I wrote about Flash Mobs in my book, Leverage Olympic Momentum, and described them as a spontaneous assemblies of thousands of people communicating through the internets to set a time and place and describe details of why they are getting together.
Flash Mobs are relatively new, but it is a communication process that will keep Olympic organizations tossing and turning all night long.
Flash Mobs require very little planning and they erupt quickly.
Here's an excerpt from my book and what I wrote about Mobs in 2006,
"All businesses have to appreciate fully that the region grinds to a halt about a month before the Games and during the spectacle. Olympic organizations buy up all the signage, including billboards in the region. They do it to prevent companies that compete with their sponsors from advertising during the Games, plus to prevent protestors from spreading negative information. They also buy up the side of every bus, taxi, and public transportation vehicle. SMBs [small and midsize businesses] can’t get a word in edgewise using traditional space if they tried. However, private vehicles like trucks and cars, clothing, the internet are all viable solutions to reach the hundreds of thousands of people coming into the region.
If SMBs use the internet beforehand to prime spectators the chances for mental recall of alternative branding will increase dramatically when Olympic fans see something on the street. To offer a very simplistic example, ‘Flash Mobs’ wearing the same blank colored t-shirt and shouting the same message, or using laser pointers and making the same choreographed movement can be incredibly effective.
Gawker Stalker, a celebrity spotting/monitoring service, exploded out of nowhere in early 2006 and is a model that can be easily modified to work in an Olympic region. Thanks to text messaging and easy internet access, Flash Mobs can be assembled anywhere, including inside Olympic facilities.
In order for it to work you have to prime the viewer to recognize what a simplified message/logo/icon means. People who text message develop short forms that use only a few letters. For example, ‘R U 4 it’ and a thousand other ‘sms’ abbreviations say a lot with only a few strokes.
Conditioning consumers to recognize the message online is the first step in managing the space. Once people know what to look for SMBs can Flash Mob the side of a ski hill or a swimming pool gallery. Adding colour to the mix gives you another recognition factor. And having a hundred or a thousand people perform the same move simultaneously turns into a branding event.
Also take it mobile and emblazon the sides of truck tractor-trailers in Flash Mob style.
Olympic officials will go crazy trying to stay on top of it. Today it’s blue, tomorrow yellow.
In the past Olympic security tried to restrict entry of cell phones with built in cameras into Olympic facilities. Good luck today. Almost everyone has one and no one will part with it. In fact Bell Canada, an Olympic sponsor, ran a television commercial during the Games in Turin that encouraged spectators to use their cell phones instead of the old flickering lighter in the spectator stands. I’m not sure how VANOC will control people who hold up their phones as a replacement for lighters, and then snap a few pics or shoot a bit of video of the finish line, and then automatically wire it in real time to their blog. Consumers were already using the auto WiFi technology in 2005.
Big brother tactics by Olympic organizations are about to experience a whiplash effect. It started in Australia with the “sorry” event and it will only get more powerful. Creativity will be the key to success. Viral cross media interaction is a new way for SMBs to get their message out to the masses. The harder Olympic organizations try to control everyone the harder people will resist and fight back. It’s human nature." end of excerpt
Most people in Vancouver have not yet figured it out in July of 2009, but Vancouver has one of the most organized Flash Mob groups in North America. It's called Critical Mass, and once a month, on the last Friday of every month, it attracts up to 3,000 bicycle riders who wind their way slowly through downtown Vancouver causing general havoc by grinding traffic to a dead stop. The police are helpless to control it, and it was only recently police put 2 + 2 together and realized Critical Mass could be easily modified to be used very effectively during the 2010 Olympics.
It's not a coincidence Vancouver's mayor, Gregor Robertson and law enforcement are now concerned about the effect Critical Mass is having on the city. They pretend they are primarily concerned for citizens clashing with unruly bikers, but what they don't say, and neither does local media, is that they are more concerned with the Olympics than what is currently happening in the summer of 2009.
Flash Mobs are the new protest tool, and Vancouver does it well. Just imagine what will happen this February when the Olympics hit town and Flash Mobs impede traffic. The potential is great to cause spectators to miss events they paid thousands of dollars to see, or even worse, prevent an athlete from competing.
