With less than a year to go beforethe 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Pete Moore, director of Olympic operations for Carlson Marketing Group, Minneapolis, is stressed out. While construction of Olympic facilities is well in hand (unlike the 2004 Games in Greece), China has brought a new set of problems for sponsors such as Kodak, UPS, and General Electric when it comes to entertaining VIPs and incentive qualifiers.

“We're getting down to the wire on a lot of things that we traditionally would have had wrapped up by now,” says Moore, who jokes that if Beijing “doesn't kill him,” Vancouver in 2010 will be his ninth Olympic Games for Carlson.

“There are a lot of things we're still working out” — such as finding a reception venue for one of his four blue-chip clients. “A lot of the venues we're looking at are really not committing” because they are holding out for maximum fees. “Every country has its challenges, but it's been a little bit more challenging in China, particularly because [it's a] government-run country.”

Of course, competition is fierce. “Originally, we had talked about a lunch or a dinner on the Great Wall, but it is going to be so crazy out there that we've backed off,” Moore says.

That isn't to say his clients' guests will miss out on the Great Wall; they just won't be dining there. It will be included in the cultural tours offered as part of a three-prong approach to entertaining VIPs. The first prong is, of course, the games themselves, which involves battling for tickets to top events. Second, Moore and his team always offer a cultural experience unique to the destination; and third, they showcase each Olympic sponsor's contribution to the games.

In the case of Carlson client Kodak, that showcase involves entry for its roughly 350 VIPs into some of the most coveted areas of the Olympic Village: the media center and the Athletes' Village. Kodak will be providing Olympic credentials for athletes, officials, and press; imaging equipment in the athletes' medical facilities; and the technology for the press center.

“The key thing for us, from a hospitality standpoint, is how we utilize our program in a strategic manner to tell our story,” says Karen Kozak, head of brand and marketing development for Kodak. Tours of our operational areas are a great way to do this in a live real-time environment.”

Invitations are just starting to go out, so Carlson is ramping up its registration Web site and providing information on getting visas — something that might get tricky. “Traditionally, people have made changes at the last minute. … It gets kinda crazy,” Moore says. “But you can't just jump on a plane and go to China.”

Getting blocks of airline tickets is another wrinkle. “We're fighting with everybody else to secure as many business-class seats as we can,” he says.

With all eyes on China, Moore is confident that the troubles will be worth it. “I think the Chinese know how important this is as a nation, and they will put on a fantastic show. … It's just the level of pain you have to endure to get there.”

Eco-Exhibitions

The average trade show produces hundreds of cubic yards of landfill waste in just days. Here are four ways to reduce that:

BOOTH DESIGN: Instead of vinyl and other petroleum-based plastics, consider using sustainable materials such as bamboo as backdrops and hemp and organic muslin for drape.

WASTE: The typical trade show generates the equivalent of 170 trees in waste paper. Consider eliminating paper handouts.

SIGNAGE: Avoid dating signage so that you can use it again. If you must print new signs, use recycled cardboard or Jet 220 — an eco-friendly banner fabric — rather than foam board, and use water-based, vegetable inks.

GIVEAWAYS: Take your giveaways back to the office so that they don't get buried in the landfill. Find out if leftover food can be donated to a food bank or be composted.

Calendar:

JANUART 13-16.2008/PCMA Annual Meeting Seattle
www.pcma.org

FEBRUARY 2-5.2008/MPI Professional Education Conference-North America Houston
www.mpiweb.org

MARCH 17-19, 2008/Pharmaceutical Meeting Planners Forum Baltimore Convention Center
http://meetingsnet.com

MARCH 17-19, 2008/Pharmaceutical Meeting Planners Forum Baltimore Convention Center
http://meetingsnet.com