Carrying the Torch
SGR Attorney Carries the Torch—and the Day—for Olympic Exhibition
Sometimes it's all in whom you know.
Take, for example, the case of Donald Rooney, curator of the new Centennial Olympic Games Exhibition at the Atlanta History Center. Don has been responsible for putting together one of the most comprehensive Olympic museum exhibitions ever, which was to include one torch from every summer Olympic torch relay since the torch relay tradition commenced with the 1936 Berlin Games.
But there was one catch: Don could not locate a torch from the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland. Unlike other Games, which may produce hundreds or even thousands of torches (the Atlanta Games, for example, used 12,000 torches to carry the Olympic flame some 16,000 miles from Los Angeles to Atlanta), the Helsinki Games used just 22 torches, which made securing one more than 50 years after the event a daunting task indeed. Don's efforts over the course of a year and a half to locate a torch had not borne fruit. "I'd cast a net in several directions, and it had not yielded any results," Don recalls.
Enter SGR's John Saunders, who has been the Honorary Consul of Finland for the State of Georgia since 1996. "When I spoke to Don, I said, 'No problem,'" John recalls of the November 2005 telephone call with Don Rooney that set in motion the chain of events that led to a torch from the Helsinki Games being flown to Atlanta for the exhibition. John called SGR client Kalevi Turkia, whose Atlanta-based company, Kaltek, Inc., helps Finnish companies set up operations in the U.S. It turns out that Kal was planning a trip to Finland in December of 2005. During that trip, Kal met with Ilkka Kanerva, one of the senior Helsinki Olympic Committee members and head of the 1996 Finnish Olympic team to the Atlanta Games, who also happens to be the Deputy Speaker of the Finnish Parliament, about securing a Helsinki torch for the exhibition.
According to Rooney, of the 22 Helsinki torches, 15 were made of sterling silver, while seven were silver-coated brass. The whereabouts of only eight of the sterling silver torches are presently known, and because there are so few Helsinki torches, there is a certain mystique associated with them. Nevertheless, through the efforts of John and Kal, a sterling silver Helsinki Games torch housed at the Sports Museum Foundation of Finland was made available for the exhibition. In a ceremony at the Atlanta History Center in April, Olli Manni, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Finland (shown holding the torch and accompanied by SGR's John Saunders, Charlie Battle of the Atlanta Olympic Organizing Committee and Kalevi Turkia), personally presented a torch from the Helsinki Games to the Center, thereby completing its collection of one torch from each of the modern Olympiad torch relays. In return, Atlanta presented one of its Olympic torches from the 1996 Games to Finland as an expression of gratitude for its generosity.
What is the significance of the Helsinki torch to the exhibition? "We are able to say 'we have every torch,' not 'we have every torch but Helsinki,'" Don explains. "Our PR folks love that. We are the only public institution outside of Lausanne, Switzerland [where the International Olympic Committee's museum is located] to have such a display. It's huge. John was able to pull this off and it was a coup for us."
The 6,000-square-foot Centennial Olympic Games permanent exhibition, which opened in mid-July exactly 10 years after the opening of the Atlanta Games, comprehensively tells the story of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, including the efforts made by Atlanta to win the bid for the Games, and includes a timeline of the modern Olympic movement. This timeline includes participation medals from every Game since 1896 and, of course, torches from every Olympiad since 1936.
SGR has a long history of good relations with Finnish businesses and the Finnish government. Led by the efforts of John Saunders, the firm has represented Finnish companies for more than 25 years, and is proud to have hosted visits by one standing and two former Finnish prime ministers.