Report to the Board of Directors on the World Swimming Exhibition,
“Passion and Progress” at the 14th FINA World Swimming Championships,
Shanghai, China, July 16 – 31, 2011
We arrived in Beijing on July 14th - hand carrying over $200,000 worth of Olympic medals, from Emil Rauch’s 1904 Olympic participation medal – the most rare and valuable medal in our collection – to Aaron Peirsol’s 2008 Olympic Gold medal for the 100M backstroke. Other, more cumbersome artifacts of an even greater value had been shipped earlier. Upon arrival, we were taken to the Magnolia Natatorium, one of three pools used for the championships, which served as the location of the exhibition. There we met with staff from the Shanghai Sports Administration (SSA) and Shanghai Sports Museum (SSM), with whom we had been working on this project for over a year, and placed the artifacts that we hand carried into the displays. We also reviewed the exhibit boards for accuracy.
On the morning of the 16th, the SSA conducted an opening ceremony for our exhibition, which was truly unprecedented in ISHOF history. I was one of 8 individuals introduced to a the large crowd of media and spectators, including the Vice-Mayor of Shanghai, President of the SSA, Julio Maglioni (President of FINA), Cornel Marculescu (Executive Director of FINA) and other prominent politicians and members of the World Championship Organizing Committee. Behind us stood members of the FINA Bureau and other major dignitaries. The ceremonies included a really amazing performance by school children and then a red-carpet tour of the exhibition – all of which you can see in the video I’ve previously sent to you. By the close of the Championships, over 30,000 people had visited the exhibition. The exhibition was so successful from the local organizing committee’s perspective that together we negotiated and signed a mutual agreement for cooperation and assistance with the Shanghai Sports Museum – that also turned into an official ceremony and press conference. For our part, we donated several items from our exhibition (6 replica Olympic medals and 4 antique bathing costumes of which we also had duplicates) and they provided us with several pieces of Chinese Swimming history, templates of the exhibits and we designated two of their directors as official “consultants to ISHOF. Although this ceremony and press conference was held during Swimming preliminaries, it was attended by most of the Chinese media outlets, several Chinese Olympic heroes, ISHOF Board Member and FINA Honorary Member Eldon Godfrey, FINA Honorary Member Guillermo Martinez (Cuba), FINA Bureau Members Tamas Gyarfas (HUN) and Dr. Margo Mountjoy (CAN). Unfortunately, FINA’s past president Mustapha Larfaouie, was caught in traffic, but did show his support by arriving a few minutes after the event concluded – a significant show of support.
During the Championships, I had positive meetings with most of the FINA Bureau members and leaders of several of organizing committees for future events, such as the London Olympic Games, the World Championships in 2013 (Barcelona) and 2015 (Kazan, Russia), and the FINA World Congress 2014 (Singapore) who all expressed interest in a similar exhibition.
While in Shanghai, FINA Bureau Member Eugenio Martinez (CUB) showed me a document from 1975 that included an official report to the FINA Bureau from Dr. James Councilman, then ISHOF Chairman of the Board, outlining all ISHOF had done during its first 10 years to be “International.” I am now drafting an outline of a letter for our Chairman and the Board that I believe should be sent to all members of the FINA Bureau regarding all of our efforts to be “International” and to dispel the curious opinion within some quarters of FINA that ISHOF is “American” only.
During the Championships, I also met with Dr. Jan-Amders Manson, scientist responsible for testing the legality of swimsuits. He approached me about a special exhibit the evolution of swimwear, incorporating his research into our displays of swimsuits for the re-opening of the IOC museum next year.
After the close of the Championships, I traveled to Bejing where I had two meetings with Dr. Jun Wang, Director of the Chinese Sports Museum, the director and marketing director of the WaterCube (site of the 2008 Olympic Swimming events) and the marketing committee for the upcoming FINA Diving World Cup (April). They very much want exhibits for these events and Dr. Wang would like to see how we can send the exhibition we developed for Shanghai around all of China. She is exploring these opportunities and we look to develop a similar relationship with her as we have developed with the Shanghai Sports museum.
The opportunity to showcase our imagery and memorabilia was invaluable for ISHOF’s international reputation. However, while the Shanghai Sports groups contributed significantly to the exhibition – covering all costs, including travel and accommodation expenses for Janet and I to Shanghai - ISHOF made no money from this exhibition. This led to a discussion with several of the museum people (and our Chinese business partner in the development of the safe swimming device) on ways of developing our traveling exhibits into a profitable business model.
Having recently attended the Shanghai World’s Fair and the Xi’an International Horticultural Exposition – it is apparent that every exhibit at these fairs is funded substantially by their exhibit store. In the coming weeks, I will be working with our partner to find products that we can sell at our exhibitions related to aquatics that might make these exhibitions profitable. We will also explore partnering with FINA sponsors, such as Speedo. who could also benefit from a “Museum Store” at major events – such as the US Olympic Swimming and Diving trials, in addition to the FINA events. One of the “big ticket” items that we already have in our inventory, include “the touch” photo autographed by Michael Phelps and Milorad Cavic. Other items might be copies of sculptures or signed memorabilia arrangements with star swimmers and divers.
Any ideas you may have in this regard will be greatly appreciated.