympic Games. As we are well aware by Morgan Freeman’s captivating voice and Visa’s effective “Go Global” commercial campaign, Visa is the only card accepted at the Olympic Games. This direct association with the Games comes with a hefty price tag, but is nonetheless invaluable to companies as they will stand on the international platform of the Olympics — a stage with remarkable legacy.
The UK is tying their shoelaces for the big dance with 84 days left until the curtain is raised on the city of London. I would say they are ready to put on a royal show, but that might be cliché.
Photo Count: 289
Coffee Count: 10
WEDNESDAY, MAY 2
Tuesday was my first full day in London, and already I’m quickly discovering architectural beauty, slowly deciphering British accents and imperatively relearning how to cross the street. To begin the day, we went on a bus tour around the city with one knowledgeable guide in Brian, a British history and pop culture wit-spitting phenom. He was fantastic and incredibly funny as we saw our first sights of the historic city on a typical dreary and misting London day. A short index of postcard attractions included Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the British Museum, the London Eye and my newfound love, Big Ben.
But our first stop was Olympic Park. I couldn’t believe that I was standing on a platform overlooking Olympic Stadium, home to the opening and closing ceremonies. Olympic Park, which also encompasses the Aquatics Centre, Olympic Village, the Basketball Arena, the Velodrome, among others, sits in east London and crosses into five of the city’s 33 boroughs. It’s centered in a previously deprived and poor district of London with Olympic organizers calling for a revival of the area.
I’ve talked to the locals on the street, stepped inside hole-in-the-wall shops to take in the culture, tried to count the number of pubs within eyesight and lost track … four times. Londoners walk much too hastily and speak sarcasm as a first language, English second. Ultimately, the next two weeks will challenge my viewpoints, sense of navigational direction and caffeine addiction. Above it all, I am so grateful.
Photo Count: 100+
Coffee Count: 6
For more images from Emily’s London experience, please check out the photo gallery.