I have warned local news media about technology related challenges regarding 2010 for many years, but it falls on deaf ears. It's amazing that not one news media person in our region has been able to see this coming.
It's no wonder newspapers are going bankrupt.
New Horse in 2010 Olympics Race
YOU Media overtaking Mainstream News Media in the homestretch.
Fans on their feet as the 2010 Olympics charges for the finish line.
OK, it might not actually be this exciting, but the race is heatin' up.
Published July 17 2009
I'm Pro-Olympics - with a twist,
I love Olympic sport, but hate the politics.
Jeff Lee, official 2010 reporter for The Vancouver Sun manages an Olympic blog, and on July 16, 2009 he ran an article and asked readers to send comments suggesting ways to improve the Olympic business model.
It was a seemingly noble move on his part to improve a system so out of date it screams . . . Only seven months to the big event and still most residents in Vancouver have little clue what is actually occurring in our HOST region and to our TAX TAB.
As usual in the Olympic world, nothing is as it seems. For example, did you ever think the IOC would be so sexist and not allow women to ski jump at 2010? Neither did I, or did most anyone else - Old Farts Club.
When I saw Lee’s blog headline, “Ten signs of emerging trouble at Vancouver 2010 Olympics” the first thing I thought was, what took him so long to address issues we’ve reported for years, but then when I read the list I realized he actually meant, Ten signs of what is wrong “TODAY.”
I didn’t at first catch the “emerging” subtlety of his headline and its intent, and consequently posted the following on his blog, which to my surprise, he published. I was surprised because for years he banned and panned me and refused to publish anything I sent him. We have history.
Since 2004 I've experimented with a citizen journalism strategy called “adopt-a-reporter.” Basically, we follow Lee’s coverage of the Olympics, and document his relationship with Olympic organizations.
Lee refuses to even consider our research. I think his resistance is based partly on a misplaced fear of being scooped, plus, I suspect he's not too keen on having our community really understand the Olympic process in a timely manner. A more clear understanding of what usually happens in an Olympic region would help Vancouver to be proactive instead of reactive. Lee unfortunately has a history of reporting Olympic news after it is too late for our community to do anything about it. To be fair though, other mainstream news media in our 2010 region also often do the same.
In a sense, it's like a lawyer or reporter standing at an intersection he knows has a history for producing horrific accidents, and waiting for the cars to collide. No real skill in the process. You just have to be patient.
In one respect it's a sign of the times in news rooms experiencing rolling budget cuts, but there is something more calculating lurking below the surface. The days of
masterful investigative journalism are all but gone. Reporters today are depressed about the prospect of their careers, and some use it as an excuse to just get by instead of digging deeper. Unfortunately, this lackadaisical attitude suites Olympic organizations, because it helps them maintain their infamous reputation of secrecy.
Lee told me a while ago he won't publish my comments on his blog because he feels I'm using him to sell my book, but I think that too is just an excuse because he's worried, like many of his colleagues, of the negative impact social media is having on his job. What journalist doesn't feel this way as they watch newspapers sag under the weight?
It's unfortunate, but it's the reality today of
news media competition in our social media era.
Lee’s wrong about us and our research. The people who read my blog and book are business and politics oriented and don’t follow Lee's style of reporting, although I admit we also offer good advice for his main target audience - Olympic volunteers, which I'm sure makes him wary of us.
The IOC partners with local mainstream news media for one primary reason. They need access to Olympic Host community residents, and they know newspapers can quickly provide it.
Without compliant volunteers, the Olympics would not happen.
Surprisingly, Lee published my July 16 post after moderating it, and even included a link back to my blog, which again I found surprising, although the link was short-lived because within a few hours he killed it.
He did however leave my post on his blog.
Here’s my first post to Lee re his 10 Signs of 2010 Trouble;
July 16, 2009 3:40 PM I wrote ...
“If you would have addressed some of these issues in a timely manner when BC and Vancouver residents and businesses had time to do something about it, we wouldn't be in this mess.
VANOC sucker punched us and you not only allowed it, you facilitated it.
Face it Jeff, the IOC business model is outdated and broken and the only way to fix it is to do major renovations.
Yes, the recession has had an impact, but as you said in your post, only partially.
How do we fix it?
