LA 2024 knew it couldn’t bring every member of the International Olympic Committee to UCLA.
So it brought UCLA to the IOC.
LA 2024 – which, following a deal with the committee, is now LA 2028 – gave a presentation at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland last month and brought a virtual reality video with it. The goal was to convince the committee that Los Angeles was “games-ready” because the facilities at UCLA will serve as the Olympic Village.
The video takes the viewer around UCLA’s sports and living facilities in 360 degrees, seamlessly transitioning from spots like the basketball courts at the John Wooden Center to the dining room at Bruin Plate.
“We wanted to be able to showcase this and really put people on UCLA’s campus and in the middle of the village, even if they couldn’t be here,” said LA 2028′s director of marketing, Matt Rohmer. “With the latest developments in (virtual reality), we were able to develop a VR film that literally puts you on the middle of campus.”
The video came out of a joint effort between LA 2028′s team and two other companies: advertising agency 72andSunny and virtual reality team Jaunt.
The partnership between 72andSunny and LA 2028 has lasted for the last three years, with the two working together to develop a brand for the movement. 72andSunny was the first team to come up with the idea to use VR.
Sean Matthews – one of two creative directors at 72andSunny – said developing an athlete’s village is one of the main challenges of creating an Olympic bid, so a key message in the video was that Los Angeles already has a fully equipped facility. With the village ready to go, there will be no need to invest billions of dollars in building one.
“Paris has plans to build a city, or to build this Olympic Village,” Matthews said. “You can put on this headset and we’ll actually show you how an athlete will train, will live and will dine. Instead of showing you renders and blueprints, let’s just show you the real thing.”
From there, LA 2028 and 72andSunny reached out to Jaunt, which started as a Silicon Valley technology company four years ago, but has since started Jaunt Studios, a content-driven, cinematic VR producer located in Santa Monica.
“When 72andSunny approached us, (the company) had a very tight deadline to create a very high-end piece of immersive content to help seal the deal for (its) bid,” said Jaunt Studios creative director Patrick Meegan.
Jaunt had less than six weeks to shrink UCLA’s campus down to the size of a VR headset. The approaching summer break accelerated its timeline even more, since it was crucial that the campus be populated with students.
“On the timeline we were doing, this would have been very difficult a year ago,” Meegan said. “You could have done it potentially a year ago, but definitely not five years ago or even two years ago.”
Meegan said technologies that Jaunt developed in the past year allowed them to meet the deadline. Jaunt used hardware like waterproof cameras, drones, remote control cameras and cable cams in addition to recently developed software to help ease the transitions between scenes.
Though the IOC was LA 2028′s initial target audience, the video has been shared on Facebook, amassing more than 340 thousand views, 7,000 reacts and 1,000 shares, many of which came from within the UCLA community.
Meegan added he thinks VR’s ability to make an empathetic connection, and how the new medium lends itself to a certain type of honesty and authenticity, allows the campus to speak for itself.
“With a 360 view, you can’t hide anything,” Meegan said. “I think that part of why it resonates with UCLA’s current students and alumni is that you’re very much put back there; it’s very familiar.”
Even with all the outside people LA 2028 had to bring in to make the video, it didn’t have to look far to find athletes. UCLA swimmers, divers and track and field runners participated in the production of the video and even made the final cut.
“UCLA has such an amazing athletics program; we could really get the highest caliber of athletes to do set pieces with us,” Meegan said.
One of those athletes was diver Annika Lenz, who holds the UCLA record with a platform score of 323.15. At one point Lenz was atop Spieker Aquatics Center’s 10-meter platform, eye-to-eye with a drone camera hovering above the pool.
“I’ve always loved the Olympics,” Lenz said. “I’ve wanted to go to the Olympics. I mean, I’ve been to Olympic trials, but I didn’t qualify, so I think it’s great to be part of the Olympic spirit that brings us all together.”
The best part about the video, though, is that it worked. The IOC was convinced.
Los Angeles was officially named the host of the 2028 games July 31. In just 11 short years, UCLA will be the site of the Olympic Village in more than just virtual reality.