What Will Conditions Be Like at the Olympics in Beijing, China?

This is a rush transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," March 24, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, 130 days and counting, the Olympic torch beginning its 85,000-mile journey today from the site of the ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing, China, the site of this year's Olympics. Not clear is what conditions will look like in Beijing once that torch gets there, because Tibetan protests continue to heat up, international pressure building up, and talk Olympic sponsors are nervously asking, what is up?

Let's ask Mike Paul, the reputation doctor.

Man, oh, man if you were advising the Chinese, Mike, what — what would you say?

MIKE PAUL, PRESIDENT, MGP & ASSOCIATES PR: Well, you know, I wish it was only Tibet, quite frankly. We saw some horrible things happening this week. But they have to deal with Sudan. They have to deal with environmental issues, not only in China, but around the world. There's going to be a lot of protests popping up.

We're about six months out and look at what is happening already.

CAVUTO: Now, sponsors generally don't like anything controversial, and they like to avoid it at all costs. These Olympics, almost by definition, will be controversial. So, what's a sponsor to do?

PAUL: Well, if you're going to be led by your legal department, you're going to make a lot of mistakes. We have seen a few already.

There are some that, for example, just a couple of weeks ago, said, you know what, anything that is dealing with some international state issues, just call the U.N. We're a corporation.

And then they got slammed. If you are going to be investing in the Games and being a part of the Games, with that large multimillion-dollar investment, then you have got to answer the tough questions as well, and be prepared to do so.

CAVUTO: But sponsors generally will say, there is such a huge audience we get with the Olympics, it is kind of like the Super Bowl. Why would we pass it up? Most people understand that we have nothing to do with what you are seeing on the screen. We are here for this great quadrennial event uniting all the nations of the world. We're in this for the good.

PAUL: I wouldn't advise any company to pass it up. I think there is a huge opportunity here.

But you need to be more prepared. Look, the tactics that worked in the past for some of these protesters are becoming much more guerrilla-like. They have more technology. They have more videotape. They might even show something that the company was involved with years ago. And if you are a CEO, you better make sure to look at your archives to find out what happened before you were involved.

CAVUTO: Well, how would you handle protests at your company headquarters or the like? Would it come back to bite you?

PAUL: Oh, it's definitely going to come back to bite you.

I think most of the protests, however, are going to be in Beijing. And they're going to be in front of various — of signage and so forth that these companies are going to be involved with. Look, for example, at food. Let's say it's Kraft Foods that is potentially a sponsor of the Olympics.

And you see in the backdrop Tibetan protests. You see environmental concerns, with the smog going on at the same time. And the CEO is saying, how did I get thrown into this? These are not even issues that we have had ever to deal with before. Why, because the Olympics...


CAVUTO: You were mentioning, very quickly, that we could deal with what we had in 1980, where we opted out of the Soviet Olympics at the time. They returned the favor in `84, boycotting the L.A. Games that we had.

Are we going to get that kind of nastiness this time?

PAUL: Well, the prime minister — the recent survey in France was saying that they are telling their leader to not go. They are that concerned about it.

CAVUTO: Telling their leader, not their athletes. There is a difference, right?

PAUL: Well, there is definitely a difference. And I think that's going to be big.

CAVUTO: The leader is there usually for the opening ceremony and all that.

PAUL: My advice to corporate America right now that's sponsoring these Games is, don't put your head in the sand. Make sure you have a plan in place, and make sure you have some role-play exercises to practice before you are facing some trouble in August.

CAVUTO: Very wise words. Now, if anyone will heed them, we will see.


CAVUTO: Mike Paul, very good seeing you again.

PAUL: Thanks, man. Good to see you.

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