Sochi: Capitalising on a Moment in Time

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Just imagine, for a moment, that Sochi is not simply the destination for the Winter 2014 Olympics, but a turning point in Russia's relationship with the rest of the world.

By hosting the Games, Sochi does not simply have the chance to showcase a stunning destination and leading athletes -- it has the opportunity to project a new Russia to an international audience, which will resonate long after the event is over. The big question is: What does that new Russia look like?

There have been many steep changes in the nation over the past 30 years, but outside of Russia we have only glimpsed a fragment of them: the fallout from glasnost, the rise of entrepreneurialism, intense competition and rocketing prices. While there is an international perception that Russia still has a lot of ground to cover before it can come into its own on a global stage, Sochi 2014 presents a chance to open a window on a more open, contemporary, entrepreneurial and free-thinking spirit.

Although the U.K.'s political and social landscape is very different from that of Russia, the issue of nation versus nationalism also faced us when developing the London 2012 brand. The belief was that the 2012 Olympics are not just a spectacle but something that people feel personally involved with. London 2012 presented a good time to change as the traditionally nationalistic approach, which has characterized previous Olympics, is not representative of the U.K. today. Even in the current financial debacle, the pride of Britain is now characterized by the ability to 'cut loose' and to do things differently. And so it followed that the philosophy behind the London 2012 is that traditional Olympics doesn't fit with Britain. The result is the brand idea: Everyone's Olympics: Everyone Olympic. This means that everyone from gifted athlete to playground enthusiast can participate in London 2012, whether by joining in the opening ceremony, taking up a new sport or making a commitment to get fit. As well as an invitation, London 2012 throws out a challenge to be Olympic -- in other words be outstanding.

The issue of legacy was also central to the brand idea of London 2012. This is not just about a two-week event but about long-term impact. Children inspired to take up athletics or Taekwon-do as a result of the London 2012 initiatives should continually be inspired to participate, achieve and motivate others way beyond the Games themselves

This has now set a precedent for Sochi 2014 to do things differently and for Russia to develop its own point of view. It has several routes to choose from:

Entrepreneurial Russia: The rest of the world is seeing a more entrepreneurial spirit come out of Russia -- an appetite for global expansion -- and not just from a handful of wealthy businessmen. Sochi 2014 could present a great opportunity to unleash this.

High Energy Russia: There is a huge opportunity to allow Sochi 2014 to represent the energy of the moment, rather than reflect a Russia weighed down by tradition. This could include showing Russia as both a tourist destination (attracting people in), and as a part of a bigger world, willing to collaborate, share and learn (reaching out).

Open Russia: Many people overseas do not have a clear image of post-Soviet Russia, but rather hold perceptions that are clouded by suspicion. Now, Russia has the chance to start a new direction and lay old ghosts to rest.

We are often asked what we think "Brand Russia" is. We would answer that Sochi 2014 gives Russia a chance to articulate what its Brand could be to a massive global captive audience, and create a legacy for the future. A brand which is about developing, enabling and empowering -- not just a demonstration of might. Russia has had three decades of the outside world telling it what it is not: Sochi 2014 is a chance for Russia to show what it is: what is special and unique, and what it has to offer.

The great thing about the Olympics -- any Olympics -- is that you cannot shift the date, and therefore you have a defined window in time in which you can act. So please Russia, don't miss this opportunity -- start the five-year countdown to demonstrating not just a nicer image, but a better demonstration of its reality.