Olympic bid team 'agonised over every word'

Nothing this year has encapsulated London's creative potential quite like the city's successful bid to stage the 2012 Olympic Games.

Until the last gasp of the marathon contest, the British capital was
trailing favourite Paris, in spite of an energetic campaign by its carefully assembled team of business and marketing specialists, athletes and politicians. But a brilliantly executed endgame at the International Olympic Committee session in Singapore in early July made victory theirs.

The critical last few votes, given London's victory margin of four, were swayed by a near-flawless final presentation to IOC members. Five months on, David Magliano, director of marketing for the bid and, as such, one of the prime creative forces behind this pitch to end all pitches, explains the thinking behind it and how it was put together.

Mr Magliano, a 42-year-old advertising specialist with more than 100 television commercials under his belt, first turned his attention to the presentation that would climax London's bid in February - more than four months before its one and only performance in front of its target audience: the more than 100 IOC members whose votes would determine where the 2012 Games were held.

By March, Mr Magliano was focused full-time on Singapore, along with two colleagues: Chris Denny, another marketing specialist, and Nick Varley, a copywriter/author who acted as the main scriptwriter. This was, in essence, the execution team who sought to implement ideas cooked up in a four-member "inner cabinet" consisting of Lord (Seb) Coe, the bid leader, Keith Mills, London 2012 chief executive, Mike Lee, communications director, and Mr Magliano himself. "We agonised over every word," Mr Magliano recalls.

Also involved, as distinguished sounding boards, were two knowledgeable outsiders: Michael Payne, the former IOC marketing director, and Stewart Binns, a film-maker with extensive IOC experience.

As part of their preparation, the team watched past presentations by bidding cities, winners and losers, about a dozen in all. "We picked up lots," Mr Magliano says. "We learnt a lot about the use of different languages. [Part of prime minister Tony Blair's filmed contribution to the Singapore presentation was in French.] I was able to get a real sense of what I described as 'the choreography'."

A structure for the presentation was worked out consisting of five sections: introduction; a sequence on London's plans; a section on how those plans would be delivered; and then segments he refers to as "the magic of London" and "the killer close". To maintain interest during the 45-minute pitch, it was decided to use relatively short passages of film - a maximum of five minutes - interspersed with individual speakers.

Mr Magliano says the overarching theme of the presentation - youth - had been settled on by early May. "The youth argument very much came from Seb [Coe].The IOC gets its revenue from relatively few revenue streams. Television licensing is a huge contributor.So I thought 'What is going to be important to the IOC is attracting younger television viewers.'

"I was rehearsing this with Seb - it was literally he and I - and he said 'You are missing the point: the key issue isn't attracting younger people to television; it's attracting young people to participate in Olympic sport. That's the challenge IOC members face in their countries.' That was the epiphany moment. I now knew exactly what the presentation had to do."

The theme was dramatised in the hall by the presence of 30 east London schoolchildren, one of them onstage, and by an opening film telling the story of a boy from an unspecified African nation who is seen watching the 100m final on television from London in 2012 and dreaming that one day he could emulate the winner.

Mr Magliano says this concept was in place by the end of May. The story was picked up at the end of the Singapore presentation, which ended with the starting pistol firing to begin the boy's imaginary Olympic final in perhaps 2020.

This was a plucky move. As Mr Magliano says: in every single past presentation the team had watched, "the opening video was about the city making the presentation. In other words, they were saying 'Let's talk about us'". He gives credit to Lord Coe and Mr Mills for having the confidence to go with a radical concept. "[Mills] was very motivational in saying this was Paris's to lose," he recalls. "He kept saying he would rather go down in flames than play safe."

While other cities worked with big-name film-makers for their grand finales, London stuck with a little-known production company, New Moon. "New Moon's Daryl Goodrich and Caroline Rowland had made an earlier film featuring David Beckham puzzling over a crossword," Mr Magliano explains. "The chemistry was right. They may have been unknown to the rest of the world, but they were well-known to us." Another company, Live, did good work in generating powerful images and effective branding for the presentation.

The film was made in June, along with others featured in the presentation."All month I was running from edit suite to edit suite, watching the assembly of the films, making sure every shot was perfect," Mr Magliano says.

One element it was decided to highlight was the multicultural nature of contemporary London. "We knew New York would be playing that angle too, but I think that was generally perceived as a weakness of French culture." Inspiration for the "heroic" music that was chosen was the film Gladiator.

The team was also working on the scripts - the version eventually delivered was version 35. "I was worried about time and making sure we didn't appear rushed. I was always trying to take stuff out. Is this point absolutely essential? Will it make a difference to everyone? Is the language vivid? Is it idiomatic? I spent one afternoon looking at every occurrence of the word 'we'."

In Singapore, where they set up a training camp on Sentosa island, there were no fewer than 10 rehearsals. Even the Princess Royal, a former Olympic athlete and present IOC member, rehearsed three times. "We would rehearse mid-morning and then spend the day making amendments. We would invite a selected group in to be the audience. I was watching the presentations and watching the audience."

"We spent ages over selecting every single image on the screens. For example, we thought some of the votes up for grabs were south American, so we looked out for crowd shots with south American flags." There was even an understudy, former triple jumper Jonathan Edwards, should any of those due to appear live have to drop out at the last minute.

Even with this attention to detail, not quite everything was perfect. A Hungarian journalist told me afterwards that an image had appeared of a weightlifter disqualified from the 2004 Olympics after testing positive for a banned substance. When I tell him, Mr Magliano surmises immediately how this might have happened. "We did a check that every sport got
mentioned in the presentation. Late in the day, someone noticed that weightlifting was missing."

London was fourth on at 2.30pm local time. "Seb didn't want to watch the other presentations: we couldn't make any off-the-hoof changes. He stayed in his room reading the newspapers and playing jazz music very loud. Every now and then I would pop in to see him...The last 48 hours, I just tried to keep my head clear. We just had a very real sense we could do it."

And so it proved, with Lord Coe's closing address, in which he spoke of how the exploits of British athletes John and Sheila Sherwood in the 1968 Mexico Games had inspired him, praised to the skies by IOC members. Like everything else, this was polished to the nth degree. Mr Magliano recalls rising just after 4am one day on Sentosa island and finding Lord Coe "beside the pool, writing out his script".

Ironically, Mr Magliano did not get to enjoy the fruits of victory for long. When IOC president Jacques Rogge intoned London's name just before 8pm, he was standing just behind football icons Beckham and Sir Bobby Charlton. Shortly afterwards, though, he found himself being rushed to hospital in excruciating pain. A kidney stone was diagnosed. He travelled back home alone to a by then sombre UK capital - a result of the July 7 bombings - the following Monday.

The logo for the capital's 2012 Olympic bid was first sketched in a cinema seat in London's Empire Leicester Square during a mass open brief for designers being held by bid organisers.

The logo, a ribbon representing the Thames, was the brainchild of Kino Design, a Clerkenwell-based agency that is approaching its 20th anniversary.

Set up by Andrew Bignell and Andy Stanfield after graduating from Central St Martin's College, Kino toyed with other ideas before going back to develop the original sketch that one of them had drawn up during the brief.

It proved versatile enough to achieve the necessary ubiquity - from schools to aeroplace tailfins. "There were a lot of late nights and long weekends spent crafting it," says Mr Bignell. "It was a real labour of love."

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