An Olympic State of Mind

For Staff, the Games Are Not About Fun and Games

By Published on .

Richard Burger
Richard Burger
Working on an Olympic project changes you. It changes the way you think, the vocabulary you use, the way you respond to situations of all kinds. After spending many months preparing for the games and then actually working on the ground on-site, you find you are a different person.

On Sunday, I had a truly "Olympic" experience. I spent countless hours on a big project, something exciting with glamorous names and strong media appeal. I spent all day working on the details and finished the preparations late that night with a sense of achievement. Then the phone call came, or the text message, or the e-mail -- I can't even remember.

The bottom line? The deck was reshuffled and just when I thought I could relax (at least a little bit), I was told the words that make every PR manager cringe: "The project has been canceled." Within seconds, I was back on the phone with all those reporters I'd wooed to the event, this time to un-woo them.

Projects get canceled and changed all the time. But at the games, drastic changes, cataclysmic changes, are simply a matter of routine, the norm. Beijing Olympic Committee or the IOC or an athlete or a partner or somebody has a change of heart, and poof, the whole thing is up in smoke. I hardly even thought about it as my day's accomplishments disintegrated before my eyes. There is no time for reflection or self-pity.

It's been like this every day since the start of the games. You think you are going home, finally, at 9 p.m., and suddenly you find yourself whisked into a meeting that goes on past midnight. You thought you had finished something, only to learn it's been turned on its head and you need to start over. The sports events started four days ago, but I have no idea which competitions have taken place so far. The games themselves exist in another dimension.

I don't know if I'll ever have an opportunity like this again and I can't say I'm too eager to repeat it -- at least not until I've had a few months to recuperate. But whenever I have the energy to think about the future, about the way life will be a mere two weeks from now, I know I'm going to miss it.

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