First, the IOC should NOT partner with local mainstream news media. It's unethical.
Next, turn promotion over to citizens in BC and let them "social media" the 2010 Games around the world to create interest.
If the IOC doesn't do this willingly, we will take it just like average people took the music industry.
If we don't do it effectively in Vancouver 2010, we will do it in London 2012.
As the Borg said, "Resistance is futile." Kirk out.”
end of the first post
Lee soon responded on his blog to my post with the following;
"Aw, Maurice, I see you're still blaming the messenger. Old tune. Please change it.
I didn't see you at the press conference. In fact, I've NEVER seen you out covering any of the Olympic stories. Much safer to swing at the fences from the peanut gallery, isn't it? You can claim a hit any time you want. Just nobody ever sees it.
I doubt that this blog will win me any brownie points with Vanoc, so isn't your comment a tad illogical?"
end of Lee's post
I normally don’t comment on Lee’s blogs. I do however read them and discovered his July 16 article begged for my two cents of 2010 expertise, but I didn’t think he would post my response because he's only posted one comment of mine in all the time he’s been online. I tried numerous times only to be banned, so naturally I eventually gave up.
It wasn't a surprise though when he sarcastically
asked, “isn't your comment a tad illogical?”
I responded with the following , but he
to post it
and instead left me hanging mid stream.
The first two lines of my response
represent the WHOLE CRUX of my argument regarding obscured bias and journalistic integrity:
BTW, funny you should mention you never see me, because less than a couple of months ago I introduced myself to you at an *Atos Origin presentation where you were filling your face on their dime, but I never saw you file a report.
I don't have to go to the events. That's your job.
I also don't have to stick my hand in boiling water to know it's hot.”
end of my second response
*Atos Origin is an Olympic IT and technology partner.
Lee still thinks I'm a reporter. I am not. A media critic maybe.
Even though my second response was a little blunt, I fully expected Lee would post it and give me an opportunity to refute his charges.
BTW, I don't always accept the mantra it's un-social media-like to criticize the writer directly, and that we should look away and ignore an eight hundred pound gorilla spewing misinformation. Hidden Olympic agendas are hurtful to our Host community, and the more you know about the back story and motivations, the better.
If you don't know it's broke, you can't fix it.
It’s also important to note it wasn’t as if I went to Lee looking for trouble. I saw him, once again, leaving critical information out and thought it only fair to set the record straight.
Plus, if you look at his article carefully, his very last line is “Thoughts?” as in please send me your comments. So I did.
You shouldn't ask if you don't want to know.
And one more point, when The Sun ran Lee's most recent article about VANOC raiding Vancouver's healthcare system, they conveniently failed to include a COMMENT section so readers could voice their opinion.
Normally, newspapers seek out controversy, and information like this would provide a boatload, but it would also be incredibly harmful to VANOC to have tens of thousands of angry Vancouverites, some potential volunteers, criticizing the Olympics.
Jeff Lee doesn’t seem to be familiar with Noam Chomsky and the terms checkbook journalism and necessary illusion. Complaining like he does after the fact, and after it is too late to actually do anything constructive to fix a situation is disingenuous, and in this case also misleading.
Lee and The Sun also don’t really get social media. They see themselves, like too many newspapers still do, as a monopoly, and if you don’t agree with them, they ban and pan you. I don't have a problem with most journalists, and want to give two social media specialists who publish at The Sun special mention, Gillian Shaw and Mitch Joel. They do a great job, but I hope they will eventually weigh in on the issue of news media companies having such a pseudo-secretive and incestuous relationship with their advertisers. Transparency is a hallmark of social media.
I also hope they won't simply look the other way, which is a common tactic used by Olympic organizations and their news media partners.
Looking the other way is one of the reasons newspapers go bankrupt, and if they continue to "selectively report" they deserve what they get.
For the record, my blog, which Lee refers to as “the peanut gallery,” received almost 600,000 page views last month, which certainly doesn’t put me in The Sun's league overall, but, the people who follow my blog have very specific 2010 Olympic interests.
Many are international news media pros.
Considering Lee's name-calling reference to my size, I'd like to remind him that Canwest, parent company of the Vancouver Sun, Lee’s boss, just saw their shares plummet to 6.5 cents. You're only as big as your last hit.
