How video killed the Manchester Olympics bid

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The Independent Online

They are just two little words, granted, but they mean so little. "Video presentation". Whenever I hear that phrase, my heart sinks.

They are just two little words, granted, but they mean so little. "Video presentation". Whenever I hear that phrase, my heart sinks.

Sadly, in my experience, invitations to view such presentations are never optional. The request - usually issued by an edgy spokesman seeking to promote something or somewhere to a hotel conference roomful of sceptical journalists - requires only one response.

Over the years, some of the worst perpetrators of this exercise in mass restlessness have been hosts, or prospective hosts, of big sporting occasions.

I have tried to put it to the back of my mind, but the memory of Manchester's doomed attempts to secure the 2000 Olympics lingers. Their promotional package, unveiled in Monte Carlo, ransacked every positive image of their city before spinning out to the Pennines and then switching, bewilderingly, to London, where we were sent swooping from the Tower of London to Buckingham Palace.

The rationale, it seemed, was that Manchester wanted to point up the fact that it was a British bid, and that it was in Britain, and that if the International Olympic Committee delegates chose it, and turned up with their wives or girlfriends, they could have access to all the glamour of the capital in no more time than it took to make their way to Manchester Airport, board a plane, disembark, find where the taxis go from and make their way through the West End traffic until they reached Oxford Street. Or even The Ritz! What the voting seemed to confirm, however, was that IOC members saw the Manchester Olympics as being likely to take place in Manchester.

Why did the organisers bother with that video, I wonder? Particularly as this was in the days before IOC members were barred from visiting bidding cities, so delegates who feasted on this visual confection would already have sampled the real thing.

As a means of winning over hearts and minds, it clearly failed. But then it was in good company.

Last year, shortly before the World Cross-Country Championships in Vilamoura, Portugal, the local mayor's office held a press reception in which the delights and attractions of the region (mainly relating to golf, as I recall) were extolled on video. It was a very long video. But the assembled hacks, buoyed up with drink, were aware that a rather nice red towel awaited them on the figurative 19th green. So they - I - we - stood obediently in front of the screen, biding our time until the ritual ended. Then it was down drink, bag towel, toddle off...

Sorry, but there it is. The quintessential promo experience.

Hearts and minds were the subject of a more recent screening this week, although the targeted viewers were not reporters but football players.

Earlier this week at the Crystal Palace training ground, in a press call focusing on the club's Worthington Cup semi-final against Liverpool, assembled writers and photographers were invited (no one declined) to watch a couple of video compilations which had been put together to motivate team members.

The main presentation was a summary of the progress made at the club in the six months since mobile phone magnate Simon Jordan had paid ten of his millions to take it over and installed a new management triumvirate of Alan Smith, and assistants Ray Houghton and Glenn Cockerill.

To a backing of uplifting tracks by Phil Collins and M People, lowlights of a sequence of defeats were followed by highlights of victories which included those over Premiership opponents Leicester City and Sunderland.

There followed numerous images of jubilant players leaping into each others' arms and cascading all over each other in goal celebrations before the motivational tool concluded with a fanciful look into the future which involved the loquacious Smith raising money for charity with a sponsored silence, and Palace reaching and then winning the Premiership.

This in-house offering, Smith explained with a wry smile, had been shown to the players on the eve of their Boxing Day fixture against Gillingham. A fixture which saw Palace lose 4-1 and become involved a series of brawls which have left the club facing a large fine for bringing the game into disrepute.

After that match, Smith admitted, he had "lost it" in the dressing-room and told his quaking players their fortune. ("You will meet a medium-sized, dark-haired former Dulwich Hamlet player who will scream and shout at you and call you a lazy sloppy whinger".) At his side sat two ex-professionals who had each played over 800 top-class matches, and knew all the sloppy, lazy dodges a player could try on. In the wake of Palace's victory the day after that press call, I couldn't help thinking that these seasoned campaigners are motivational tools more potent than any video-maker could dream of...