Staff Reporters
Jan 17, 2018

What it's like to work on... the Olympics

Seasoned event producer, Dawn Dennis, reflects on her experience at the Games and how it's shaped her career.

Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony
Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony

What inspired you to work on the Olympics?

Watching the 2000 Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony on TV. I’d been in the business for 10 years in Las Vegas so I had an idea of what it takes to get hundreds of people on and off a field in seconds. I thought, ‘I need to be part of that’. The timing for the Athens Olympics in 2004 wasn’t right so it became the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

How did you get involved?

I went to China in June 2007 for a language course and to set up some interviews. The first was with Jack Morton who had done so many Olympic Opening Ceremonies, but it was unclear what was going to happen and ultimately the Beijing Olympic Committee took it on themselves.

The second interview was with a guy from McDonalds [a top sponsor of the Beijing Games] who was out there for a press conference, but there was no job to be had yet. The final one was with ETG Staging Connections and I took that job
on the condition that if something came up during the Olympics I would be able to take a leave of absence to be involved.

It was confirmed around six months 
out from the Games I would work with McDonalds as a local fixer, starting in June 2008. They had multiple programmes, some philanthropic, some internal feel-good things, PR and corporate hospitality. I managed multiple film crews, sourced local suppliers and worked across all the programmes.

Tough as nails... Dawn Dennis

What impact has it had on your career?

It definitely makes an impression and it prepares you for anything. During my time at Uniplan Hong Kong I was executive producer for two of the largest casino openings in Macau: Studio City and The Parisian.

The Olympics are the ultimate experience when it comes to managing multiple parties with egos and needs that almost always contradict each other. There’s a lot of bureaucracy and you’ve got a lot of different stakeholder concerns. You just roll with it and don’t get frustrated—your attitude infects those around you.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to be involved?

Don’t get stuck on seeking official Olympics things. There are so many parts of the Olympics, whether it’s through catering or security or hospitality. There are so many ways to feel the Olympic spirit and be part of the energy of it. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t get hired by the Olympic Committee to do the Opening Ceremony.

The Games are made up of hundreds of vendors so if you’ve got a connection that’s going to supply an Olympic Games, reach out. For the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, there’s not a huge number of regional vendors that can handle the volume required, so who do you know that might be going and might need your support? 

Based in Hong Kong, Dawn Dennis is an experienced event producer who has previously worked with Uniplan Hong Kong, cievents, and Jack Morton Worldwide.

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