Side note: As of July 21, 2009 at 11:00 am, my reply
to Lee’s response is still not posted on his blog.
Over the years Lee slowly, and I'm sure inadvertently, set himself up to became collateral damage. He's not the first reporter to naively fall on the Olympic sword for his publisher, but hopefully he'll be the last.
Here's a brief excerpt from my book, Leverage Olympic Momentum, regarding reporters in Sydney Australia during the 2000 Olympics who worked for newspapers that were also official Olympic suppliers like the Vancouver Sun. Remember, it was published in 2006, and it's not an exact mirror image of what is occurring in Vancouver today, but it does clearly illustrate the hidden journalistic agenda in Olympic regions.
"Murray Hogarth, Herald journalist perceived the Herald’s position in the early 90’s as “boosterism” and out of character, but as the Games approached Hogarth thought management grew more at ease challenging the status quo [sound familiar Vancouver?]. He maintained he was never unduly influenced by his editors to soften his reporting, even though he did admit there was considerable deliberation. Was Hogarth being duped by the Herald and positioned as a foil to provide conflicting information (necessary illusion), or was he fully aware of his position? (hjl17)
News Limited newspapers displayed unconditional support for Olympic organizations. They even went as far as to attack Greenpeace if they thought it would serve Olympic purposes, especially when an environmental issue was about to be released to the general public. According to (Dr. Helen) Lenskyj, journalist Piers Ackerman, a gun for hire, and the IOC’s publicity company Hill and Knowlton played roles in discrediting associations defending environmental issues. Even when internal issues regarding the bribery scandals, torch relay, and ticketing controversies surfaced, journalists still failed to connect the dots and report the big picture regarding secrecy and self-importance. ‘Olympic Clique’ manipulated public sentiment, but newspapers still refused to paint a complete and accurate picture. Instead they chose to disparage individuals, as opposed to the Olympic system and their sense of entitlement. It was safer and easier than having to deal with arrogant and powerful Olympic officials who were well connected at all levels of government. (hjl18)"
My argument about reporting Olympic information is not just about "what" Olympic newspaper suppliers like The Sun report, it is also about "when" they report information. Timing news so it serves the newspaper's agenda and leaves the community hanging is harmful to our region. It's also way too late for apologies. The damage is done, and the newspaper has already made a fortune respective of the 2010 Olympics.
I don’t have a beef with Lee as much as I do with his employer. In fact I have to thank Jeff because he provides a perfect case study to illustrate how local newspapers operate and manage volunteers and taxpayers in Olympic regions. Since about 2005 Lee took my criticism of his newspaper's Olympic reporting personally, and as a result made decisions based on emotion instead of intellect. He had ample opportunity to correct himself, but he refused to even consider my argument.
Here's an excerpt of an email Lee sent to me in 2006;
"Frankly, you're an idiot . . .
Don't bother sending me any more Olyblog emails. You don't contribute
anything to my base of knowledge and I have already wasted valuable time on
a Friday afternoon attending to you."
end of excerpt
This coming from a self described investigative journalist who reported about healthcare initiatives planned by VANOC, but apparently had no idea elective surgery would be cancelled during the 2010 Olympics.
It's important to note that many of Lee's industry colleagues, some even at his company, have asked to be included on our media list.
UPDATE: I can't make this stuff up folks, but just four days after I posted this article, another Sun reporter, and one whom I greatly respect,Daphne Bramham, also published old information stating 2010 is harming our community. She listed everything we've warned people about in our region since at least early 2006, but it sounded like new news. Granted, in a sense it is new to Vancouver, but it is a repeat performance of everything that happens in all Olympic regions in the recent past. BTW, The Sun doesn't allow COMMENTS on Bramham's article. Why not?
When you consider someone as smart as Bramham was fooled by VANOC and the IOC it's not hard to understand how average people get snookered.
However, even though many people are finding out about the downside of 2010 so late in the game, it doesn't mean you have to co-operate like sheep to the slaughter. You can start by speaking out online on your company site or the myriad of other sites that address these issues, plus, and this is s BIG PLUS, refuse to unconditionally volunteer, and challenge everyone around you who volunteers. Make sure they understand that by following blindly, they are selling out our community. Just like in sexual abuse or polygamy, nothing will change unless you break the chain.
