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ROD MCGEOCH 2000 OLYMPICS

By Published on .

SYDNEY-When Rod McGeoch set out to win the 2000 Olympics for Sydney he knew there was only one way to do it-with the right people and the right plans.

He also knew it was probably Australia's last chance. Twice before, costly bids from Australian cities, Brisbane for the 1992 games and Melbourne for the 1996 games, had been unsuccessful.

As chief executive of Sydney's Olympics 2000 bid, started in 1991 through mid-1993, Mr. McGeoch, 48, had to raise more than half of the city's $18.3 million budget. For this he tapped from corporate sponsors, hired a team of about 40 staffers and persuaded hundreds of others, including the heads of major advertising agencies and commercial TV networks, to give their time or services for free.

The other four bidders, especially Beijing and Berlin, had more money and clout. But Mr. McGeoch, who was appointed to his post in early 1991, believed Sydney had other aces in the hole. Like the involvement of Australia's two International Olympic Committee members Kevan Gosper and Phil Coles, Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates, and people with hands-on experience from the two other Australian bids.

The failed Aussie campaigners told Mr. McGeoch, who is a lawyer, about the major marketing exercise needed to win. This included offering the best athletics plan, playing up Australia's strengths such as security and climate, and the cordial environment.

Mr. McGeoch and his team had to put Sydney on the world map while at the same time runan intensive personalized marketing "campaign" targeted at each of the 91 IOC members. This meant direct one-to-one relationship building, resulting in Mr. McGeoch filling three passports full of overseas travel and throwing dozens of dinner parties in his own home to entertain all the IOC members.

Masterminding the marketing, which accounted for more than half of the total budget (the remainder went to travel and expenses), was a dream team of volunteers led by Clemenger Sydney's Chairman Greg Daniels and including George Patterson's chairman Alex Hamill and top executives from Nine Network Australia (David Leckie) and The Seven Network (Bob Campbell).

This Communications Committee designed newsletters, postcards, customized videos for each presentation, even birthday cards for IOC members. Also designed by the committee was a local TV, print and outdoor campaign to enlist community support and inspire companies to donate money or services.

One of the biggest tasks, after the bid book, was the final presentation. Mr. McGeoch calls the bid book, a three-volume analysis of Sydney's proposal, a "work of art." As for the final presentation, in fall 1993, even Australia's Prime Minister Paul Keating submitted to coaching on how to gesticulate, as well as participate in several rehearsals to help Sydney win. His multilingual wife Annita Keating also had a significant role.

Twelve days before decision day, Sept. 23, 1993, Mr. McGeoch reckoned there might only be a one vote difference between Beijing and Sydney. Others were much less optimistic, especially after Beijing's diplomatic power plays. But the presentation was a winner, partly thanks to an 11-year-old Sydney girl, Tanya Blencowe, whose impassioned address penned by Mr. McGeoch's team about what the Olympics means to young Australians helped clinch the Games for Sydney by two votes over Beijing's.

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