13 December, 2005
Remarks by Secretary General of Information, Panos Livadas, to the Greek-Chinese Committee for the transfer of Greece’s Olympic Know-How to Beijing Olympic Games.
Allow me to start by expressing my sincere delight for being here in Beijing, among you.
The coincidence that the Olympics of Beijing will be the next after the Athens Olympics, is a most promising coincidence. And this, because the great Greek and the Great Chinese People share common humanitarian principles and values.
The Olympics, for many, many years now, have been circulating around marketing and sponsors, TV and glamorous athletic stars. And money. The Athens Olympics contradicted that approach. Our Olympics was also about Culture, Peace and Truce. And we are certain, that the Olympics of Beijing, the Olympics of another very ancient civilization, will be the Olympics of Peace, again! We are certain that once again, on the next Olympics, Peace and Culture will dominate the Spirit of Modern Olympic Games.
Now, let me add, that Peace for a country, any country, has a very important role to play. Not just because Peace is a great humanitarian value. But for more practical purposes. Let me use an example: when someone, say a company, wishes to make an investment, the first thing that it looks for, is stability. The very first thing that it looks for is Peace!
To start with, the Olympic Games represent a complex activity that far exceeds the boundaries of an athletic occasion to be a multi-faceted event that is projected globally, through multiple prisms. This process is intense enough to create or even transform perceptions, conceptions, and eventually stereotypes with regards to a country and its people.
And I am sure that I will not surprise you if I say that the dominant force that contributes to the formation, the reinforcement or the transformation of these stereotypes, are the world media and their representatives. In the world of the Olympics, these media representatives are not exactly the "accredited" media - that are present to report the sport and the athletics - but the non-accredited media, that ?invade? the hosting country in order to report back the details of the hosting country, the society, the economy, the strong and the weak points that all our societies have. And, of course, to criticize. And it is needless to say, that ?Criticism?, that has become part of the Olympic tradition, may sometimes be fair, creative and productive but lots of times it is a criticism that has lots of other motives to hide behind it.
We, in Athens, decided to look at this challenge straight in the eye. We did everything humanly possible, to develop or adopt every available model or practice to make sure that the messages that were dispatched to the world public opinion would be unified and free from distortion. While - of course - maintaining an open, free and user-friendly environment for the media professionals. After all, they were the ones that would, at the end of the day, mediate between our society and the world audiences.
We actually developed a tool for the non-accredited media which targeted to offer good services to this important group of visitors. We introduced the Zappeion Press Center and we tried our best to make sure that this "tool" would predict and therefore offer every conceivable service and accommodation to every single journalist or media person that would visit it. We made sure that all these people would see the Zappeion Press Center, as their "Home Away from Home". We also made sure that the Zappeion Press Center went far beyond being the surrounding of useful facilities: it would become a strategic "concept".
We marketed Zappeion in advance and we promoted it. 40 press offices of our embassies around the world, made hundreds of meetings each, explaining the Zappeion concept for more than 6 months before August 2004. I would also emphasize our smart and efficient web-site, www.mediainfo2004.gr, which presented all bits and pieces of the services we provided. And a cultural event, a sculpture art collection inspired by the Olympic Spirit, traveled around the globe, promoting the Athens Olympics and the Zappeion Press Center concept. We did our best to raise awareness regarding the Zappeion concept.
When the time of the Olympics came, everything was ready and running. We provided services and technical accommodations to around 4000 non-accredited media people from more than 110 countries, hundreds of which came from beautiful China. Plus, of course, to any of the 20.000 "accredited" correspondents, to whom we had provided unlimited access to Zappeion.
And, in turn, Zappeion, through this hospitality, started offering Greece 3 very valuable services: first, acquaintance and networking with those thousands professionals that came to Athens, not to cover the Olympics, but Greece itself. Second a unique opportunity to present Greece to the world. Through a number of elaborate events, we uncovered to the journalists of the world, Greece’s beauties, Greek hospitality, the Greek culture, Greek products, Greek services, of what Greece had become after many decades of Peace, Progress, Stability and hard work.
Finally, Zappeion Press Center offered an opportunity to provide to the journalists, what journalists wanted and needed the most: we offered Information!
We made daily briefings; even the daily official Governmental briefing took place here. We specially trained executives from our services, that were ready and able to provide answers to questions about anything and everything, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for more than 3 months: from the middle of June to the end of September. We had a telephone calling center, working around the clock, especially organized to offer information particularly to journalists and media.
And all these people, were trained to respond not only on positive matters or on business-as-usual matters but also in cases of crises. Even Big Crisis! Now, we all know, that thank God a big crisis NEVER came. But if it had, we were ready: we were all very well prepared and trained for it. The same way that other departments of the Greek Government were very well prepared to face any challenge on the operational level, we were also very well prepared to face it from our perspective, the communications’ perspective.
We worked on models in collaboration with the International Community and adopted these models to the Olympics Games’ needs. Best practices like "Golden Hour", "Soft & Holding Statement" variations, "Multiple Output Levels" and so many more Communication Crisis Management modules were put to the Athens Olympic Games service. We actually had opportunities to put this expertise to action in multiple occasions after the Olympics, earning recognition and respect from International Crisis Management Experts around the globe. Communications’ Crisis Management became part of our Olympic legacy.
Going back to the practicalities, now, let me give you a few examples of the kind of services and utilities we, at the Zappeion Center have provided.
Three different Newsrooms were set to serve the needs of the international Media community. 720 workstations were offered, all of them equipped with computers with free access to the Internet, printing, scanning and photocopying facilities.
