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Ringing in the London Olympic Games

By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek

July 27, 2012

After years of buildup, a $14 billion price tag,$1 billion in ad revenue for U.S. broadcaster NBC, 10,490 athletes from 204 nations competing in 26 sports, 18 TOP sponsors (including General Electric, adidas, VISA, Dow, Samsung, British Telecom, P&G, Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB, Omega, and McDonald’s), one night-lit London Eye, and two creepy mascots with one eye apiece, the 2012 London Olympic Games have commenced.

And even though eight football games are already in the record books and some archery has likewise taken place, the official kickoff of the Games, of course, is the shrouded-in-secrecy Opening Ceremony. This Games’ edition is “Isles of Wonder,” directed by filmmaker Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “Trainspotting”).

The Olympic Charter mandates most aspects of the Opening Ceremony. Traditionally, the ceremony starts with the raising of the host country’s flag and playing of its national anthem. And then there’s the artistic performance and the Parade of Nations, which always starts with Greece and ends with the host country.

Queen Elizabeth will officially open the Games and former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney will close the ceremony with a performance right before the lighting of the Olympic flame. British soccer star David Beckham and boxing great Muhammad Ali are also thought to have starring roles.

According to a survey released earlier this week by Yahoo! Sports, Bruce Jenner tops the list of celebrities most adults would like to see represent the U.S. by lighting the Olympic flame. The survey of 2,000 American adults ages 18-64 found that more adults would like to see Jenner light the Olympic flame (20%) than George Clooney (12%) or Jennifer Aniston (8%). The celebrity that adults would least like to see representing the U.S. is Snooki (32%), who beat out Jenner’s stepdaughter Kim Kardashian (19%).

The cost for all of this sporty sturm und drang? $42 million, down from $100 million from Beijing’s never-to-be-matched Opening Ceremony in 2008.

That includes the athlete procession, which in 2012 should rightly be called the Parade of Brands.

Following in the sneaker-clad footsteps of professional tennis, the Olympics are now a giant runway for the world’s biggest designers, who hope to use the Opening Ceremony to reach a projected global audience of one to four billion viewers and promote their brands. In addition to Polo Ralph Lauren, the official outfitter of Team USA (and source of controversy last week when it was pointed out that the American Olympics uniforms were manufactured in China), other fashion luminaries showcasing new collections at the London Games include Prada, Hermes, Giorgio Armani, and Stella McCartney (daughter of Sir Paul), who is outfitting the British team.

In the U.S., the USOC is equally aggressively promoting the products of its 35 Team USA licensees, hoping to achieve $100 million in retail sales by placing items in a diverse spectrum of retailers ranging from Wal-Mart to Macy’s, Bloomingdales, and Polo Ralph Lauren boutiques.
The Olympics Opening Ceremony allows the host country to portray its history and culture through an elaborate song and dance routine. London’s rendition adds a new element: farm animals. With plans to evoke the British countryside, the opening scene inside the stadium, “Green and Pleasant,” will include 70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens, three sheep dogs, and a plough.

Without a doubt, this menagerie will represent the first time that “branding” will assume its traditional barnyard definition on such a large global stage.

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Beyond the Scoreboard
Rick Horrow, America’s leading expert in sport business, and coauthor Karla Swatek give fans an inside look at the multibillion-dollar world of professional sport.
Beyond the Scoreboard eBook
Rick Horrow, America’s leading expert in sport business, and coauthor Karla Swatek give fans an inside look at the multibillion-dollar world of professional sport.
Beyond the Scoreboard: Chapter 1. The Mega-Master Super Series XLXL eBook chapter

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