Just do it, or in this case, don't volunteer without conditions.
Einstein said, "The definition of insanity is do the same thing over and over again and expect different results." The Sun makes it look like they are on our side, but if they really cared, why didn't they publish this info years ago when we first started to approach them about these challenges?
From the outset Jeff Lee had an opportunity to go to his employer and talk sense into them, but instead he chose to toe the company line. His actions created biased support for VANOC, and did two things. It kept critical information hidden, and also intimidated average people from speaking out and asking questions. He became the community's and his own worst enemy and turned what could have been an opportunity to help improve an outdated Olympic business model into an argument where he chose name-calling over debate. Over the long run, VANOC loves this guy, and don't let him or anyone else tell you otherwise.
Bramham getting fooled is one thing, but Lee is the "official Olympic reporter." He can't argue in one breath that businesses should advertise in his publication, and then claim they have no impact on people. It's one of the reasons newspapers are going bankrupt. They lost our trust.
I’ve expressed a number of times that if Lee disagrees with me and thinks I’m wrong, prove it through discussion, but his decision to arrogantly dismiss me out of hand eventually became irreconcilable and counterproductive for his company, and most importantly our community.
Lee loses, The Sun loses, and unfortunately our community loses.
A silver lining however does exist. If our community wakes up and immediately takes the reins . . . all may not be lost.
A new horse is charging down the homestretch to the 2010 finish line.
The video below was taped two days
before the Beijing 2008 Olympics. It becomes even more relevant each passing day.
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The following paragraphs were added in response to Jeff Lee's comment about me bullying him. Normally I would reply directly through my COMMENT section, but the answer is too complex.
You however, can still comment as usual.
Added August 24, 2009
Only one day after Lee placed the bully accusation post on my blog, one of his colleagues, Miro Cernetig published on the front page of their newspaper, The Sun, that he thinks Ottawa and BC are too slow to cash in on Olympic investment. Cernetig probably felt confident making this accusation because he assumed the "official Olympic reporter" at his company (Jeff Lee) would have addressed this issue long ago.
The timing of Cernetig's article could not be more perfect because his complaint about politicians describes well the point of my book, published in early 2006, and my blog launched way back in 2004.
My primary argument is that residents, and small and midsize business owners in Olympic regions should prepare well in advance to fend for themselves and not unconditionally trust Olympic organizations, including their partners, municipal, provincial, and federal governments, or the IOC and VANOC, Olympic sponsors, and most importantly local news media - also Olympic partners. The difference between my argument and Cernetig's is that I made my argument five years ago at a time when it was possible to do something about the mess we are now in.
Cernetig is complaining at this late date that politicians dropped the ball and are not doing enough to support foreign capital investment respective of the 2010 Olympics. Well if you know anything about Olympic history, you know this is par for the course in most recent Olympic regions. They promise it in the Bid book, but rarely deliver, especially when cash-strapped like VANOC is today.
Since 2004 I have blogged, and also lobbied and written local news media directly, including Jeff Lee, imploring them to advise residents in a TIMELY manner that the likelihood was extremely high for Olympic organizations to leave everyone scrambling at the last minute. In the beginning I did it with all due respect, but after being panned, banned, threatened, and insulted by some members of mainstream news media my tone has become considerably more pointed.
That's not bullying ... it's simply persistence.
So, if Cernetig is pissed with politicians for dropping the ball, maybe he should look first in his own backyard.
Yes you are complaining now, but unfortunately your "too-late-to-do-anything-about-it" method is described by Noam Chomsky as "necessary illusion," which means you say one thing, but have a hidden agenda. It might be legal for a local newspaper to partner with Olympic organizations, but it is unethical and not healthy for our community.
I ask again for the umpteenth time, what took you so long to complain, when many of us have addressed these issues for years?
