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Games chief's 2014 warning

The producer of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games opening and closing ceremonies has spoken publicly for the first time about the events and warned they cannot be expected to emulate the scale and spend of the London Olympics.

CAUTION: David Zolkwer says the budgets for 2014 are modest.
CAUTION: David Zolkwer says the budgets for 2014 are modest.

Head of ceremonies David Zolkwer, who was speaking ahead of an address to students in Edinburgh today, said part of his job in designing the ceremonies, which will be watched by an estimated one billion people around the world, was to manage people's expectations after the huge success of London 2012.

Mr Zolkwer, one of the world's leading producers of public events with experience of Commonwealth and Olympic Games, said he had noticed a big swell in interest in Glasgow 2014 in the days after London but that the Glasgow games would have to be very different.

"A lot of what I'm doing, and certainly a lot of what the organising committee is doing, is trying to manage people's expectations," he said. "We can't emulate the scale and spend that has preceded us at the Olympics even if we wanted to.

"Quite frankly, even in comparison to quite recent Commonwealth games, it is a modest budget. So to try to emulate precedent is not the way forward – what we have to do is be different through wit and guile and innovation. I think in the process Glasgow and Scotland can help redefine what ceremonies should be about in the 21st century."

Mr Zolkwer, who is director of public events at agency Jack Morton Worldwide, will be explaining some of the challenges of organising big events to students and staff at Queen Margaret University today. It will be his first public presentation in Scotland since taking up his appointment.

Mr Zolkwer said he was still in the fact-finding stage of his job and would not be able to reveal his first ideas for the ceremonies until early next year.

"We're looking at what should 21st-century ceremonies look like, how can they be more inclusive and digital," he said.

"I think ceremonies can sometimes be done to places and they become chest-beating exercises and it's all about how fantastic we are and I'm just not sure that's the way forward."

Mr Zolkwer's experience of big events includes the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 and the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 and Melbourne in 2006. He was also a consultant to the Beijing organising committee for the 2008 Olympics and was creative director of the Royal Wedding celebrations in London's Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square last year.

Mr Zolkwer said he was determined to wring every penny out of every pound in 2014 and that one advantage of Glasgow's ceremonies was that they would be happening during the day rather than at night.

"That completely changes the vibe of the experience; it means we won't be spending a huge amount of money on lighting."

Mr Zolkwer, who is from Manchester, is now spending most of his week in Glasgow getting to know the city. "I'm completely thrilled – right from the start of the bidding process, I felt I had a right fit for Glasgow," he said.

Today's event at Queen Margaret University will involve Mr Zolkwer talking to event management students about his experiences with Jack Morton, his career to date, and his challenges in delivering the Commonwealth Games.

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