BidWeek, Reporting from Toronto, Canada – Tensions mounted between the perceived 2024 Olympic bid front-runners this week as Paris’ bid for the Games celebrated the “International Day of the Sun” on Tuesday – May 3. Did you miss the special day?
With the hashtags #CelebrateTheSun and the French-language version #JourneeDuSoleil, the official Facebook page and Twitter account for Paris 2024 showed sunny Parisian imagery and urged followers to share their own pictures of the same to commemorate the occasion.
Does that sound familiar? I’ll admit, at first glance I thought I was viewing the feed from the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid team. LA has integrated the sunshine motif in its bid’s logo, the #FollowTheSun tagline and overall messaging – along with constant visual reminders in social media.
— Paris 2024 (@Paris2024) May 3, 2016
Is there anything to this “Sun Day” or is it just a desperate ploy by Paris marketers to get out of the shadow of America’s bid?
I had to find out more about this “International Day of the Sun” but initial online searches returned sparse results.
North Korea observes the “Day of Sun” on April 15, the most important national holiday on that nation’s calendar that commemorates the birth of its founder Kim Il-sung. That can’t be it.
Argentina celebrates its “National Day of Sun” in March each year with a festival in San Juan that features a beauty pageant held to name the “National Queen of the Sun.” That doesn’t fit either.
At a complete loss, I asked a Paris 2024 spokesperson for information about the observed day and was told “Sun Day has been celebrated for the past 8 years and it is related to the promotion of solar power, sustainability and a positive environment for all.”
Digging further I found that the day seemed to have its origins on May 3, 1978 when United States President Jimmy Carter, supported by a Congress joint resolution, designated the day “Sun Day” in order to raise awareness for solar power. Reportedly thousands celebrated with events across the U.S., but it was a one-time observance.
A dated third-party website link provided by Paris 2024 explained that U.S. space agency NASA sponsors and promotes the day, yet after a closer look there is no real evidence that this is the case. After a search of NASA resources and all of its social media accounts of the day, there is only one Twitter reference to the anniversary of the original one-time Sun Day event in 1978. NASA does promote Sun-Earth Days on various dates that usually coincide with celestial events.
The only other references to the day and the #CelebrateTheSun and #InternationalDayoftheSun hashtags originate from Paris 2024 and French social media accounts – including a tweet from Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
Mike Lee, the Chairman of Vero – a communications firm representing the Paris bid – made several Tweets extolling the International Day of the Sun and it didn’t go unnoticed by LA 2024 officials including United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Chief External Affairs Officer Patrick Sandusky who responded that it was sunny where he was too. He included LA’s #FollowTheSun tag.
Lee shot back “…didn’t realise the sun was owned or sponsored, appears it’s global, we even have it in the UK!”
— Mike Lee (@mleevero) May 3, 2016
On Monday there were 500 days until, in Lima, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) votes for the winner of the race among Paris and Los Angeles along with bids from Budapest and Rome. That’s a long time. Only eight months past the application deadline the bids are aggressively jostling for position and campaigning on social media more than ever before.
Over the 24 month duration of the campaigns, branding is important. Impressing on the minds of the 100-or-so IOC voting members, both practically and emotionally, will be absolutely critical.
While LA’s identity messaging is clear, Paris seems to be struggling. The French campaign is effective at showing its parallels with Olympism the IOC’s Agenda 2020 directives and organizing a Games for and by the athletes – but key differentiation is missing. What can Paris offer that L.A. and the others cannot?
Was “Sun Day” only an obscure tactic to minimize LA’s offering while Paris comes up with something of its own? What is clear is that as the days count down on the road to Lima the bids will get more aggressive, more creative and more tactical. They must. While the winning stakes are high, the costs of a loss are even higher.
The United States is on a two-bid losing streak with both New York 2012 and Chicago 2016 earning less than 20 of about 100 votes each time. Paris is in a three-bid slump and painful runners-up twice. As we draw close the the vote, desperation is inevitable.
As I look out my window now it’s cloudy, and maybe so is my cynicism. But if at 500 days out the bids are already fighting for the sun – what can we expect next?