If the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games didn’t prove China’s mega-events expertise, then nothing could. But the huge spectacle was only part of a myriad of Olympic-related events put on by corporate sponsors and national teams.
Founded in Australia, event specialist Off-Site Connections (OSC) has spread its wings to Asia, operating as OSC China from its Shanghai base for several years.
OSC China won the prestigious job of arranging welcome functions for Australia’s national Olympic team as well as handling a number of important corporate clients. In total, it handled 16 events in the lead-up to the Olympics and during the games itself.
One of the most important clients was BHP Billiton, which was appointed Diversified Minerals and Medals sponsor of the 2008 Games. BHP Billiton was tasked for delivering the winners’ medals for the Olympics and the Paralympics.
OSC China was given the responsibility of arranging the handover ceremony, when the 6,000 gold, silver and bronze medals (3,000 each for the Olympics and Paralympics) were formally handed to the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) in front of journalists from China and overseas.
The event specialist produced elements from stage set design and event creative concepts, to planning entertainment and event management. There were 200 attendees including BHP and BOCOG VIPs, as well as media crew and guests.
Its second high-profile assignment was organising the Australian Olympic Team reception on be half of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) where the OSC management team worked for months with the AOC in the creative planning, event production and onsite event management.
The reception was held at one of the Chinese capital’s swishest properties, the Sofitel Wanda Beijing. The challenge was to create a memorable and exciting welcome reception for 1,400 guests, including the competitors, their families and the AOC support team.
Also in attendance were senior VIPS, top government officials such as Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the country’s ex-Prime Minister John Howard, the Chef de Mission of the AOC John Coates and foreign royalty, including the Prince and Princess of Denmark.
In addition to these guests, the event featured star performers Natalie Bassingthwaighte and Shannon Noll, who wowed the crowd with their performances of the Australian National Anthem and “What About Me” and “Shine”.
In addition, guests were treated to a fusion of modern and traditional Chinese performances.
Australian sports broadcaster Bruce McAvaney hosted the evening reception. In his remarks, McAvaney outlined the challenges of the coming two weeks of competition and the Australian team’s preparation, efforts and potential for Olympic medals.
After speeches by Prime Minister Rudd and AOC chief Coates, the flag bearer for Australia in the Olympic Opening Ceremony, rower James Tomkins, was announced.
Also during the evening, video footage on the large screens on stage showed special supportive messages from schoolchildren in Australia. There was a memorable look back at previous Olympic Games and Australian Olympic medallists of yesteryear.
OSC general manager Greater China, Anna Patterson, says: “It was an honour and an exciting event for all the athletes, guests, VIPs and the OSC team to be involved in, and a fantastic way to start the Olympic Games in Beijing.”
Aside from these indoor events, OSC China also designed a hospitality programme for Australian visitors to showcase different aspects of Beijing. The cultural experience was particularly useful for those visiting China for the first time.
One must-do event was a trip to see the Great Wall. After guests had explored the attraction, they had brunch at the stylish Cantilever House at Commune by the Great Wall, with stunning views overlooking this iconic structure.
Another experience saw guests enjoying a personal rickshaw tour of Beijing with the chance to visit traditional Chinese homes, where local families welcomed them. They were introduced to the authentic old-style Beijing lifestyle, including interacting with the locals at the markets and walking through the hutongs – old narrow streets of the city said to date back to the times of the Mongol conquest.
Guests were transferred from this typical family setting to a palatial garden setting. Street-market stalls were set awaiting guests to interact and purchase gifts of traditional items such as name chops, Chinese knots and other handicrafts with specially branded gift money.
The group then enjoyed a sumptuous Australian BBQ surrounded by a stunning garden setting. The venue was formerly the private home of Song Qingling, widow of Chinese national hero Sun Yat-sen and herself a prominent political figure.