Sunday, 30 May 2010

Olympic Inspiration

I'm aware that the Olympics were months ago, but while organising some photos today I found some pictures and remembered that I had intended to blog about my trip to the Winter Olympics back in February. Here are five things about the way that the Olympic visitor experience was organised that inspire me as I work on everyday interpretation and visitor experience at programs for the museum:

1. Interesting interactives that allowed people to capture and share their visitor experience:
These free computer terminals were at different venues and always had long line-ups of people waiting. The terminals allowed people to take a photo of themselves with a venue in the background, in this case the public skating arena downtown. Then you could choose a frame for the photo that included information about the location and e-mail the electronic picture-postcard to a friend. There were also other images of B.C. landscapes that could be substituted as a background if you didn't want to capture your exact location.

2. Awesome volunteers:
This is a random photo taken during a speed skating event. When I look at the image on my computer monitor I can spot at least 4 blue-jacketed volunteers in the stands helping people, not to mention the more than a dozen volunteers on the ice organising the event.

Without the volunteers the visitor experience would have been greatly compromised. The crowds, rearranged traffic patterns, modified transit schedules, and other things going on for the Olympics created some confusion in the streets and at the venues. However, the volunteers (working with the police and staff) managed to create a smooth and friendly visitor experience. The volunteers all wore bright blue jackets and yellow arm bands so they were clearly visible and you were never more than about 10 meters from one if you needed help. The volunteers were clearly well trained and knew their stuff, and even if they didn't know the answer to your question they knew their resources and were able to direct you to someone who could help - usually within their sight line. I was consistently impressed with their enthusiasm and knowledge.

I should also note that there are over 200 awesome volunteers at the Galt Museum and we really couldn't do our jobs without them!

3. Functional, affordable, eye catching souvenirs:
Despite the cherry blossoms in the background of this photo, and the fact that the weather was unseasonably warm most of the days I was in Vancouver, these mittens came in handy at the colder venues on the mountain and at evening events where it could be quite cold. The mittens were worn by athletes, celebrities (Oprah?!), and visitors to the Olympics and created a shared connection to the event. Even if you weren't in Vancouver, I think they created a feeling of connection to the place and time. Plus they had Canadian colours, a maple leaf, and a Vancouver 2010 logo and at $10 a pair they were relatively affordable compared to some of the magnets, key chains and other souvenirs available.

4. Community Generated Art/Exhibits:
There were also some fabulous community generated art and exhibits that created a feeling of connection to the event. This sock puppet above was a part of a school generated exhibit that was on display in the hallway at the CBC building. Below is a street exhibit of children's drawings about the games that were turned into lanterns that lit up at night:
5. Constant entertainment & opportunities to give visitor feedback:
There was so much to see and do that there was never any need to be bored at an event - even the lineups had buskers or TVs showing events for entertainment. There were also tons of hands-on activities and entertaining photo-ops at pavilions, events, and in the streets as you moved from event to event. Also, there were lots of ways to give feedback so it was easy to feel like you had a voice and a connection to what was happening.

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