From the archive – first published in 2000
The Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games were hailed as the greatest Games ever staged. When the world stopped to watch Sydney take centre stage everything went according to plan, and the atmosphere generated for athletes and spectators was unforgettably electric.
Great Big Events played a major role is fostering this atmosphere. Managing Director, Greg Bowman, was the Executive Producer of Sport Presentation. He was responsible for the creation, development and implementation of sport presentation for the 38 sports across 29 venues. It was a phenomenal task requiring meticulous planning, training and preparation.
Greg established and trained a team of 600 people including commentary teams, lighting and audio engineers, sport producers, stage managers, musicians and performers. The role also encompassed the management of scoreboard and videoboard animations and editing, communications between host broadcaster and venue production, music composition and arrangements and medal ceremonies. Greg also oversaw the hiring of all talent and managed entertainers, staging, lighting, audio video programming, live and recorded music performances, musicians, script writers and stadium announcers.
The sport presentation was recognised as an outstanding success. Never before on an international scale have these sports been presented in such an innovative and co-ordinated manner. The Olympics unsung heroes who never played a wrong National Anthem
ASE editor Trevor Connell interviewed Greg Bowman about Great Big Events Olympic experience
What was good about the Olympics for Great Big Events was that a lot of things that they had been developing over a number of years came to fruition on the world stage.
This was important because of Australia’s geographic isolation from the world markets particularly the USA and Europe. Bowman explained that it is hard for Australian companies to get onto the world stage and show everybody that what we do here is as good or better than anything else that can be produced.
Great Big Events has developed expertise in Sports Presentation. That area was perceived as a highlight of the Games by all the international federations in the IOC etc. Great Big Events received great accolades and is now seen as a benchmark within their field. Bowman suggested that being in the forefront during the Games was a fantastic opportunity. The Games provided multiple stages for Great Big Events to demonstrate that the company is a world leader in the field. The successful experience provided Great Big Events with credibility and opened routes to the rest of the world. The Olympics in Australia laid that foundation.
Great Big Events Role on Great Big Events
As a direct legacy of the Sydney Olympics, Great Big Events picked up the Goodwill Games, other international sporting events off shore, and is talking to other groups, some in a consultative role and to particular federations etc in relation to conceptual development and implementation. Some of the jobs include the technical production for the Australian Rugby Union, the British Lions Tours, the Bledisloe Cup and other large sporting events in Australia.
Great Big Events role is to look after all components of the entertainment from the time the gates open to the time the gates close. For example, arranging performers plus other components such as themeing, queuing of music and timing.
Great Big Events focus is on entertaining the 99,000 people in the crowd, the large-scale productions. That is the company’s core business, its specialty. During the breaks Great Big Events provide the entertainment. For some organisations Great Big Events also provide corporate hospitality but the company does not push hard for these jobs. With the Australian Rugby Union at Stadium Australia for example the corporate hospitality was done by a number of organisations that are already contracted to the ARU. GBE do however assist with themeing for corporate hospitality if there is cross over. There is no clash between the objectives of GBE and companies working on other aspects of an event. Bowman explained that the companies work side by side.
Olympics Impact on recruitment
Great Big Events experienced a flood of employment applications commencing on the day after the Olympics closed. Bowman’s advice is that companies have to be very careful in relation to recruitment in the current climate. SOCOG was a very large organisation employing people on a diverse range of jobs. Bowman suggested that it is vital to obtain references and to check exactly what a person’s role within SOCOG was. This is important for the company’s benefit and for the benefit of the individual. It is important that an individual is not thrown into a position that they do not have the skills, knowledge and expertise to perform. When someone is thrown in over his or her head everybody loses.
There are very few events that you would claim on your curriculum vitae as your one event. It is therefore critical to carefully check any claims out about the event but also the role of the applicant on that event.
After the Games
The Goodwill Games
The Goodwill Games was interesting because the media coverage included a great deal of speculation about whether it would be last Goodwill Games and whether it would work. As it turned out it certainly did work.
It was a “made for television” event so it was a very different event to the Olympics. It was a lot more relaxed and it was actually a lot of fun.
The Goodwill Games ran on a different system to the Olympic Games. There were breaks because of broadcasting and during those breaks, Great Big Events provided entertainment. And, the athletes had fun.
GBEs role was to provide entertainment for the audience some of which was broadcast so it had to work for television. The 100,000 visitors loved it.
At the swimming GBE had sharks floating down, swimmers wearing wigs, stuff that would never happen at the Olympics. At one point there was a break in the program so GBE had one of the team managers up on blocks doing the twist. The Australian swimming team started a conga line around the pool. Once the broadcast was about to recommence the entertainment finished and everybody went back to the swimming races. For the audience it was great, they had an absolute blast.
For CHOGM Great Big Events were to have produced the opening ceremony on the 6th of October. Bowman said that it was to have been a big show.
As with all large politically related events there was a very detailed signing procedure. Apart from the committees and groups that you would normally have to deal with there was also the personal input into people, talent and the material by the Prime Minister. “We had to do a personal presentation to the Prime Minister, John Howard. As the personal host, it was important that the Prime Minister go through all the arrangements to ensure that he was satisfied. Mr Howard took a great personal interest in the planning, providing artistic input and made suggestions in relation to various components. It was an interesting procedure.”
There was quite a range of acts that were to be involved from orchestras, to choirs, to youth to mainstream acts such as the Spice Girls.
Apart from the opening ceremony Great Big Events role was to include ensuring correct protocol was maintained when introductions were made, ensuring appropriate speeches and of course showcasing Australia as the host country and the Commonwealth to the world.
The Second Week of September
The collapse of Ansett and the terrorist attacks in the USA have had an immediate impact on Great Big Events. Within days of the interview CHOGM was postponed. Bowman had been philosophical about this possibility at the time of the interview he stated that putting it in the perspective of the recent world events this was a relatively minor setback.
Bowman said that the impact of the attack on the World Trade Center towers and the other terrorist attacks had a flood down rather than trickle down effect. It had an immediate impact on international travel including tourism. In Australia the Ansett collapse compounded this. Scaling back commenced immediately and is continuing.
There is concern about security internationally and locally even to the extent where parents were worried about their children performing at CHOGM.
Bowman stated that the HIH collapse had already dramatically affected the cost of insurance for large public events. The cost had already multiplied by a factor of six. Bowman explained that few insurance companies in Australia cover these types of events. The cost may now increase further. Another aspect is that ‘force majeure’ clauses within contracts are now taken very seriously.
Ansett sponsored a lot of sporting events so there has been an immediate impact there. For example Ansett was a major sponsor for the Australian Cricket Board. A lot of the events that had an entertainment component were already set up for the year and were labeled with Ansett. Ansett also provided transportation for teams and entertainers. Bowman pointed out that if there is a choice between what the event producers do and watching the cricketers on the pitch, the entertainment will go first.
Bowman commented that all of the impacts of recent world events have nothing to do with the core business of companies such as Great Big Events, which is creative, they do however have a major impact.
Bowman said that we would have to wait and see what the long-term impact of the recent world events will have. Bowman is positive, stating that Great Big Events remains in a better position today as a result of the Olympics. Everything that the company worked towards in the years leading up to the Olympics came to fruition and Great Big Events has had tangible benefits and is recognised as an international benchmark company in providing entertainment for large-scale events.