International Event Planning Presents Unique Challenges

December 14, 2009

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international event planning

When Greece hosted the Athens Olympics in 2004, the country spent at least $12 billion on the event - a massive expenditure that translated into 5% of the country's gross domestic product, and put Athens into debt.

Natalija Dedic, a 2008 graduate in Fashion Merchandising from Miami International University of Art & Design, wasn't focused on financial details when she attended the Athens Olympics. She attended as a journalist, hosting a show for National Television in Serbia that aired live from Athens each night.

But Dedic reflects on the work involved with planning and coordinating the three-week event now that she's become an event manager herself for 3B Productions. Among the steps Olympic organizers had to take that many observers might not recognize: Building press centers for visiting media.

"Lots of sporting and event venues were built and corporate sponsors and suppliers involved," Dedic says. "They had to make sure they could accommodate all the officials, athletes, sponsors, and guests."

Vancouver will host the Winter Olympic Games this February and like any large-scale international event, planning begins a long time before the start date. Getting accommodations ready includes everything from food, drink, and housing to signage, transportation, and security. And then there are the toilets - for outdoor events in particular, hosts must consider how to provide public bathrooms as well as cover from bad weather.

According to a June 2008 report from the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee, the operating budget for the games is expected to surpass $1.6 billion. Organizers also expected to spend $580 million building new venues and renovating existing facilities. Construction of athlete accommodations in particular has been challenging; the original developer pulled out of the project and the downturn in the economy brought increased construction costs.

During the 17 days of Olympic Games events, about 5,500 athletes and officials from more than 80 countries will descend on Canada. About 10,000 media representatives will join them and about 3 billion people will watch the games on television.

With such large-scale international event planning, budgets can quickly and easily grow out of control, says Victor Laderoute, Event Management Instructor at The Art Institute of Vancouver. But the challenges don't stop there.

"Details that can be easily overlooked include things as simple as not enough time allotted to properly organize the event," Laderoute says. "What appears on paper to be a year's worth of planning can easily be increased to 18 or 24 months worth depending on the scope and complexity of the event."

It's no simple feat to bring together large numbers of people from different countries and cultures, many of whom use different languages, eat different foods, and practice different customs. One advantage those in international event planning have today is the wealth of information available through the internet. Computers, in other words, are helping to make it a small world after all for event planners.

"We are a much smaller world today and the information that is available to us as planners to gain important insight into cultures, cuisines, interpreters, and religious considerations is infinite," Laderoute says. "There is no excuse for being a poor host to international guests."

Location is obviously an important piece of the puzzle for international event planning, but relationships can be the key to helping organizers accomplish their goals and achieve success.

During a sporting event he helped organize, Laderoute says VIP stakeholders were stuck in a traffic jam en route to the venue. But because a lead planner had introduced himself to the head of event security a few days before the event, organizers were able to quickly coordinate a police escort and get the individuals to the venue in time.

"As a planner, you never stop developing relationships," Laderoute says. "You learn quickly to wade through the red tape and connect the dots with each stakeholder."

The financial burden of hosting and planning an international event can be significant. China spent about $40 billion to host the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. While that was three times more than any other host city spent on the games, the effort and cost can be burdensome for other cities because many of the venues built specifically for the event go unused afterward.
But despite the steep price tag for hosting and planning an international event, there is also opportunity to showcase a city and country to the world. Specifically with the Olympics, hosts can expect tens of thousands of visitors and billions of television viewers from around the world. Dedic says that her time in Athens was amazing and that she was impressed with the way the entire event came together.

"The whole city and its people were working for the same goal - making the Olympics happen," she says. "Everybody had their own roles but were functioning as a whole."

Author: Written by freelance talent for Ai InSite
Contributing writer for EDMC.

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