Like most people of my generation, I had no real idea of the impact of the tour of the Olympic flame.
What I’ve realised, since it started its journey around the country a mere ten days ago now, is that – forgetting any historic legacy or history that may be attached to such events – the whole thing is one epic-scale PR stunt really.
Before the flame arrived on British shores (televised live on the One Show), the Olympics would still generally elicit something of a “meh” response from most you asked. However, since David Beckham arrived on a specially-liveried BA jumbo carrying the lantern from its financially stricken homeland, it feels like a corner has been turned.
It’s not the case that with the torch run the Olympics PR team has found its mojo. It’s far more easily understood as the case that the torch run is the Olympics’ mojo.
It’s been a textbook example of epic-scale PR. And, assuming Freud is involved, it feels like an event that has been handled with the military precision of a team promoting the mother of all Hollywood blockbusters, rather than the sequence of small-town country fairs that it might have been.
From its red carpet premier as it touched down to being paraded by notable
sporting icons media favourites including will.i.am, Matt Smith and Gethin Jones. Meantime, Zara Phillips paraded the thing. On a horse.
You can almost hear the joy in the brainstorm room can’t you...
"Shall we get Zara to do it, Royals are cool right now?"
"What could we do to make it front-page though?"
"Er … what about she does it on her horse?"
"I’ll call Dominic Mohan …"
Quite apart from the A-listers that the PR team has lined up to carry the Olympic torch, they’ve made the most out of every angle. There is a team that has got into its stride now. You can feel that the crisis managers have finally stepped aside, the messaging meetings have stopped and the publicists have been let lose.
The Torch Relay has given them just the platform they needed to build the hype.
And it hasn’t just been celebs who have captured the headlines on this first week. From Sarah Milner Simonds efforts to cash in with a swift eBay sale to a couple of people who took a wrong turn, to the “drama” of the flame going out to the heart-warming tale that every bearer seems to be able to tell.
The Olympics was looking like something of a PR also-ran before last week. As a result of the handling of the torch’s journey, it’s becoming something of a gold medal winning performance.
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