Pyeongchang Praying for Winning Formula from Foreign PR Experts

A British PR specialist and an American communications expert have been busy working with Pyeongchang's bidding committee to bolster Korea's chances of winning this week's vote to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Mike Lee (left) and Terrence Burns Mike Lee (left) and Terrence Burns

Olympic-specialist consultants Mike Lee and Terrence Burns have brought their respective skill sets to bear to devise a winning promotional strategy for the candidate city and to ensure that Korea makes a sophisticated presentation capable of mesmerizing the notoriously unpredictable members of the International Olympic Committee.

Lee, who set up Vero Communications in 2006, is one of the leading lights in the world of sports diplomacy. He was knighted for his contribution to London's winning bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, and now focuses his energy on providing consultancy services for big sporting events such as the Olympics and the World Cup. He also led the winning bids of Rio de Janeiro's 2016 Summer Olympics and Qatar's 2022 World Cup.

Lee's aggressive PR strategy is believed to have helped Brazil secure the almost unimaginable feat of capturing the Summer Olympics just two years after it hosts the 2014 World Cup.

His reputation took a slight hit in recent years when his efforts to promote Salzburg, Austria, failed to earn it the rights to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, but Lee soon began work on reestablishing his credentials by supporting Pyeongchang's latest bid.

He said Pyeongchang's chances have already been boosted by virtue of it being located in Asia, as the Winter Olympics have been held disproportionately often in Europe. Now the team is focusing on selling the city by highlighting the virtues of its "New Horizons" slogan, he added.

Meanwhile, Burns, the CEO of Atlanta-based Helios Partners, took on the role of polishing the presentation skills and body language of figures such as 2010 Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na.

Burns, whose father is a Korean War veteran, established a brand communication agency called Helicon Media in 2000 and helped Beijing win the 2008 Summer Olympic bid and Vancouver clinch the rights to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

After he moved to Helios Partners, he worked with the Russians to help Sochi grab the 2014 Winter Olympics, meaning that he was pitted against Pyeongchang in its two previous bids.

Lately he has been instructing Kim and other presenters on the fine art of pronunciation, eye contact and hand gestures. Even Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, who is fluent in English, is said to have struggled to master Burns’ sophisticated techniques and meet his strict demands.

Burns is said to be brilliant at finding better ways of helping speakers express their thoughts when they hit words or phrases that sound awkward or unnatural due to pronunciation problems.

Korean President Lee Myung-bak paid a visit to the conference room of the hotel where the Korean delegation is staying on Sunday and prepared for the presentation with Burns, who said that the final presentation on Wednesday must appeal to the audience's emotions while reiterating the legitimacy of Pyeongchang's bid.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jul. 05, 2011 11:04 KST