Olympics Openings: Event Planning Lessons for Blockbuster Events

Olympics Opening CeremonyThe opening ceremonies for the London 2012 Summer Olympics had all of the key ingredients for creating blockbuster corporate and special events. 

10 Key Ingredients for Creating Blockbuster Events

  1. Incorporate History and Culture

    Examples: A colorful montage traced the evolution of Great Britain from pastoral and farming society through the industrial revolution and into the Internet age. This was reflected through the use of verse, music, and references to literature..

    The Olympics opening ceremonies demonstrated that history and culture do not have to be boring. For local events, draw on local history and culture. For foreign events, tap into the rich culture and history of the destination.
  2. Reflect Diversity

    Examples: Examples of diversity inlcuded a depiction of Caribbean immigrants arriving in England, and a volunteer in a wheelchair participated in the industrial revolution montage. 

    The communities from which corporations draw their customer base are becoming more diverse. Savvy brands realize that it is important to reflect diversity in their advertising and events.
  3. Seek Opportunities to Involve Children and Youth

    Jamaica Flag Bearer Usain Bolt with ChildrenExamples: Young people were involved throughout the opening ceremonies.

    Children and teens acted in the pastoral, industrial revolution, hospital, and love story tableaus. Two children walked with each flag bearer, one carrying a petal that was eventually used in the Olympic cauldron and the other carrying the team's sign. Young athletes lit the cauldron.

    The young people of today will be the consumer and corporate customers of the future.

    Future-forward brands like Apple and Coca-Cola have consistently and effectively reached out to the youth market. This brand equity will pay in HUGE dividends when this market segment matures and moves into corporate decision making roles.
  4. Motivate Multi-generational Audiences with Music

    Examples:  There was something for everyone in the musical score for the 2012 Olympics. From hymns and folk music to the jitterbug, rap music, the Beatles and Pachelbel's Canon, everyone eventually had a chance to tap their feet to their favorites.

    As Generation Y matures, the customer and employee base will become increasingly multi-generational. Music is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to bridge the generational gap.
  5. Never Underestimate the Power of Celebrity

    Examples: From members of the British royal family to James Bond to David Beckham and Mohammed Ali to Sir Paul McCartney, the Olympics opening ceremony strategically used celebrities in just the right places to get the crowd excited.

    Celebrities don't have to be world famous. Consider using an athlete, actor, artist or musician from the local community. Just about every community has them.
  6. Inject Humor

    Examples: There was just enough humor to lighten up the evening. For example, Rowan Atkinson re-creating his role as Mr. Bean in the orchestra and during a Chariots of Fire montage was very entertaining.  

    Event planers would be wise to look for opportunities to inject some tasteful touches of humor into conferences and corporate events.
  7. Always Add the Element of Surprise

    Examples: There were many surprises including the James Bond montage, the mystery about how the torch would get to the stadium and the most well-kept secret surrounding who would light the cauldron.

    Is there any reason why corporate CEOs should do any less? Participating in corporate events in a fun and playful manner would definitely help CEOs appear more accessible to employees and clients.
  8. Involve the CEO in a Humorous and Unexpected Way

    Examples: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II did not think a James Bond send up with a stunt double jumping out of a helicopter was beneath her dignity. It was brilliant and a move that delighted viewers around the world. Based on feedback from director Danny Boyle, Her Majesty and her corgies could have a future in acting - if she decides to retire early.

    Is there any reason why corporate CEOs should do any less? Participating in corporate events in a fun and playful manner would definitely help CEOs appear more accessible to employees and clients.

    For one of the events my company organized, a helicopter landed in a field beside where the executive team was having breakfast before departing for an executive retreat. The CEO calmly picked up her purse, said, "See you at the retreat," got into the helicopter and flew off. In teams, the executives had to follow clues that took them on a trail that involved riding in rickshaws, limos, speed boats, bicycles, helicopters, and horses to find her.

    Not all clients have the budget for helicopters but with some creativity, similar results can be achieved (e.g. a rickshaw that can be rented for a few hundred dollars and a pick-up in a nice taxi for under $20).
  9. Ensure Great Results with Rehearsals

    Olympics RehearsalExamples: Although the London Olympics is a high profile international event, organizers left nothing to chance. This London 2012 Iconograph reveals that there were "284 rehearsals at two East London sites and the Olympic Stadium." Rehearsals including a full on-site rehearsal, fireworks trial, and technical run-through were held at the Olympic Stadium the day before the opening ceremony. (Believe it or not, the photo to the right is from a rehearsal.)

    Practice used to be considered the hallmark of a true professional. Today, organizations place high value on being able to "learn on the fly," achieve results in tight timeframes and deal with last-minute change. The scale has tipped too far in the direction of "winging it" and this can lead to event failures.
  10. Absolutely NOTHING says blockbuster like strobe lights and fireworks.

Strobe lights Olympics London 2012

Olympics Opening Ceremony Fireworks London 2012

Photo Credits: Nick J Webb, Paul Hickman (Rehearsal Only)

If you missed the opening, try Official IOC YouTube Channel or Global Authorized London 2012 Olympics Broadcasters. For more event planning tips and resources from the Olympics, please also consult Corporate Events: Venues for Olympic Inspired Events

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