Here are 3 paragraphs from my 2006 book,
Leverage Olympic Momentum;
During the (Sydney Australia 2000) Games, over 1,500 potential purchasers and investors attended the exhibitions and associated networking events. THIS IS A BIG DEAL! It is an area where (small and midsize business) SMBs can prosper substantially. Can you think of any other opportunity that would provide such an important platform? Can you think of any other ways SMBs would have opportunities to so easily meet national and international players? It is one of the reasons you are reading this book. All you have to do is put on your best business attire, slap a smile on your face, stick out your hand and say, ‘Welcome, so glad you could come.’ Fortunately, you will get this opportunity many times over leading up to the Games and even after – as long as you are prepared and your local Olympic committee sets it up. If they drop the ball, and you don’t develop a plan independently all you will get to do is pay higher taxes, pay more for housing, watch commercial rental fees rise, have to deal with complex municipal regulations, heavy traffic, and insane security measures. If you have to pay for and put up with all this expense and inconvenience for at least five years and maybe more, shouldn’t you at least generate enough revenue to make it worthwhile?
Regardless of your tactics, it is important to stay on as best terms as possible with the Olympic machine. Hopefully they will develop strategies that will help raise your visibility, but when they don’t meet your expectations, try not to burn bridges. Instead work as best as you can to educate them, and make it clear you expect them to support your business. Different local Olympic committees have different agendas. Some regions use the Games to boost sports facilities in the region. Others use the games to increase tourism. Some use the games to improve their relations with the world and attract capital investment. A few even try to do all of the above. Some give back more than they receive, but unfortunately they are in the minority. Ironically, regions that give back usually also achieve incredible economic success, especially over the long run. As a bonus they elevate Olympic respect on the world stage and they win on all levels. If you are fortunate, your local Olympic committee will do the same, but as soon as you see it going in another direction protect your interest and live to fight another day. It’s ideal to have your web presence in place at least four years before the Games arrive in your region. It will give you an opportunity to design, develop, and produce your online presence, while adding a bit of time to fine-tune it and learn the lingo. You also need at least a full year to integrate it into the much larger Olympic third tier network of independent businesses. Two full years would be even better, which means starting preparations five years before the event. It takes Olympic sports fans time to find you and then it takes time for you to establish a relationship. Consequently, the sooner you start the better. Don’t miss the first wave, because early adopters will deliver strong word of mouth.
7 TIPS Section
Tip #5 - Lobby your local Olympic committee and municipality to get things rolling faster for SMBs. Support was promised during the Bid to help SMBs. Make sure they live up to their promises and you get your due. Create an atmosphere that helps them understand how important it is for you to start creating relationships with people outside your border immediately. Don’t make the mistake of only celebrating locally. Your local Olympic committee needs to let people know everywhere you are preparing to throw the biggest party of the decade. Don't procrastinate. It may look like big business is waiting to plan their strategy, but without doubt they are working behind the scenes every day. Just because your local Olympic committee isn't jumping in yet to help SMBs doesn't mean you can't do things on your own. Your local Olympic committee will probably create a trade initiative program. Be ready to leverage it.
1st printing no longer available at CHAPTERS locations in Vancouver
Own the Podium?
The official creed (guiding principle) of the Olympics is a quote by the
founding father of the modern day Games Baron de Coubertin. He said, "The
most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part,
just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.
The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
The Olympic motto consists of three Latin words Citius, Altius, Fortius,
which means, "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." The 1924 motto is meant to encourage
athletes to embrace the Olympic spirit and perform to the best of their
No where does it imply that winning the most gold medals for your country
is part of the agenda. In fact it implies exactly the opposite.
The IOC maintains that it doesn't actively encourage countries to collectively
win the most gold medals, but on the other hand they also don't institute
anything to ensure that the Games are not turned into corporate money
In fact, IOC sponsorship and partnership business models encourage a win-at-all-costs
mentality. It is the reason they have doping, fraud and bribery scandals.
The IOC invites young people to compete in the Olympics using the original
Creed & Motto. But when it comes to delivering on the promise they
fall incredibly short.
The Olympics today isn't as much about sport as it is about money and
Priorities changed over the years and so too should their Creed &
If athletes go for the gold, and the IOC goes for the gold, and corporate
sponsors go for the gold, and governments go for the gold, and considering
that you will have to foot the bill for their gold, why should
you be edged out of the race?
Move to the starting line.
Own the Podium?
Own Your Home?
Real journalism consists of
what someone doesn't want published,
all the rest is public relations." George Orwell