October 4, 2009 / 4:17 PM / 9 years ago

INTERVIEW-Olympics-Rio 2016 pitch was a mini opening ceremony

COPENHAGEN, Oct 4 (Reuters) - It may have been the smallest audience Scott Givens has ever had to woo but it was by far the most influential.

When the International Olympic Committee gathered to elect the winning bid for the 2016 Olympics, each of the four candidates — Chicago, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid — had 45 minutes to make their pitch to the audience of about 100 members.

Rio’s presentation, which included speeches, videos, digital maps and still photographs, was praised by seasoned observers as the best of the four and possibly the best ever seen, playing an important role in helping the Brazilian city win the Games.

Givens, who has staged Olympic Games opening ceremonies as well as Disneyland spectacles and has been involved in eight Games, said it was like producing an opening ceremony, condensed into a brief 45 minute-slot with a fraction of the actors.

Instead of tens of thousands of dancers, athletes and extras, Givens, the director of the FiveCurrents company, had to carefully orchestrate a handful of presenters, including Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and bid leaders.

“When you think of it, it is the smallest audience but an incredibly influential, important audience. It is not as different from an opening ceremony as one might think,” Givens, who hails from California, told Reuters in an interview.

“People want to experience certain things and in this case it was the same. It is story-telling whether in big ceremonies or in this case.”

The result has proved him right and, instead of dazzling 100,000 stadium spectators and billions of viewers worldwide, he impressed his target audience, the small group of voting IOC members.

“This was a study of what the condition of the voters was when they entered the room and how we would want them to leave after it,” said Givens, whose presentation included a digitally altered map of the city which included proposed venues.


Future venues were cleverly integrated into existing beaches and neighbourhoods from a bird-eye view, removing the sense of virtual venues.

None of the other bid presentations were able to match that with a similar visual element.

“Knowing the Olympic movement well we were able to bring out things that would resonate with the members,” said Givens. “There were several things we wanted the voters to realise.”

Those included convincing them of Rio’s ability to succeed with a strong Games plan and the country’s growing economic might. Lula’s speech and that of Brazil’s central banker, Henrique Meirelles, did exactly that.

While Rio looked to have some sympathy votes, concerns lingered ahead of the election whether it would be able to rise to the complex challenge of staging the world’s biggest multi-sports event.

“Everybody knew about Rio’s passion but we had to make the members appreciate our Games plan and the strength of the economy.”

Givens’ presentation plan with tightly scripted speeches, interchanged with videos, hammered home that message before Givens’ tapped on the emotions with Rio’s desire to stage the first ever South American Games.

Bid leader Carlos Nuzman ended the presentation asking the members to press the button for Rio, his finger mimicking the action.

That is exactly what they did a little later, handing the Games to Rio.

Editing by Paul Radford, To comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com

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