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U.S. message falls flat at Olympics
Posted By Ellen Ratner On 07/29/2012 @ 3:46 pm In Commentary | No Comments
I love the Olympics. Every two years, I make sure my schedule is clear for the opening and closing ceremonies
The parade of nations is my favorite, and this year was no exception. Seeing Syrian athletes proudly marching when their country is in such disarray was hearting. Knowing that tiny Grenada has fielded 10 people and that some of the Arab governments, such as Saudi Arabia, have allowed women to compete gives me faith in humanity.
I cheer for the U.S. team, and I am proud that we put so much into both men and women. Our team is diverse, both in ethnic composition and the sports in which they compete. It is wonderful to see countries in friendly completion instead of city-states (and countries) fighting against one another.
Michelle Obama has used the momentum of the Olympics to push her “Let’s Move” campaign. She decided to make last Saturday a time when kids across the country would be inspired to get active, and her office expected as many as 1.7 million kids to have participated in the events. Activities included a day of dancing on the National Mall, and fitness and nutrition expo in Atlanta, Ga., and relays and other Olympic-type sports across the United States.
This kind of activity must be making the U.S. Olympic Committee proud. The U.S. team looked great Friday night, even if the athletes’ outfits were not made in the U.S. There must have been high-fives when the media team saw the opening ceremonies. The British Friday night opening ceremony seemed to be a stream of conscience and was quite hard to follow. Both Salt Lake City and Atlanta were much more viewable.
I would have loved to be a fly on the wall, however, during the media staff meeting of the U.S. Olympic team. The conversation might have been something like this:
Media person 1: “We are really taking a hit from the Brits on Gov. Romney’s remarks.”
Media person 2: “What planet was he on? Coming to London and questioning if London was ready and questioning security really didn’t help us with public relations. At least he later said that London was ready, but the damage was done.”
Media person 3: “It is great that the first lady is here, but we are still fielding questions about why the president didn’t come.”
Media person 1: “I am glad he did not come, because that would have been a security nightmare. But, we have a larger problem.”
Media person 3: “What problem? We look so much better than London with its opening ceremony. It was really hard to know what was going on.”
Media person 1: “Yes, I am thankful for that. The U.S. looks really good in comparison, but what are we going to do with Michael Phelps?”
Media person 2: “What do you mean?”
Media person 1: “He is terrible on camera. He has won the gold in two Olympics, but he can’t make eye contact in an interview. I don’t even think he can win with that attitude. He is looking like he is still taking a hit from the bong he got photographed with years ago. He doesn’t smile, and he comes off with a bit of the millennial generation’s arrogance.”
Media person 2: “Yes, we should have done more media training. This might be the biggest PR disaster we have.”
Although the above conversation is made up, it could have easily taken place. What should be a complete win/win for the U.S. with an Olympian such as Michael Phelps is a complete turnoff as a role model for aspiring kids and for the rest of America. I saw two interviews he did, and he showed little emotion and could not look at the interviewer.
Between Romney’s remarks and Michael Phelps’ seeming disinterest, our shining moments have turned into a public relations disaster. This should not be happening.
The U.S. Olympic Committee needs to spend more time coaching our representatives, starting with presidential candidates such as Romney (who should have known better) to Michael Phelps, who needs Media Training 101.
We look like we have no experience in communicating our message. All that preparation, all that money that is raised for training and the games, and our message fell flat at the opening. We need to make a quick recovery for the rest of the games.
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