Column: Olympics veterans together again for new bids

By Maria Saporta
Friday, Sept. 16, 2011

Two Atlanta Olympic veterans, Terrence Burns and George Hirthler, have joined forces to work on a 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid.

Between the two of them, they have been part of five successful Olympic bids in the past 20 years — Atlanta (1996), Beijing (2008), Vancouver (2010), Sochi (2014) and PyeongChang (2018).

Burns and Hirthler are former business partners. Their previous firm — Helikon Media — worked on the successful Beijing and Vancouver Olympic bids. The firm dissolved in the early 2000s after 9/11 and the recession when “every piece of the incremental marketing business went away,” Burns said.

After a short stint with NASCAR, Burns then started Helios Partners, which has become one of the world’s most successful bid companies. Today, Atlanta-based Helios has offices in Beijing, London, Paris and Rio de Janeiro.

Helios has worked on the successful Olympic bids of Sochi and PyeongChang. It also worked on the Russia’s successful 2018 World Cup bid and the successful Kazan 2013 Universiade bid.

Meanwhile, Hirthler and his firm — Hirthler & Partners — worked on several other Olympic bids. Over the years, he has worked on the bids for Istanbul, Stockholm, Salzburg, New York and Munich, among others.

“I had these two back-to-back wins with Vancouver and Beijing, but that was my last win,” said Hirthler, who added that he continued to celebrate the successes of Helios and Burns.

Now that they have joined forces once again, Hirthler and Burns have their eyes on the bid for the 2020 Summer Olympic games.

“We are in formal or informal discussions with four of the six cities bidding for the games,” Burns said.

The six cities are Rome; Madrid; Istanbul; Tokyo; Baku, Azerbaijan; and Doha, Qatar. The International Olympic Committee will award the 2020 games on Sept. 7, 2013, in Buenos Aires.

Burns and Hirthler first became friends in 1993.

At the time, Hirthler, who was a partner in the Copeland-Hirthler firm that had worked on the Atlanta bid and its Olympic logo, had started the U.S. Pierre de Coubertin Committee in honor of the founder of the modern Olympic Games.

Burns was managing director of the Olympics program at Delta Air Lines Inc.

“Within the course of 30 minutes, I downloaded a four-year degree on Olympic history,” Burns said of his first meeting of the Pierre de Coubertin Committee with Hirthler.

That Olympic spirit has lived on in both Burns and Hirthler. As Hirthler said: “The Olympic movement is based on a philosophy and ideal of friendship and peace through sports.”

MAP milestone

Atlanta-based MAP International is reaching a significant milestone — shipping a total of $4 billion worth of medicine and medical equipment since its founding in 1954.

It will hit that historic milestone in October with a $2 million shipment to Liberia of medicines for 500,000 treatments. The shipment will contain pain relievers, antibiotics, anti-fungal treatments, vitamins and infant formula as well as medicines to treat upper respiratory ailments and other illnesses.

At MAP’s board meeting scheduled for Sept. 15 in Brunswick, Ga., the nonprofit’s directors were to commemorate the occasion.

“Over the years, Liberia has found a special place in our heart,” said Michael Nyenhuis, president and CEO of MAP International, in a statement. “We ask our friends who wish to join in our efforts in Liberia to donate to our campaign.”

AT&T aids Year Up

The AT&T Foundation is granting $126,000 to the Year Up Atlanta nonprofit for technology updates and to support the growth of the organization in the Atlanta community.

AT&T presented a check to Year Up Atlanta on Sept. 14 at a ceremony with Georgia’s first lady, Sandra Deal.

Year Up is a national nonprofit that provides career training to young adults and helps them secure internships with top U.S. companies, including AT&T.

“The AT&T Foundation has a strong record of supporting initiatives and projects that help our students prepare for the workforce,” said Sylvia Russell, president of AT&T Georgia. ”

Speaking of AT&T

The telecommunications company also has donated $50,000 to the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education to advance education reform strategies and to conduct a study to benchmark Georgia’s graduation rates with similar school systems in other states.

Stephen Dolinger, the partnership’s president, said the gift will help the organization advance its mission of informing and influencing Georgia leaders through research and nonpartisan advocacy to impact education policies and practices to improve student achievement.

Riverkeeper awards

The Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper honored several advocates at its Annual Patron Appreciation Dinner on Sept. 15 at the Foundry.

Smith, Gambrell & Russell LLP’s environmental law and sustainability practice received the River Guardian Award for providing invaluable legal support to the organization.

Tom Noonan, president and CEO of JouleX, also received a River Guardian Award for his strategic communications support.

The Upper Chattahoochee chapter of Trout Unlimited received the River Advocate Award; Darryl Haddock of the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance received the River Partner Award; and the late Gandy Glover was honored for being a passionate river supporter.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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