Victory at the Olympic Games amid tight security for the team
Panasonic AV Team
Panasonic provided equipment for many venues.
Away from the bustle of downtown Salt Lake City, on a quiet street corner, stands a warehouse, its only adornment a plain sign with one word on it, "PAW." The entrance is surrounded by an iron grill and at first glance the warehouse seems deserted. However, it was inside this warehouse that the men behind the scenes at the Games held heated discussions day and night and worked tirelessly on support for the other team members working at the Olympic venues. This was a secret base camouflaged against terrorist attacks. The "Panasonic Audio Warehouse" was the headquarters of Panasonic's AV team from which, hidden from the public eye, they helped make the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games a triumph.
Following on from our success at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Panasonic provided Salt Lake 2002, the first Olympic Winter Games of the 21st century, with our gigantic ASTROVISION visual system, our RAMSA sound system and a wide range of broadcasting equipment. Panasonic was also responsible for running these systems.
The state of Utah, deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, is home to no fewer than five national parks. Salt Lake City, the state capital, with a population of over 180,000, was the largest town ever to host the Olympic Winter Games. Amid glorious, unspoiled natural surroundings, the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games took place under the harsh conditions imposed by an altitude of 1300 meters above sea level.
Matsushita Communication Industrial's AV team, Matsumi Takeuchi, Ryoichi Ohmachi and Yoshiyuki Goto,based at PAW.
Ryoichi Omachi, who was responsible for the AV system, describes conditions at Salt Lake City as follows:
"I was involved in the Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games too, but the cold in Salt Lake City was on a different dimension altogether. Taking temperatures of anything between -10 degrees C and -20 degrees C into account, we had to lay the groundwork in the shortest possible time."
When it comes to the Olympic Winter Games, equipment has to be installed and preparations for installation work made before the snow begins. Cables buried deep in the earth, equipment transported to inaccessible places in the middle of mountains, tests carried out to ensure that everything really is able to stand up to the snow and the cold...It is vital to get all this work underway before October when the snow starts to fall in the mountains. Every second brings the deadline closer. However, on this occasion work did not begin according to plan. There was a reason for this.
Panasonic's sponsorship contract with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had already been concluded immediately before the start of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. However, the supplier contract with the Salt Lake Olympic Committee (SLOC) for supplying the equipment for the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games, originally due to be signed in summer 2001, had fallen behind schedule for a number of reasons. Then, in September, when the final contract was at last ready to be signed, the US was struck by the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Mr. Omachi comments, "Just when we had almost reached agreement on the contract, we were forced to change it again and put in a clause about dealing with crisis management. It was like being back at square one. We couldn't go to them; they couldn't come to us. E-mail alone wasn't going to get us any further forward. Then the US went to war and there was doubt about whether the Games would take place at all. However, if we didn't start doing the physical preparations at once, it would be too late."
Harsh environment for outdoor equipment
Even though negotiations were still going on between the lawyers on both sides and the contract had still not been signed, Panasonic decided to pack the equipment and ship it to the US anyway. Work was scheduled to begin in November. This was how we "read" the situation on the basis of our many years of experience with the Games. The Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games would go ahead, we were sure of it. It was Panasonic's mission to make those Olympic Games a success.
After months of negotiations, final agreement was reached in December. It was not until after Christmas that the contract to be signed reached Japan.
Strict security at an event site
After getting through the security check at the entrance to a site, bringing a part in was still no easy matter. Even if it was just a sheet of plastic, the dogs had to sniff it first. Then as an anti-terrorism precaution, the part in question had to be carried along winding passages laid out like a veritable maze. Security was very strict.
Nevertheless, the team was backed up by confidence-inspiring reinforcements. Panasonic's local partner was a team which had even directed the Super Bowl, a sporting event on a grand scale even by the standards of America which is the cradle of show business. With the help of such experienced staff they made it across their tightrope walker's schedule.
In system configuration for the Games, reliable backup provision is more important than anything else. Should an accident occur while the eyes of the world are focused on each instant's live action, a separate circuit, unconnected with the main one, covers both visuals and sound so that the progress of the Games is uninterrupted. At the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games yet another backup system had to be in place. This was a backup system for the staff which should work if anything happened.
"After all, the staff's lives were in our hands. The Games were a likely terrorist target and although security and anti-terrorist measures left absolutely nothing to chance, their families couldn't help being worried. The US was at war so there was insurance, the method of contacting consulates, contingency plans for who should call whom, a whole additional backup system to put in place. One major part of our work this time was configuration of a system for crisis management for the Panasonic team including the local members of staff."
Installation work progressed fast thanks to the cooperation of local staff
How were the 60 local members of staff to be linked with the people who had come from Japan? This was done by ensuring communication on the same floor, maintaining the same crisis management awareness levels, and supporting each other as a single team. The trust and human relationships which have been fostered in this way since the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games were Panasonic's great asset.
"It's most important that as many staff members as possible actually experience the Olympic Games on the spot. The Games attract the world's top brands and the latest technology. By providing products and technology for the Olympic Games, we can convey the strength of Panasonic's products as we build up trusting relationships with partners, in a way that is impossible to show in a catalogue or to describe in a salesperson's words. That's our job."
At the end of the 17 exciting days, as the snowy Rocky mountains became invisible in the dark, the Closing Ceremony started at the signal of a firework against the night sky. Panasonic's AV team had prepared for success in the finale of the Games.
In his speech at the Closing Ceremony, Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC, expressed his gratitude to the people who had helped with the running of the Olympic Games.
When the ASTROVISION screen in the stadium showed the Olympic Flag being handed over to the Mayor of Turin, in Italy, which will host the next Olympic Winter Games, the roar of the crowed was like the swelling rumble of an earthquake. Then the light carried by the boy at the "Child of Light" show at the Opening Ceremony was put into the hands of a ten-year-old girl from Turin. The Olympic Flame burned out gently along with the hymn of prayer, bringing the Games safely to an end. The members of the Panasonic team shook hands all round as they reveled in the euphoria of success.
After working through the night to dismantle the equipment and returning to their secret "warehouse" at first light, the staff found a newspaper in their letter box and were deeply moved by the front page headline. Beneath the photograph of the Closing Ceremony three words stood out: "WE DID IT!"
* These reports were written in March 2002.
We changed the corporate name from Matsushita Group to Panasonic Group on October 1, 2008.
Some reports in this page use our former name because they were written before the renaming.