The considerable number of Chinese Press professionals that honoured us with their presence, may have noticed that there were many different ways to connect to the internet in order to send news-reports, documents, photos, even video and sound. From simple PSTN connections, to DSL. With our WiFi connection, any person could connect wirelessly. Communicating news around the world became a ?piece of cake?.
For broadcasting needs, a comprehensive and independent Media Broadcasting Zone was set within Zappeion Press Centre, with the assistance of our Media Services Providers. A few examples of what our Media Zone offered was one digital T/V Studio - Plateau with three studio robotic cameras - to ensure discretion - and OB-VANs. We also had Broadcast Audio and Video editing suites and Radio Suites. All of these were controlled by a super modern Master Control Room. Also available were fully equipped ENGs and live stand-ups crews, fully equipped with technical support offering scenic views on the Acropolis and other attractions. The satellite up-link access was available 24 hours a day.
Media services provided to the media representatives’ access to the Daily Briefings, to all the press conferences’ Audio-Visual material, access to footage from the in-house exhibitions and events. Finally they provided access to A/V Database & Archive material.
We tried hard to achieve two goals: the first was to make sure that every journalist could have whatever he could imagine, at the reach of his hand, within Zappeion. Since we did not wish - and could not - limit their freedom to wonder around, we made everything possible to limit their motivation to move around.
The second goal was to create added value for Greece, because of the media’s presence there. We made sure that every journalist could easily enrich his report with wonderful scenes, footage, images, sounds, songs, anything that could send the image of Greece to the world. We tried our best so that even the smallest story, from the most junior journalist, would provide added value to Communicating Greece.
In addition an elaborate set of events was organized, to promote modern Greece. Fifty-eight (58) different events took place only within August. Events inspired by the achievements of Greece in the fields of culture, commerce, science, energy, technology and, of course, Tourism. More than 97 organizations worked together with the Greek government and particularly with the General Secretariat of Information that I have the honor to lead under the instructions of his Excellency Minister Roussopoulos, to schedule, organize and operate these projects.
Therefore, on a daily basis, besides and in addition to the Daily Government briefings, we had Scientific Conferences, Industrial Presentations, many special events such as art exhibitions, traditional Greek food tasting, musical and dance performances, Greek movies, concerts, receptions, even theatrical plays of the Greek classical repertoire. Those events not only gave journalists and the media family that worked in Zappeion the opportunity to relax but also served as a strong communicational and promotional tool for the Greek Comparative Advantages.
A point in which we placed particular attention was the format of the "stories" that were dispatched from Greece by the journalists and the media organizations. Of course, here again we could not have control. What we did, was to encourage our visiting friends, to try to incorporate to their coverage, images of Greek culture or Greek beauty. And we also encouraged them to incorporate to their reports historical references of the Greek Olympic History.
Allow me to take a few minutes of our time, to show you an indicative example of what we achieved through this productive working relationship that we created with most international media organizations and journalists.
So, it is by now very well established that the Athens Olympics of 2004 were a great success. And that is where the next urgent challenge arises: how does one utilize this success. How do we, in the Greek Government, capitalize this success for the benefit of Greece and the Greek people for the future?
The foundation of our approach lies on an International Research Program, that we have run for the last 4 years. It was a panel study conducted in many countries around the world, a big part of it executed before the Olympics and another part executed after the Olympics. In this way, we managed to have good insight of the differences of perceptions and stereotypes for our country as they arose from the Olympics.
A Consortium of Greek Research Agencies, leading a large network of international research organizations, planned and implemented a unique research program. For us, it combined:
a) The experience of social research, in order to discover and underline the essential of the citizens’ attitudes towards the Olympic and Paralympic Games,
b) The Olympic volunteer movement that may justify the acceptance of the Olympic identity and ideal
c) The Olympics’ effect in the enhancement of national pride and efficiency
d) The experience of market research in order to facilitate the decision making process on questions such as ticket pricing, promotion, sponsorship programs, etc.
e) The possibility to run ad hoc researches as a supportive tool for crisis management.
f) The possibility of advisory support and further analysis of inquiring data, for international communication purposes.
As I explained, a most important conclusion from this research, was for us to understand the new integrated stereotype for our country. We now have quantitative data that proves that Greece retains - in full - elements of its traditional stereotype of Beauty, Hospitality, Fun, the Sun and the Sea. In addition, though, Greece has now gained new attributes to its stereotype: attributes like "Stability", "Progress", "High Quality of Services" and "Security". In other words, in addition to traditional differential advantages like Culture and Tourism, Greece (along with its products and services) is now established as a stable and credible associate for cooperation in the areas of business, financing and production.
Our new communications’ approach is based on the above conclusions. We feel that after the Euro-2004, after the Olympics, after its recent election to the United Nations’ Security Council, and many other significant developments, Greece has proved that she Can Deliver, and if we put that to more marketing terms, we may say that "Greece Can Do Wonders". Therefore, another aspect of the Olympic Legacy, is Greece’s repositioning on the world map of perceptions. And when you have a "repositioning" then you also have a first rate opportunity to "Re-Brand". And Greece’s Re-branding approach is based precisely on the word "Wonder", and the message "Wonderful Greece". The slides that we will now see are approaches of this "Wonderful Greece" campaign strategy.
Our dear friends,
Some people in my country say that Beijing is the Athens of Asia and that Athens is the Beijing of Europe. We do believe it is a beautiful coincidence that after the Olympics of Athens, we will now welcome the Olympics of Beijing. Through the bridge of these two Olympics and the bridge of the two birthplaces of civilization, that of the West and that of the East, the world will have the opportunity to receive loud and clear the messages of Peace, of Culture, of Virtue and of Humanitarianism. Please accept once again our warmest wishes for the best success in the Beijing Olympics of 2008.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece