Lausanne Olympic Centenary
Edition of the Games: Home of the IOC since 1915, 2020 Youth Olympic Winter Games
Description of the Project
The Lausanne Olympic Centenary was a yearlong programme of celebrations marking the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the IOC Headquarters in the City of Lausanne.
In 1915, Pierre de Coubertin decided to make Lausanne the home of the International Olympic Committee. Since then, a host of other International Sporting Federations and other sports organisations have followed in the footsteps of the IOC by setting up in the City. As a result, Lausanne has been officially granted the title of ‘Olympic Capital’ by the IOC for its contribution to the development of international sport administration. This unique sporting heritage and fundamental connection to the history of the Olympic movement were placed at the heart of the Centenary celebrations.
The 12-month programme involved a huge array of sporting events, public exhibitions and cultural activities culminating in a spectacular 2-day outdoor event in the heart of the City.
This hugely ambitious project involved the input and investment of a wide array of stakeholders from across the City and from across international sport. Internally this spanned city, state and national authorities across sport, communications, tourism and other departments. Externally, a huge level of investment and input was obtained from the International Olympic Committee in particular, as well as heavy involvement from local businesses, media, educational institutions and many, many more.
The planning and marketing of the celebrations emphasized the involvement of the local public. Every activity and initiative was specifically organised so as to engage the public as much as possible, ensuring that everyone felt part of the festivities. A host of mass participation events were organised across sporting and non-sporting areas but always connected to the Olympic theme. The result of this was the successful generation of a huge amount of local pride combined with the cementing of Lausanne’s reputation as the Home of International Sport.
The public was at the heart of the whole project. Indeed, through these types of events and celebrations, Lausanne communicates about and shares with its own citizens the positive impact of being the Olympic Capital and the host of many International Sports Organisations. The City aims at consolidating the anchorage with the Olympic movement not only for strengthening the international identity of Lausanne but first and foremost for the benefit of its local population and more widely for the population of Canton de Vaud and Switzerland. At this occasion, a study was commissioned to assess the economic impact on the city, the region and the country. The AISTS study shows that the presence of International Sports Organisations has a positive economic impact on employment, business tourism and construction (see reference below).
Celebrate Olympism and its Values
Pierre de Coubertin was not only the founder of the IOC and the modern Olympic Games, he was also the one responsible for the propagation of Olympism during the modern era. The Lausanne Olympic Centenary aimed to emphasize the century-long connection between this concept of Olympism, de Coubertin and the City. It did so by organising numerous activities educating the public on how Olympic values had positively shaped the lifestyle of the City and its citizens, and by drawing attention to the significant value that Baron de Coubertin placed on Lausanne as the perfect place to fulfil his vision.
Promote the City by leveraging its affiliation with the Olympic Movement
Lausanne is not only the home of the International Olympic Committee, it is also home to many more International Sporting Federations and Sporting Organisations connected to the Olympic movement. This has earned Lausanne the official title of “Olympic Capital” and has become part of the social fabric of the City and its residents. The Centenary celebrations aimed to showcase the rest of the world the City’s connection to the Olympic movement and its unique role in the world of international sports as well as to solidify this within the hearts and minds of local citizens.
Retaining public attention
Capturing the public’s attention over a 12-month period was not an easy task. There is a high risk of people becoming bored with hearing about the various events or simply beginning to tune out. Furthermore, the event combined both sporting and non-sporting events, covering a variety of different forms of entertainment and involving a huge number of stakeholders. This posed a risk of creating confusion or uncertainty as to the core elements of the celebrations in the minds of the public.
To combat this, the organisers spent a lot of effort on the communications aspect of the various celebrations. Clear and consistent messaging was delivered at key times, aimed at various target audiences depending on the content in question.
Planning and measuring
The fact that the overall event was a one-off portfolio of smaller, individual events presented challenges in planning for demand and measuring impact. Some activities involved registered participants which made the advance planning and retrospective measurement of these relatively easy. Others, such as public exhibitions and open days had no registration nor any similar precedent and so were not as simple. Furthermore, most activities involved different combinations of stakeholders resulting in different approaches taken when planning for and measuring success.
In light of this, this was seen as a very positive problem as well as an unavoidable one. In almost every case, the level of attendance and engagement from the public was higher than anticipated and ultimately did not cause too many problems regardless. Similarly, the fact that the event was a one-off increased its attraction and this was critical to success even if it made planning it more difficult.
Key Learnings & Recommendations
Leverage your City’s assets
Planning for the Olympic Centenary began long before the event kicked off. A large amount of time was spent exploring the unique assets that the City of Lausanne had to offer and then planning how these could be best incorporated into the individual events. This included assets such as the exclusive ownership of the title of the Olympic Capital, the presence of so many International Sporting Federations and even the physical geography of the City itself being a lakeside, alpine City. Conversely, potential liabilities such as adverse and unpredictable weather were considered when organising the timing and location of activities to ensure that the chances of success were as high as possible.
Coordinate marketing and communications
With so many different activities spanning so many different members of the community, it is vital that there is a consistent and clear messaging at the top level. There needs to be a simple but effective marketing and communications strategy that is relevant to all events under the larger theme but that also connects with the different target audiences for the various individual events in question. Having a universal strategy that is supported by a centralised team that can be drawn upon by all activities and events also generates efficiencies and frees up resources that can be used elsewhere.
The full case is available in printable version on the members’ portal.
In addition to the above description, the PDF version also gathers practical information including internal and external partners involved; finance and cost; use of the olympic brand; human resources and time; and contact details.
The World Union of Olympic Cities’ team remains at your disposal for any further information and contact’s facilitation at firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional resources can be found through the following links: