By Terrence Burns

Terrence BurnsWe are a little less than four-years away from the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

This is a story, just one of many, of their bid's path, culminating in victory almost three years ago in Durban, South Africa.

Much is being written and read in the current media about prospective bid cities for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. A lot of the commentary pertains to "consultants". Much of the commentary is ill informed or naive at best, or wrong, spiteful and even defensive at worst.

A lot of people also asked me about my comments concerning the Munich 2018 bid. It is simple: they had a great bid team, a great message for the Movement and they were consistently excellent in their presentations, from their first one in Acapulco to their last in Durban.

Munich's message was perhaps one bid cycle ahead of its time: the bid extolled environmental awareness, fiscal responsibility using legacy venues dating back to 1972, a commitment to expanding Germany's experience of winter sport to other nations in need and a new model for bids going forward.

Had the city of Munich bid again for 2022, there is no doubt in my mind that the legacy from their great 2018 bid would have carried forward, and Munich could have easily won the right to host the 2022 Winter Games. But that was not to be and I am honestly sad about that. I think the Winter Games needed Munich more than Munich needed the Winter Games.

IOC President Jacques Rogge and Pyeongchang 2018 chairman YH Cho sign the 2018 Winter Games Host City Contract on July 6 2011 in Durban, South Africa ©Terrence BurnsIOC President Jacques Rogge and Pyeongchang 2018 chairman YH Cho sign the 2018 Winter Games Host City Contract on July 6 2011 in Durban, South Africa ©Terrence Burns

As I have written many, many times - consultants and advisors do not win Olympic bids; Bid Committees win bids. To do so they must have a great team, great leadership, great relationships throughout the Olympic Movement, a great technical plan, a great message and the ability to communicate that message to the Olympic Family in a myriad of effective ways throughout the course of the campaign.

This series of four articles is about the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games bid's journey to victory from my perspective as an external advisor consulting on the bid's brand messaging strategy - helping the bid define the answer to "Why Pyeongchang?". I was also responsible for the development and preparation of Pyeongchang 2018′s presentations to the Olympic Family.

Many other crucial moving parts of the bid were working hard as well, simultaneous with our team's efforts during the course of our almost two years together. The bid's administration, technical planning, communications, international relations, and sport and venues teams to name a few worked equally hard in their respective areas to ensure the final, victorious result in Durban.

Our first meeting with the Pyeongchang 2018 bid was a brief one. It took place in an almost springtime snowstorm, with former Gangwon Province Governor Jin Sun Kim at the Denver SportAccord during March 2009. Kim was the instigator, driving force and leader of Pyeongchang's two previous bids, 2010 and 2014 respectively - both of those bids almost won, by the way. I worked for Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014, both of whom eventually defeated Pyeongchang. Given those facts, I wasn't really sure how the meeting would go.

During the discussion, Kim listened politely and nodded periodically. He spoke to us through his interpreter, though without committing to anything. I remember thinking that he seemed very tired - time zones are a killer. At the end of the meeting I wasn't really sure what, if anything had been accomplished.

Only later did I learn that Governor Kim was listening acutely, very well indeed. Although I'd worked closely with Koreans many years before (I worked for Meridian Management, the International Olympic Committee's marketing agency in 1997 when Samsung joined the TOP Programme), this meeting with Kim reminded me again about the particulars of Korean business meeting etiquette. Today, by the way, Kim is President and chief executive of Pyeongchang 2018.

Over the course of the next few months we began a dual dialogue with both Pyeongchang and Munich. Truth be told, my heart was with Munich because of my German wife, my love for the country - I worked there in 1991 with Delta Air Lines - and the city of Munich. Munich's young bid was, as are most bids at that stage, somewhat chaotic with two initial leaders, Bernard Schwank and Richard Adams. Pyeongchang's team was no less confusing with various powerful entities jostling for internal influence and control of the bid.

In September of 2009, we flew to Seoul to present for the first time. The initial Pyeongchang bid team now included personnel from Korean Air because Korean Air's chairman, Y H Cho, was selected to co-chair the 2018 bid with Kim. I particularly recall meeting Jiyoung Jung for the first time who would become a true friend as well as a colleague. The scope of requested work changed a few times - first Pyeongchang wanted us to include a PR and communications partner, and then they asked us to compete against a PR and communications partner.

This is not unusual. Young bids generally have little understanding of the bid process, the work ahead, the skills they will need, the roles of advisors and the work that they could/should perform. And, consultants who claim credit for and/or exaggerate their work performed on previous bids often exacerbate this confusion. CV inflation is the most reckless, profuse and hidden Olympic "sport". Lesson for future bid cities:  extensively check references with former bid chief executives.

Pitching a new bid committee is an exhaustive and often expensive exercise. For example, we made three trips and presentations to the Tokyo 2016 bid and believed, based on our final meeting, that we were hired. We were so certain that we bought Japanese mobile phones for our team - Japan had a proprietary telecommunications platform at the time. We weren't hired, and I heard about buying those phones from my colleagues for years.

Pitching a bid can be exhausting as well because not only are you trying to explain what you do, what you have done and what you can do for a bid, you are often walking a thin line explaining - because bids always ask - what a competitor did or did not do on a previous bid.

For the record: when asked, I shoot straight; never denigrate, but always educate.

We were having dinner in Seoul at a Korean barbeque restaurant during the period we were still negotiating with Pyeongchang. Earlier that day, the bid committee told us they were ready to select a logo. More often than not, new bids tend get this process wrong. To get to a serviceable logo, one should begin with a brand assessment and positioning exercise. This work then "informs" the designers so that their visual interpretation of the brand is consistent with its mission, vision and values.

But as I said, this rarely happens.

Usually someone decides that a friend or colleague can create a logo cheaply, or, they farm it out to a few designers with virtually no real briefing for the design. The designers are left to their own devices and we get bid logos that sometimes defy logic.

But I digress; back to the Pyeongchang 2018 bid logo.

We expressed our "concerns" that they ploughed ahead with logo development before the bid's brand assessment and positioning work. We asked, "What is the logo trying to express? What part of the Pyeongchang 2018 vision is it trying to articulate?" They listened politely and seemed to understand our points.

Later, at the aforementioned dinner - again, before we were hired - three gentlemen entered the crowded restaurant with three large advertising boards. Each board had a single, different version of a potential Pyeongchang 2018 logo.

They cleared the table in front of me and said, "Mr Burns, would you please tell us which logo you think is best?" No set up, no explanation of each designer's intent - just a cold presentation to a jet-lagged foreigner with several Korean beers in him. I chose one, admittedly purely subjectively, and it eventually became the Pyeongchang logo - whether or not my choice had anything to do with it, I do not know. By the way, the logo worked out just fine.

It may not have been the most conventional way of choosing a logo, but this is the design Pyeongchang used to push its bid for the 2018 Games ©Pyeongchang 2018It may not have been the most conventional way of choosing a logo, but this is the design Pyeongchang used to push its bid for the 2018 Games ©Pyeongchang 2018

Pyeongchang 2018 did eventually win, so I guess we can save the debate about the efficacy of brand positioning work for logo development for a later post - or, maybe even the efficacy of bid logos in general.

As an aside, I remember asking why are you spelling "Pyeongchang" with a capital "C" in the middle of the name?

"We don't want to be confused with North Korea," someone answered.

"Ah," I said; and the capital "C" stuck.

In late 2009, we had a final meeting/presentation with bid co-chairman Cho in the Korean Air headquarters in downtown Seoul. His daughter, Emily, a Korean Air marketing executive attended as well, and although not part of the bid committee, she was extremely helpful to us throughout the campaign. We also had our final meeting with the Korean Olympic Committee.

In early January of 2010, we went on a venue tour in Pyeongchang. I was on crutches from a little motorcycle mishap, and I remember standing on the icy ledge at the top of the ski jump. I think the Koreans were nervous that I would fall off. Perhaps that is why Pyeongchang 2018 finally hired us - maybe they thought we were just as desperate as they were for Pyeongchang to finally win. Time to go to work.

The Bid Committee had already written the Application File - they had two solid, previous versions as a foundation. Their technical plan was very good, not as attractive as Munich's due to Germany's existing winter sports infrastructure, but certainly very good.

What they lacked was a story and an answer to the question "Why Pyeongchang?"

The first real challenge I recall was the IOC Teleconference after the submission of the Applicant File. The bid team already had sectional heads for each functional area, virtually all of whom were academics with excellent knowledge of their subject areas, but with minimal Games or Olympic Movement experience.

This short teleconference presentation to the IOC is designed to give the IOC a better understanding of the bid's motivation and vision as well as its general technical and operational plans in as an efficient and affordable manner as possible.

The IOC teleconference is designed to give the organisation a better understanding of each bid's vision ©Terrence BurnsThe IOC teleconference is designed to give the organisation a better understanding of each bid's vision ©Terrence Burns

Some of the speakers had taken part in previous Pyeongchang bids and a lot of the technical material was simply updated and refreshed from Pyeongchang 2014's bid - which was fine, they were able to show progress with each successive bid.

As I read the drafts, again what was missing for me was the answer to "Why Pyeongchang?"

As background, the 2010 and 2014 Pyeongchang bids relied heavily on the message of the Winter Games as a peaceful means to unify the Korean peninsula. Now, there is no doubt that this is a vital geo-political issue, and it is a very personal and passionate issue for the Korean people. But there's just one problem: the message had no real relevance to the Olympic Movement or for the Winter Games.

While working for Vancouver and Sochi, we knew this - and we were able to exploit it with clear, powerful value propositions that illustrated what each of these two cities could provide to the Olympic Movement and to winter sport.

I tried to adapt the presentation remarks - they were already written - around a concept that was taking shape in my mind, but was by no means a formal brand or communications platform, yet. At this point, we could only adjust the texts, not re-write them - it's easier to re-write than "fix by editing", by the way, if one has the time.

I flew to Seoul to be in the room with them - off camera - for a few hours of presentation training, and the Q&A. The presentation went fine.

Then we got serious about creating the answer to the question, "Why Pyeongchang?"

Initially, I received a great deal - a great deal - of pushback from some members of Pyeongchang 2018 regarding the bid's positioning and its brand platform.

It was difficult to make them understand that this brand work would serve as the very foundation for every single piece of Pyeongchang 2018 communication over the course of the bid - speeches, brochures, press releases, presentations, advertising, direct mail, website, Bid Books, etc. It is important to undergo a rigorous process to get it right because in the end, a clear and singular message is a bid's only true point of differentiation from competitor bids.

We were competing against one of the greatest cities in the world, Munich - the perceived "front runner" in the race up until a few months before the selection was made in July 2011 - and a country, Germany, with a winter sports heritage and facilities second to none.

Munich 2018 had a sophisticated bid committee and was a long-time frontrunner ©Munich 2018Munich 2018 had a sophisticated bid committee and was a long-time frontrunner
©Munich 2018

Munich 2018 also had a sophisticated bid committee, led by the extraordinarily competent Schwank, the extraordinarily popular Olympic champion, Katarina Witt - and, for good measure, extraordinarily well known and highly experienced German IOC member and IOC vice-president - then rumoured to be the next IOC President - Thomas Bach. And, they had the Alps. It just didn't seem fair.

We were also competing with another Alpine gem, Annecy, France. Led initially by Olympic champion Edgar Grospiron, and then Charles Beigbeder, Annecy's bid also offered bona fide winter sport credentials that Pyeongchang could not compete with on a head to head basis. Annecy was also a stunning site for the Winter Games: picture postcard perfect.

But the Annecy bid suffered from a venue plan that many considered "too spread out" to be efficient. Nevertheless, we knew that the French could host a magnificent Winter Games and, they knew their way around the Olympic Family and the world of winter sport.

While Annecy 2018 had its flaws, it was a serious contender ©Annecy 2018While Annecy 2018 had its flaws, it was a serious contender ©Annecy 2018

We considered both cities real competitors for the crown up until the last moments in Durban.

But I knew that we helped Sochi defeat Salzburg under similar "image" constraints - we just needed our own story.

One evening at home in Atlanta I spent hours on the phone, literally, arguing with a few members of the bid committee on the other side of the world about a suggested tagline for the bid. Someone wanted a tagline called "A Bigger Winter". Even after accounting for translation and transliteration, I tried to gently explain why I thought "A Bigger Winter" was not a good idea in the context of this bid campaign.

If you have conducted business in Korea, gentle doesn't always work. Koreans are passionate - which is why I enjoy working with them. You always know where you stand. So, I gave up on being gentle. We all agreed that we would wait until I delivered a new Pyeongchang 2018 brand model before we addressed the "tagline" issue again.

We all met for the first time as "the Pyeongchang 2018 team" in Vancouver for the Games. Vancouver was chairman Cho's first major Olympic experience as head of the bid committee and we were all getting used to each other. Bid cities at Olympic Games are a bit like new kids on the first day of school. They know they are supposed to be there, but aren't sure what it is they are supposed to be doing - or what the IOC will allow them to do.

In Vancouver I was also introduced to a young woman named Theresa Rah. Theresa, I was told, was the new communications director. Little did I know that Theresa would become my creative muse for the bid's story, and the anchor for Pyeongchang presentations over the next 17 months.

In Vancouver, I gave a presentation on Olympic branding and Pyeongchang, and we agreed that I would present the final Pyeongchang 2018 brand model to the entire team at SportAccord in Dubai in April.

By Dubai, the bid committee included representation from the Korean NOC, Gangwon Province personnel, members of previous bids and new bid members from Korean Air; it was a heady, complex mix of factions.

Y S Park, then head of the Korean NOC and a strong and consistent advocate of our work, was present as well with his excellent team lead by John Moon and Seihwa "Bonnie" Kim. Governor Kim was also in the room with his team, led by Byungnam Lee and Zoo-Whang Kim.

By this time Pyeongchang had hired other consultants such as Vero, Stratos Safioleas - Stratos was onboard from the beginning and had in fact worked on the 2014 bid, Charlie Battle, Young-Sook Lee and Laszlo Vajda to name a few. Cheil Communications also had a team led by Jooho Kim, Jace Oh and Alexis Choo.

The brand presentation I shared that day was a 110-page PowerPoint deck. That's a lot of pages for anyone to sit through, especially listening to what may be one's second or third language - or via a translator.

But it had to be done to prove why the old messaging would not work and why new messaging was required to win. It also had to be done with painstaking detail and metrics.

It had to be done precisely and with supporting documentation because that is what Korean people respect and expect, and it is how they conduct their own work.

And it is why the muddy fields of emptiness, death and destruction, in which my father toiled for three years as a young soldier in the Korean War, now comprise one of the most modern, dynamic and exciting cities in the world - Seoul.

Seoul is a modern and dynamic city ©Getty ImagesSeoul is a modern and dynamic city ©Getty Images

I took the team through the Pyeongchang 2018 brand research.

The words most highly associated and relevant to the words Korea/Korean people: family, corruption, precise, hopeful, hard working, insular and aggressive.

I showed them what foreigners thought about Koreans, and we talked about how to build this research into a "story" for Pyeongchang 2018.

Hard working = making and keeping promises

Precise (intelligent) = best plan for 2018

Dynamic = fast growing economy, new markets for winter sport

I showed them purposefully simplistic images of old thinking and perceptions of Korea versus the new Korea today.

I showed them how foreigners around the world and people within the Movement perceived them and their country - including the previous bids. And while it is true that cars, mobile phones, refrigerators, ships and all manner of manufactured goods are made in Korea...millions of young, hip, Koreans are also "Made in Korea".

This was not an easy discussion.

We had many veterans of those previous bids in the room. There were a few uncomfortable moments of silence.

But we had only one chance of defeating Munich and it had to be predicated on creating our own story and evaluation set. If left to comparisons with Munich's architectural beauty, cultural attractions, leisure options, dining and shopping opportunities - let alone the sporting venues - Pyeongchang would lose again. We had to create something new, something imaginative that could nullify or at least blunt Munich's many strengths.

We had to look outward instead of inward. This meant we would not be mentioning reunification of the Korean peninsula as a key message for the bid. Again, that was not an easy or popular message to deliver, but it's what we get paid to do.

I watched the reactions and tried to read the room. I was keenly interested in chairman Cho's perception of the message I was delivering, especially given that he was pictured in one photo example of the "old" Korea! Thankfully, he was in total support. He understood branding and marketing very well as head of a global airline, and he understood that we had to be modern and international in our image going forward.

There were also plenty of words of agreement and support, both from many Koreans in the room and from my fellow foreign colleagues, all of whom knew this was exactly the path that we had to take.

At the end of the presentation, we conducted an exploration in "taglines" and key messages. We recommended about five or six taglines, and I remember specifically leaning towards the concept of "Dream Big." I liked the connotation of it; how it related to the people of Korea and the miracle that they have created in the last 60 or so years.

I liked the way it spoke to "persistence" - this was their third bid and they were not giving up. And I liked the unexpected nature of this bold, modern, international message for a Pyeongchang bid because I thought it would surprise the Olympic Movement. (Spoiler Alert: "Dream Big" did not make the cut, it was in use already commercially)

As the presentation drew to a close, I felt a general sense of relief in the room - certainly, I was glad to have it over. I felt a lot of "buy-in" from the team. They understood the call for a new energy, a new dynamic and a new way of thinking about a Pyeongchang Olympic bid.

I admit that the one person I was most concerned about offending was Governor Kim; after all, he led the two previous bids. Much of my presentation was a comparison of the old versus the new messages. I was afraid he might take it personally.

Nothing could have been further from the truth; he was a gentleman.

Governor Kim Jin-Sun took onboard everything that was said with the goal of pushing the bid forward and learning from past mistakes ©AFP/Getty ImagesGovernor Kim Jin-Sun took onboard everything that was said with the goal of pushing the bid forward and learning from past mistakes ©AFP/Getty Images

At the end of the presentation, he thanked me and said, in English, "...well done, good job - I liked it..." He also liked "Dream Big" as a tagline - I think he and I, alone in the room, liked that option.

As a footnote, Kim was the only person in the bid who sent me a thank you letter after Pyeongchang's victory in Durban. I received many emails and calls from my friends in the bid, but Kim's was the only "official" letter of thanks that I ever received - from anyone, in Korea. It was a gracious gesture. I still have it.

At the end of SportAccord, the bid team had very good understanding of Pyeongchang 2018's new brand positioning, its new key messages and the answer to "Why Pyeongchang?"

We had our story. We had our answer to "Why Pyeongchang?" And we had our new tagline. We called it "New Horizons". Now we just had to put it into practice, which is always harder than it appears.

Theresa Rah and chairman Y H Cho rehearsing in Belgrade, Serbia in November 2010 ©Stratos SafioleasTheresa Rah and chairman Y H Cho rehearsing in Belgrade, Serbia in November 2010 ©Stratos Safioleas

After the SportAccord meetings in April, we all had our "marching orders". The Pyeongchang technical team was busy preparing the initial drafts of the Pyeongchang 2018 Candidature Files. Our team was poised to review and edit the drafts for brand messaging consistency to ensure the bid's new message, "New Horizons", was reflected as much as possible and where appropriate in the texts.

Our team also began mapping the outlines and strategies for the 10 presentations that Pyeongchang 2018 - and Munich and Annecy - would be making over the next 16 months. It was a daunting task, but in retrospect, having 10 opportunities to practice our message and presentation skills was a Godsend, as we shall later see. For edification, the ten presentations for the 2018 campaign were as follows:

The 2010 presentations

October 21 - 17th Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly - Acapulco, Mexico

November 13 - 29th Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) General Assembly - Guangzhou, China

November 26 - 39th European Olympic Committees General Assembly - Belgrade, Serbia

The 2011 presentations

February 16-19 - IOC Evaluation Commission Visit - Pyeongchang, South Korea

March 23 - 74th Association Internationale de la Presse Sportive (AIPS) Congress - Seoul, South Korea

March 26 - Association of Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) - Nouméa, New Caledonia

April 7 - SportAccord - London, England

May 18 - IOC Technical Presentation - Lausanne, Switzerland

June 28 - Association of African Olympic Committees (ANOCA) - Lomé, Togo

July 6 - IOC Final Presentation - Durban, South Africa

For each of these presentations, we created a unique communications objective and strategy, given that each presentation had a different target audience and varying message to deliver. This entailed first creating the showflow, meaning:

-      Defining how many speakers

-      Identifying the speakers

-      Defining how many films, helping write film briefs

-      Drafting every speech

-      Speech training raining every speaker

-      Directing a design team on the "speaker support" (Keynote or PowerPoint) in both French and English

-      Where applicable, Q&A definitions and practice sessions.

Each presentation took anywhere from four weeks to three months to prepare. It is a lot of work.

My two favourite activities were drafting the speeches and training the speakers. In total, we spent literally hundreds and hundreds of hours writing and re-writing drafts, and training speakers.

For Pyeongchang I was insistent that everyone spoke English in his or her presentations. Why? It has nothing to do with language snobbery - it is purely pragmatic. English is the language in which the Olympic Movement does business. Speaking English to an international audience indicates that you and your team will be easy to communicate with - which means easy to work with - and it means less time fumbling with the simultaneous translation headsets during the presentation.

Often, senior officials or politicians simply cannot - or do not wish to - deliver a speech in English. I understand this - as a head of state or senior politician, one does not wish to appear less than perfect.

In this case, I have a protocol. If they are the Head of State, or a very senior Minister, we let them give a shortened speech in their own language. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain is the most recent client of ours - Madrid 2020 - who spoke in his native language.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy spoke in his native language when Madrid was presenting its bid for the 2020 Games ©Getty ImagesSpanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy spoke in his native language when Madrid was presenting its bid for the 2020 Games ©Getty Images

But unless the speaker has ample - and I mean a boatload - time to practice, this is a high-risk solution because we are trying to adapt a speech written in English to another language, and often the prose, syntax, alliteration and emotional flow do not transfer easily - or at all. So generally, I hate doing it. But the usual rule is that most Heads of State get a pass from the audience as long as they are brief; I repeat, as long as they are brief.

Sometimes, we teach the speaker an entire speech in English phonetically. This means the speaker may have no real idea what the words mean, but that he or she has memorised them.

If the speaker understands English well, but has trouble with pronunciation, we adapt the written speech or the teleprompter with various spellings and visual clues as to pronunciation and intonation.

Chairman Cho's first speech notes (at right) in Acapulco are a good example of this technique; we refined and used it in every presentation and it worked for him, and many others in recent bid presentations.

So, back to Pyeongchang.

I felt that Pyeongchang had to break out of the stereotype of boring presentations; sorry, there, I said it. And I knew for example, from watching the Tokyo 2016 presentations that it is folly to try to "force" people to be what they are not. But it is also folly to proceed as if it is a (insert major multinational here) board of directors meeting.

For Pyeongchang we began with five objectives for the presentations: 1 English language, 2 young speakers, 3 female speakers, 4 emotion and 5 humour, where possible - humour is very tricky in foreign languages. I also knew that with ten presentations, we had to pace ourselves and slowly perfect our messaging and delivery.

We could not peak too soon - as you will read below, after our first presentation in Acapulco, I realised that we were in no danger of peaking too soon. It took us until SportAccord in London in April 2011 to even get close to meeting our presentation objectives. By the Lausanne IOC technical presentation in May, we were peaking and by Durban in July, we reached our crescendo.

For the October 12 ANOC meeting in Acapulco, we delivered the first set of speeches to the team on August 24. The standard procedure was for me to send the speeches to the presenters and ask for any written feedback - you learn quickly that only about 10 per cent of the presenters give you written feedback. The bid committee team however, did not like my first round of speeches and made substantive changes, or tried to, throughout. We went back and forth, heatedly, via email and phone calls.

Finally, I flew to Seoul to address the issue of who controls the presentation content and speeches. It was a typical bid committee meeting; me on one side of a long table and about 15 bid committee members on the other side. Chairman Cho was there - at the head of the table. We began the discussion on who was or was not writing the drafts. There was a lot of frustration - on all sides. I was ready to go home, to be honest.

I am sure they got tired of my refrain "if you want to do what you did twice before you will lose again - be my guest...". It was tense. Finally, Cho called a break. He and I talked. He gave me advice on how to deal with Koreans, as well as my on "style" in dealing with them, which he found too aggressive and too blunt; it was a fair assessment. I listened. He listened. We went back in the room and he said to the team, "Too many cooks in the kitchen, from now on Terrence writes all the speeches."

Then, we began an intensive seven to 10 days of one-on-one and full rehearsal training sessions, and then we would continue with one-on-one and full rehearsal sessions on-site.

After our first set of practice sessions in Seoul it was clear to everyone in the room that Rah was going to "carry our water" for the presentations going forward. A former television presenter in Korea, she grew up in various locales around the world and her English accent was impeccably Canadian-esque.

It was key the presentations were in English and Theresa Rah, whose delivery was flawless, helped others with their presentation skills and English ©Getty ImagesIt was key the presentations were in English and Theresa Rah, whose delivery was flawless, helped others with their presentation skills and English ©Getty Images

Her delivery was flawless and she always had excellent feedback and input on her drafts. Moreover, she also worked tirelessly to help other Pyeongchang presenters with their presentation skills and English.

Our international relations team utilised Rah's skills as well. She was a true team player.

By this time, North Design joined us to help with the presentations' graphics. I have worked with David Woodward (Woody) and his design team on Olympic and World Cup presentations since 2003. Woody knew how to deal with the complexity - and pressure - of live presentations. There are always changes or adjustments to speeches up until the last minute - which means the accompanying speaker slides must be changed as well, real-time - in two languages. It was a high wire act - Woody and his team handled it flawlessly.

I recall Munich taking the stage with their superstars, and they were superstars - Bach, Witt and Schwank leading the way. The scripts prepared by my friend, mentor and former business partner George Hirthler, were crisp and on target.

They even had a video of Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, supporting the bid - remember, this was the first presentation to the Olympic Family and they already had the Chancellor of Germany on film...that is called being prepared. They were upbeat and looked fabulous - they seemed happy and confident, and it showed. At that moment, I felt that they were everything that we were not.

Munich 2018 had an incredible technical video that "flew" the viewer through and around the mountain venues, accompanied by a live voice-over by Schwank onstage. At that point, our technical "film" was only maps and still images.

Munich 2018 preparing for their Acapulco presentation, with bid advisor George Hirthler pictured far right ©Stratos SafioleasMunich 2018 preparing for their Acapulco presentation, with bid advisor George Hirthler pictured far right ©Stratos Safioleas

Munich also had a series of creative, atmospheric films capturing the beauty of the city and its people. Reto Lamm, a former snowboarding champion from Switzerland, and the epitome of cool, produced the films. We were still "struggling" with our own films at that stage. I remember having a dry mouth while watching them present. As presenters, they were amazingly good on their first shot out of the gate.

Finally, it was our turn. This first presentation was our "shake out cruise". It was my opportunity to see how well our "New Horizons" message resonated and judge our speaking team live, in front of an audience.

For that presentation we had Cho, Rah, Park, Korean IOC member and Olympic Champion Dae-Sung Moon and Governor Lee - the new Governor of Gangwon Province.

After our first presentation in Acapulco in October 2010, "improbable" was my first impression of our chances having watched Munich's presentation to ANOC.

Acapulco is where we first introduced the tagline and theme that would carry us nine long months, thousands of miles and ten presentations around the globe - New Horizons. Here is the slide we used to describe "our vision" to the ANOC audience. The focus was on "new growth and new potential like never before".

Chairman Y H Cho on stage at the Acapulco presentation ©Stratos SafioleasChairman Y H Cho on stage at the Acapulco presentation ©Stratos Safioleas

My notes from that day read:

New Horizons seemed to be the only recognisable "theme" by any city - we need to double down on it and provide new proof points going forward

Ch. Cho needs a lot of work on his pronunciation and delivery...not used to speaking to an international audience...I gave him too much content

Theresa - fantastic - will use her more

Y S Park - has certain charm - used to speaking to the OF (Olympic Family) - can make him funny but I gave him too much content

DS Moon - looks great, hard to understand - needs a lot more work

Governor Lee - the new Governor of Pyeongchang - not needed again until SportAccord, earliest (he didn't last long enough in office to join us in SportAccord)

Films:  more (lots) work to do - MUST HAVE A TECHNICAL FILM

Speaker slides design - I think Woody's design looked the best

Overall, we have a long way to go - NEXT STEPS:

1) Intensive language and presentation training with chairman Cho and others

2) Produce a new technical film, brief new film company, New Moon, on new films

3) Find young, athlete presenter(s)

3) Increase Theresa's role in presentations

4) Blow out "New Horizons" because no one else seems to have a clear and concise message

In Acapulco, we had lots of internal drama - politics, factions, consultants leaving - then not leaving, clashing egos and the great battle of two styles of doing business - east and west, hard versus soft, discussions versus decisions, straight-forward versus obtuse...progress or procrastination.

From my perspective, here is the single most important thing to know in an Olympic bid:  it has a beginning and an end; meaning, every single day matters.

That is it.

If a bid vacillates on making decisions, then it is sitting still; and if it is sitting still then it is either sinking to the bottom or falling behind.

Korean National Olympic Committee President Y S Park giving his presentation in Acapulco ©Stratos SafioleasKorean National Olympic Committee President Y S Park giving his presentation in Acapulco ©Stratos Safioleas

This may sound dramatic or crazy, but I think no other "Olympic activity" comes as close to what the athletes on the field of play experience as does bidding for the Olympic Games for the bid committee team. It is high drama with no second chances. There is a start and a stop. Each competitor brings his or her own strengths and weaknesses. The "players" endure tremendous personal and professional pressure - how would you like to give a speech in front of the entire world in a foreign language? It is pure competition and by the way, there is only one medal - gold.

After the presentations we had our debrief meeting. At these meetings, all of the Pyeongchang team would show up - many of whom I had never seen. One of the "critiques" I shared with Pyeongchang 2018 about their previous bids was that Korean bids always brought too many people who seemed to do nothing but stand around in groups - amongst themselves - and not mingle with anyone else. At this point, Pyeongchang 2018 seemed to be carrying on the tradition, as a phalanx of expectant faces looked at our team for answers.

I led off the meeting with my critique of our performance - I held nothing back and luckily all of the other external advisors agreed. Like me, everyone recognised the high quality of Munich 2018's presentation.

There is always "that moment" in a bid campaign, when hope must triumph over fear.

This was that moment for Pyeongchang 2018.

The team was quiet. They were confused and close to being dispirited. It was up to us external advisors in the room to address the situation honestly, but also in a way that provided a path forward. Following a summation of the points from my notes and others on how and where we needed to improve, I felt I needed a closing that would help them understand that all was not lost; in fact, we'd only just begun. We had all the ingredients of a great bid. Here is what I said, to the best of my memory:

"Munich 2018 just gave the best presentation that they will ever give in this campaign. It was brilliantly done, it was tremendous...but I believe that they will never give another one that good again. I don't think they have a message yet that compares to "New Horizons", and honestly they were so good today that I don't know how they can top it. On the other hand, I believe that our team will only get better and better, and we will give our best presentation on the stage in Durban next July."

I don't know how many people in the room believed me, but I believed it. I just hoped that it was true.

Our next presentation took place on November 13, to the Olympic Council of Asia in Guangzhou. The presentation time was shorter, so we only had three speakers - Cho, Rah and Park - and one film.

The team was much more comfortable being in Asia, and I think that helped them onstage. I know one thing that made them relax, and that was a city full of Chinese food. Wherever we went in the world, no matter what city or cuisine, the Pyeongchang team always found the local Chinese restaurant for our first or second meal.

Two of the more exciting moments in Guangzhou were: 1) the Chinese apparently changed my middle name from "Hugh" to "Huge", and 2) I worked up the nerve to ask Katarina Witt to have her photo taken with me.

Olympic figure skating champion Katarina Witt with Terrence Burns in Guangzhou, China in November 2010 ©Terrence BurnsOlympic figure skating champion Katarina Witt with Terrence Burns in Guangzhou, China in November 2010 ©Terrence Burns

Throughout the 2018 campaign, Pyeongchang was fortunate to always be the last to present - this was good for a whole host of reasons. Very often bids are at the mercy of the technical abilities - or lack thereof - of the venue team that is managing technology.

In Guangzhou, both Munich and Annecy had technical problems in their presentations, which were fortunately solved by the time Pyeongchang took the stage. Our team's presentation was tighter in Guangzhou, but we still lacked any emotional cohesion with each other onstage. I thought we made an improvement from Acapulco, but we still had issues with everyone's - except Rah's - English delivery and pronunciation. We had to work harder; the good news was that Koreans work very hard.

The last presentation of 2010 was to the EOC in Belgrade, just 13 days after Guangzhou. A "perk" on this trip was that a few of us were able to hitch a ride from Seoul to Belgrade with Cho on his own plane from the Korean Air Boeing Business Jet fleet. It was a beautiful plane with four bedrooms, eight luxurious seats and a couch.

I dubbed the plane "Elvis-1" because someone asked me "how did you like flying on Chairman Cho's plane?" I said, "I feel like Elvis." So, it stuck. We had our own Korean Air attendant and the food and the wine were exquisite. It sure beat standing in line at the airport.

Given both Munich and Annecy were from European NOCs, we felt as if we were going into the proverbial "Lion's Den". I felt that this presentation, on European soil, would be tremendously important for our bid, but perhaps that is also how they felt in Guangzhou. I put a lot of pressure on the presentation team and in retrospect, maybe too much for some.

Kwang-Bae Kang, four-time Olympian, relaxing in a Korean restaurant in Atlanta ©Terrence BurnsKwang-Bae Kang, four-time Olympian, relaxing in a Korean restaurant in Atlanta
©Terrence Burns

We were still experimenting with the speaker line up, e.g., who would open, and who would close.

For Belgrade we decided on the following order: begin with Cho again as the opener but with less content followed by a film, then Rah, then Korean Olympian Kang Kwang-bae, then Park and close with a another film.

One incredibly valuable new asset in Belgrade was the use of teleprompters. Other team members had suggested it for earlier presentations, and I resisted. That was a mistake and I should have realised it earlier. Now we were using a teleprompter - as were both Munich and Annecy - and it helped all of the speakers a great deal.

Katarina Witt on stage during Munich 2018's presentation to the European Olympic Committees in Belgrade, Serbia in November 2010 ©Stratos SafioleasKatarina Witt on stage during Munich 2018's presentation to the European Olympic Committees in Belgrade, Serbia in November 2010 ©Stratos Safioleas

Belgrade taught us a few more things. After the presentation, we were told by many of the Olympic media in the room that "Pyeongchang wins on the words and the message...Munich wins on style and video...". I appreciated the compliment, but I knew that words and message were only half the battle. In a forty-five minute presentation in a giant room - as in Durban - style points will matter, I thought.

We simply had to get better at presenting. Both Rah and Kang were very well received as speakers - young, enthusiastic and easy to understand; there was a lesson in that.

Our post-presentation meeting the next morning was not an easy one. We had a lot of ground to cover with little time.

I was departing Belgrade that morning on my way to Zürich to meet our team and prepare our other bid client, the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup bid, for their final presentation to FIFA on December 2, but that's another story. I was working hard to keep the two different bid's films and speeches straight in my mind.

After the Belgrade re-cap meeting, I had one of the most extraordinary conversations I've ever had with a bid client. Cho cleared the room to speak to me alone. This is the gist of the conversation.

Cho:  "I know I did not do well yesterday..."

Me:  "No, you didn't and it may have cost us a couple of votes...what were good in rehearsal..."

Cho: "I got nervous. Even though I am fluent, presenting in English is still very difficult. Listen - I do not need to speak. In fact, if I am not good enough, please tell me. I don't need the recognition - I am a busy, successful person. I am doing this bid because the President of my country asked me to, and he said to me "we cannot lose again". I want us to win too, but I will NOT be a reason that we lose. If you want me to just sit on the stage and smile, I will be happy to do so..."

I was taken aback.

In most bids there is no small amount of infighting amongst the bid leadership as to who gets the most "air time" during a presentation. Some people even keep track of the length of other speakers' speeches - really. I have even felt that some bid leaders were more interested in their own personal agenda than the bid's. That is why this conversation was so refreshing - and invigorating. Cho meant it. He had no ego in this - he simply wanted to win for his country.

Whatever differences Cho and I had up until then, and there were a few, simply vanished in my mind. I really respected what he said. I committed to him, and to myself, to help him work harder. And he did work harder - he was tireless. Once, he called me at home and asked if I had seen the new film The King's Speech. I said "yes". He said, "good...that's you and me" and then he hung up. He didn't waste words.

We hired a London-based English language elocution firm to assist, but in the end it was simply Cho and I, or even more so, Cho and Rah practicing hours on end to improve his English pronunciation and presentation skills. The progress he made from Acapulco to Durban was extraordinary. When someone wants to succeed that badly, it is an inspiration to everyone else on the team.

After three presentations in 2010, we knew we had a strong central message that so far, no other bid was able to counter effectively.

"New Horizons" was turning out to be something powerful and differentiating, but we still had not been able to communicate it fully, yet. We would, in time.

We knew our strengths and weaknesses. And most importantly, the intangible feeling of settling into a real "team" was beginning to take place. Often it takes the "heat of battle" to draw people together, to get them to assemble and follow one true banner of leadership and direction.

We had been humbled; yet thanks to the unique Korean culture, we persevered with great patience. That culture, and working with our Korean colleagues for almost two years, proved a powerful lesson for me, personally.

As we prepared for the last year of the campaign, it was evident that we were well on our way to being "competitive" in the race. And for the first time we were gaining a little momentum - and more importantly, confidence.

But I still did not know if we could really win; that would not come until later.

Pyeongchang 2018's presentation team with the IOC's Evaluation Commission during their visit ©Terrence BurnsPyeongchang 2018's presentation team with the IOC's Evaluation Commission during their visit ©Terrence Burns

The year 2011 ushered in a string of staggered - and staggering - presentations to the Olympic Family and the IOC, beginning with the IOC Evaluation Commission visit to Pyeongchang, February 16-19. For any bid committee this is probably the longest sustained period of stress - and more than a little fear - in the entire bid process.

During the EC Visit, a team of eleven Olympic Movement and Games subject matter experts visited the Alpensia resort in Pyeongchang for four days of non-stop presentations on all themes of the bid book, venue and site visits/presentations and meetings with Government officials. All presentations included thorough and specific question and answer sessions as well.

The 2018 Winter Games IOC Evaluation Commission:

Gunilla Lindberg, SWE, IOC member, chairwoman

Angela Ruggiero, USA, IOC member

Barry Maister, NZL, IOC member

Dwight Bell, USA, US Luge Federation President

Tsunekazu Takeda, JPN, Japanese NOC President

Ann Cody, USA, Paralympic Games athlete and administrator

Gilbert Felli, SUI, IOC Olympic Games executive director

Simon Balderstone, AUS, IOC environmental advisor

Philippe Bovy, SUI, IOC transport advisor

John McLaughlin, CAN, IOC finance advisor

Grant Thomas, USA, IOC infrastructure advisor

Theresa Rah and Terrence Burns pictured in Seoul in December 2010 ©Stratos SafioleasTheresa Rah and Terrence Burns pictured in Seoul in December 2010 ©Stratos Safioleas

To begin the story of Pyeongchang 2018's EC visit, one must go back to November and December 2010. During those months, the external consultancy team including myself, Charlie Battle, Erskine McCullough, Luciano Barra, Mike Lee, Safioleas, Laszlo Vajda and others met the proposed Evaluation Commission Visit speaker team.

We worked very closely with bid team member Lee, a great colleague, friend and a key player in Pyeongchang's eventual victory.

On December 15, 2010, the candidates were led one by one into a large room and asked to read a portion of a draft speech in order for us to ascertain each person's English language speaking ability. Virtually every speaker was an academic, and had also participated in the drafting of the Bid Book in his or her functional area.

Imagine walking into a room of bid leaders and foreign Olympic "experts", and being asked to read aloud with conviction and passion a technical speech in another language. Not easy. Fortunately, as academics many of the speakers were experienced presenters in front of groups - albeit students.

None of the speakers had a problem with content knowledge, but more than a few required extensive presentation and language training; but that is what we were there for. We took notes on the good, the bad and the "bridge-too-far" aspects of each speaker's presentation, an example of my notes are to the right.

Our team, working with the first round of drafts (mostly) supplied by the speakers and bid committee, finished reviewing and editing (sometimes re-writing entirely) the seventeen EC theme speeches by mid-December.

The second round of drafts was delivered mid January. We then refined each version many times over until the day - or in some instances, the moment - of the actual presentations.

In late January, we first travelled to Seoul for rehearsals and presentation prep, then we went onto Pyeongchang. By now, Caroline Roland and Barnaby Logan of New Moon films were onboard working alongside our Cheil colleagues, and our films were improving greatly. We were trying to counter the points that Munich 2018 were making in their presentations about the beauty and variety of fun shopping, dining and entertainment options in the city of Munich - the implication: those amenities were not available in Pyeongchang.

It was a good strategy because the IOC members and the Olympic Family often spend two or more weeks at the Games, and they must have something to do when not at an Olympic event. Obviously, Munich offered a lot more entertainment value to the Olympic family than did the closest "big" city to Pyeongchang, Gangneung - population 230,000.

To answer this challenge, our team created a concept called "The Best of Seoul", later changed to "The Best of Korea". The idea was simple: given that we were at least 90 minutes away from Seoul, a large, thriving world-city with many great restaurants, shopping malls and entertainment options, why not bring those amenities to Pyeongchang for the period of the Games?

It was agreed to build a Best of Korea Pavilion in and around the Alpensia Resort (heart of the Winter Games). In this space we would have temporary versions of Seoul's most popular restaurants, shopping experiences and nightclubs. Voila - Seoul in Pyeongchang.

One of the best things about Korea is the food, and our team had ample time to sample just about every type of Korean food - and alcohol - imaginable.

Nothing breaks down barriers such as sitting on the floor, serving each other food and drink - we learned to always pour your fellow diners' drinks first, before one's own - and cooking meat on a Korean barbeque grill.

The beef that originates in the Pyeongchang region is said to be the best in Korea; by the way, I concur.

Over the course of the EC preparations it began to snow...a lot. Frankly, it was what we were hoping for because it added to the winter ambience of the countryside and surroundings. The day the EC Commission arrived, the city of Gangneung received more than three feet of new snowfall - a blessing, as everything looks better in a fresh coat of white snow and it proved we would have plenty of snow for the Winter Games.

Chairman Cho and the bid leadership await the Evaluation Commission's arrival ©Stratos SafioleasChairman Cho and the bid leadership await the Evaluation Commission's arrival
©Stratos Safioleas

To be honest those days all tend to run together in my memory. We were up early every morning for hours of speaker training and rehearsals, and then long evenings for Question and Answer preparation. Each slide's content, spelling - both French and English - had to be checked, re-checked and then checked again because we were still adjusting speeches throughout the rehearsals. They were easily one hundred-hour weeks for everyone on the Pyeongchang team.

Lou Lauria and Ansley O'Neal led the venue presentation preparations for our team. Lou and Ansley prepared the presentations and prepped the speakers at every venue for the EC's visit. A lot of these presenters were Olympians and athletes. One of the best parts of our job is when we get the opportunity to work with athletes. Athletes are comfortable taking direction, which means they are "coachable". They are also competitive, which makes them want to excel.

One of the most emotional stops for the EC during the tour was a stop at the Gangneung Skating Rink - the proposed curling venue for the Games. A choir of 2,018 residents serenaded the EC team, and media, with Abba's classic "I Have A Dream".

Their beautiful voices filled the arena with a warmth beyond mere temperature. Many of the Evaluation Commission members as well as the Pyeongchang 2018 team (and media) were touched with the simple emotion of the moment; eyes welled and tissues appeared.

The performance illustrated the gentle, almost innocent nature in certain aspects of Korean culture. It was a genuine, heartfelt moment that was classically Korean in its conception and implementation. It was a beautiful gesture, and one learns to appreciate those in a long bid campaign.

After a long and stressful week with hours of presentations, hours of answering questions and hours of worrying, it was suddenly over. There is nothing quite like the sense of relief and release at the end of an IOC Evaluation Commission visit. It is difficult to describe the commingled emotions of anxiety and anticipation that precede the visit.

At first, the week seems like it will go on forever - then suddenly all the scripts, drafts and urgent notes from the previous few days are lying on the ground, spent. It is very much like an Olympic Games.

Each day is an exercise of the bid committee holding its collective breath, praying nothing goes wrong. It is our job, as external advisors who have experienced this many times, to assure the Bid Committee that the Evaluation Commission visit is not an attempt to trip up or trick anyone into making a mistake; quite the contrary.

The EC want to be informed and they want to help. Many times during the presentations, EC members such as Felli