Home News Security keeps publi...

Security keeps public away from Olympic sponsors

Aug. 12, 2008, 6:39 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Organizers promised Tuesday to let more people into the tightly guarded Olympic Green after sponsors complained that security restrictions kept visitors away from their promotional pavilions, a marketing official said.

General Electric Co., Coca Cola Co. and others that spent tens of millions of dollars to link their brands to the Olympics created colorful, costly displays on the plaza beside the Bird's Nest stadium and other key venues. But access was limited to ticket holders for sports events. So at many pavilions, the staff outnumbered the handful of visitors.

Organizers agreed to give out passes to allow thousands more people on the Olympic Green every day following a meeting with International Olympic Committee officials, said Gerhard Heiberg, chairman of the IOC's Marketing Commission. He said he had no details on exactly how many passes would be given out or who would receive them.

"I am reassured after our talks that there will be more people going through the pavilions," Heiberg said. "We will be in contact with the sponsors and I hope they will be satisfied."

The complaints were especially sensitive for organizers because companies represented on the green are top-tier sponsors of both the IOC and the Beijing organizing committee. They include Japan's Panasonic and watchmaker Omega.

The restrictions are the latest in a series of snags for sponsors that want to use the games, which finish Aug. 24, to promote their brands to Chinese consumers.

Sponsors faced lobbying by activists who wanted them to pressure Beijing over its rule in Tibet or to help stop bloodshed in Sudan's Darfur region. Activists protested along the Olympic torch route abroad, and sponsors temporarily suspended marketing in China after the deadly May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province.

The corporate pavilions are inside the Olympic Green's security cordon. By contrast, at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, pavilions were outside the central security zone and visitors without tickets could reach them by undergoing a brief check.

Authorities are eager to prevent both possible terror attacks and protests by activists over Tibet, human rights and other issues. Security concerns grew after an American was stabbed to death and his wife injured Saturday in an attack by a Chinese man in Beijing.

The restrictions meant the plaza in the 1,000-acre (400-hectare) green had just 2,000 to 3,000 visitors at a time in an area that could hold as many as 15,000. Around the Rings, a Web site that follows the Olympics, called the empty plaza a "no man's land."

Heiberg said that once track and field events start Friday in the Bird's Nest - the nickname of the National Stadium - there should be about 150,000 people a day passing through the green, an ample audience for sponsors.

The GE pavilion has an artificial waterfall that spurts water in the shape of the Olympic rings and the GE company logo. Inside are displays of solar power and other environmentally friendly technology. Johnson & Johnson's display includes a pair of the life-size terra cotta warriors buried with China's first emperor 2,200 years ago.

At the Samsung Electronics Corp. pavilion, a series of rock bands take turns performing on an outdoor stage. The People's Insurance Co. of China pavilion has a mock rowing scull for visitors to try in its high-ceilinged white hall.

Security restrictions left members of the Chinese public peering through wire fences and posing for photos against the distant backdrop of the 91,000-seat stadium crowned with the cauldron where the Olympic flame burns.

Some companies had better luck outside the green.

Haier Group, a Chinese appliance manufacturer that is an Olympic supplier but not a sponsor, did not qualify for a space on the green. Haier put its display in a futuristic two-story domed structure in a Beijing park, where it has the benefit of being readily accessible to the public.

Adidas, Samsung and others also have Olympic displays in parks and shopping malls in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities that are hosting events.

At the main Adidas store in Beijing, the German footwear maker's biggest outlet in the world, "yesterday, we had 15,000 people in one day," said Erica Kerner, director of the company's Olympics marketing and retail activities.


On the Net:

Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games: www.bocog.org