Press Operations: XIX Olympic Winter Games

≡ The Backdrop:

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympic Winter Games of 2002 (known as “SLOC”) desperately wanted to avoid the mistakes of the Olympic organizing committee for the 1996 Atlanta Games, which was unmercifully roasted by the worldwide news media, among others, as a failure.

At the same time, the bid committee which had brought the Winter Games to Salt Lake City, was in the midst of a scandal over favors granted to International Olympic Committee members, which had caused the organizing committee chairman to resign. SLOC needed a fail-safe solution in press operations, and after a series of interviews, asked Perelman, Pioneer to provide a consulting study, and then engaged us to provide management of its Press Operations department.

≡ The Work:

Starting from scratch in what was then a fledgling organizing committee, the Press Operations program was developed. First through our consulting contract, then as contracted managers of Press Operations, we provided SLOC with straightforward guidance on the questions that would shape the media services program for the Winter Games:

  • Budget
  • Communications outreach
  • Infrastructure and equipment
  • Levels of service
  • Staffing requirements

The Press Operations planning team was built out, based on units focused on specific aspects of the service program: accreditation & accommodations, Main Media Center, Olympic News Service, photography and venues. The full-time staff of 18 coordinated the media infrastructure, programming, staff training and information services for the Main Media Center and 14 competition and support facilities. Included in this effort was coordination with the Host Broadcaster to ensure the needs of television did not interfere with the working conditions for press and photographers.

During the planning period, our team managed the department and contributed directly to the Olympic News Service through the compilation of 755 athlete biographies, covering the leading contenders in alpine skiing, bobsled, cross-country skiing, nordic combined and ski jumping.

In order to ensure a strong understanding of the support program planned for media, a series of publications was created to both inform accredited media and reassure them that world-class support awaited them in Salt Lake City, and that they could have confidence in the organizing committee:

  • Apr. 2000: Press Accommodations Guide
  • Apr. 2000: Press Accreditation Guide
  • Apr. 2000: Press Rate Card
  • Jan. 2001: Facilities and Services for Journalists Guide no. 1
  • Jan. 2001: Press Rate Card Catalog and Order Form
  • Jul. 2001: Facilities and Services for Journalists Guide no. 2
  • Feb. 2002: Facilities and Services for Journalists Guide (Games Edition)

Our agreement was twice expanded, first as the principal liaison with the Olympic Results & Information Services (ORIS) development team from the International Olympic Committee. This was an intensive, 16-month process that took place in Montreux, Switzerland and in Salt Lake City that led to specific guidance on the information and results formats for nearly 1,000 reports that would be produced during the Games.

The second expansion was an agreement to handle the hiring, processing and payment of 114 Press Operations Games-period staff from 10 nations who served as directors and managers at the venues and Olympic News Service.

≡ The Outcome:

The Salt Lake City Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games were among the finest ever staged. The Press Operations Department was widely praised for a vigorous, well-prepared effort to support news media from around the world.

In all, some 794 SLOC Press Operations staff (including volunteers) supported some 2,661 press and photographic media at 15 sites. The Press Operations program was completed, on time and on budget, for a total of $9.6 million (about $12.9 million in 2016).

There was, unfortunately, one sad note related to this effort. Our long-time Perelman, Pioneer colleague, Bruce Dworshak – who served full-time in Salt Lake City as Press Chief for the Winter Games – lost his battle with cancer at age 48 shortly after the Games ended. We have missed him ever since.