Pente

Five CEO Olympic priorities

Harris Kalofonos
6 min readSep 28, 2021

The five Olympic rings symbolize a global aspiration for unity. Five interconnected rings are one of the most recognized brand symbols in the world. Emerging from human struggle, the five Olympic rings celebrate impossible achievements. Yet, the five rings also serve as a reminder that the best is yet to come.

Over the past twenty-plus years, the Olympic movement has primarily — and often successfully — adapted to new ways of working. It also embraced digitization and reorganized its priorities several times. All of this has been necessary, but it will not be enough. To prepare for the post-COVID-19 era, leaders in the Olympic movement need to do more than fine-tune their day-to-day tasks; they need to be ready and willing to rethink how they operate and why they exist. Finally, one can say, Olympic leaders, need to step back, take a breath, and consider a broader perspective.

The pandemic, digitalization, the #metoo movement, and other recent events have both revealed and accelerated many trends that will play a substantial role in the shape of the future Pente / five Olympic Rings. In my opinion, five priorities stand out. The Olympic and Paralympic movement and other sports domains will want to consider and possibly adopt these five priorities as a common interpretation of the intention of the five rings. At the same time, they traverse the trends that are molding the future.

Calibrate Strategy for Equality

Qualifying for an Olympic team is only a milestone to a lifelong journey pursue of excellence. Today less than 11,000 athletes can enter the Olympic stadium representing their respective country. Yet these elite athletes represent millions of athletes striving for the same thing and millions more who aspire to follow them but cannot. Access to facilities, training sites are at best challenging in many parts of the world. Sport Admin professionals are too limited to help others reach their full potential. Developing design systems and admin practices that embrace all yet safeguard the Olympic brand promise is imperative as we all strive to bring equality to the world.

Transform Training

Sports performance has come of age and reveals to us a business proposition for all. Beyond training models and support systems, we should develop training infrastructures that would include all. Designing Olympic districts and cities that embarrass people beyond the realms of the Olympic family is already happening in the form of sizeable mix-use entertainment districts themed in their background with the five rings. Inclusivity and sustainability are Olympic pillars that can blend nicely with urban planning. As in ancient times, today, people lean in on sport pass times as a community experience that offers inclusivity and an enjoyable time that unites their passion, sparks conversations, and leaves lasting memories. Shops, eateries, and training venues alike can all be part of one’s experience in several cities worldwide. New city amenities can strike a balance between cost and value in innovative ways. Entertainment districts are not a new idea. But entertainment Olympic-themed districts can enhance the training experience and shorten the distance between elite athletes and the public. Further, a city and district approach can reach visitors with different interests, creating multiple potential revenue streams as Olympic sponsors can discover new ways to activate sponsorship agreements.

Transform Talent to Ambassadors

The Olympic movement is a cross-generational affair with one common denominator that permeates across nations. This common denominator is an element of self-identity and pride people want to claim by personal association with the Olympic Rings. Yet, not everyone can be an elite athlete or become part of an Olympic montage. Still, the Olympic movement offers many opportunities for people, especially youth, to engage through various Olympic educational programs. The top Olympic education programs worldwide manage to make the Olympic story and personal growth story for their participants, thus transforming them into lifelong ambassadors of the Olympic story. CEOs live through a historic moment as educational trends are making people accustomed to more and more analog and digital modalities. Capturing this trend can help CEOs reach more people, control the Olympic message and offer personalized experiences enabling more people to feel directly associated with the Olympic Rings. A great example of this is the Canadian Olympic education and the Young Champion Ambassador Programs.

Inspire the need for speed

In 1896 when the first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens, the world’s population was about 1.6B. One hundred twenty years later, we are 7.7B and growing fast. As more people inhabit the planet, so does the need to address our problems as a society that are directly correlated to population growth. Speed is not, of course, an unfamiliar concept in sports. However, a fast-paced operating model or training regiment helps all stakeholders manage the broad ecosystem of interdependencies leading to rapid progress and performance required by competing with the best at a global stage. For example; Rethinking our ways of working and Reimagining storytelling.

  • Rethinking our ways of working. Planning, testing, and adopting new processes such as remote working, live-online performance tracking boarding, and redesigned training and admin procedures. Ideally, the path to adopting new features and processes will be measured in weeks or months instead of Olympic quads.
  • Reimagining storytelling. Building inspiration is not a one-time stop-and-go process instigated by outsourced stories. Drawing storylines that go beyond once Olympic success will deliver confidence in the outcome and the process for those who do not get to become Olympic Champions.

These are just a few examples of changes underway. But the scale of the challenges facing the Olympic movement will require many more adjustments. Survey results from other industries suggest that organizations will not succeed in building for speed unless their leaders take a hard and fundamental look at how their organizations are constructed and managed at every level, starting at the top. One of the top management consulting firms globally — McKinsey, suggests that “to get started, organizations can pursue a two-speed approach. They can make quick moves to lock in new changes that have generated positive outcomes while simultaneously undertaking a broader evaluation of the structural and procedural foundations upon which the organization is built. This two-speed approach allows leaders to obtain some immediate gains while building the proper foundation for sustained speed going forward.” If sports are to be part of the solution, a sense of urgency will be instilled in our leadership and talent teams.

Exist with purpose

Returning for reflection to the Origin of the Olympic movement is a moment in time we all practice directly or indirectly experience at the beginning of each Olympic Games when the Olympic flame is light in Ancient Olympia, Greece — the birthplace of the Olympics. Yet this experience can become an actual trip. The possibility of going to the Origin has been in the know just for a few. Visiting the birthplace of the Olympic Movement deserves to be on top of all CEO’s agendas. The trip would not just be a pilgrimage-themed visit to honor the past. Sports organizations from Olympia in Greece can engage with the International Olympic Academy and set a course for their future. The International Olympic Academy (IOA) is the principal educational and cultural institution for the International Olympic Committee. Established in 1948, the IOA is located near the archeological site of ancient Olympia, Greece. Today IOA offers year around a once in a lifetime experience for its visitors. The IOA campus can provide full room and board services for up to 850 guests at a time, while its sports facilities, library, lecture hall, and theater are ideal for small or large group training sessions. The visitor of Ancient Olympia and the IOA become the epitome of working in the Olympic movement with a deep sense of purpose that any fortune 500 company would envy for its talents and teams to have.

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Harris Kalofonos

Managing Director — Goodvoice Group | Connecting the dots of past & present experiences | Founder, YCA