Pop star raises bar for Russian events

Pop star George Michael staged the most advanced concert ever seen in Russia on Thursday. It showed the next generation of facilities Russia will have to build in Sochi and across the country if it is to successfully host the Winter Olympics in 2014.

Michael's first Russian performance capped two-and-a-half years of planning the world's most advanced musical performance, which involved designers, engineers and promoters.

Barrie Marshall is the world's top tour promoter and has brought the likes of Tina Turner, Joe Cocker and Paul McCartney to Moscow. He admitted that the growth in free music downloads means live shows now make or break an artist.

“The economics are a battle. One used to say, but not now, that one did these things just to sell more records. Now you do it to try and make money because you're making less money and selling less records,” points out Barrie Marshal.

Consequently, the competition is forcing a radical technical innovation.

“Video screens have always been flat. Instead of screen panels being in squares, they're actually in strips and therefore, with the right engineering, we built those onto decks and frames that give us the curve you see in the frames and then we developed their durability so they could be stood on, and performed on,” explains tour director Ken Watts.

With the Winter Olympics only seven years away, event managers have expressed concern that Russia is unprepared to host modern events.

“In the United States show business is now the second most profitable industry after weapons.  But in Russia we are just starting to learn about the first art. We very much need the Winter Olympics to see the construction of proper infrastructure, and training people to use them,” believes Aleksander Strizhak, president of JSA Logistics.

Starved of proper facilities, Russians themselves do not behave in ways predictable to a consumer society.

“George Michael's London concert on June 9 sold out over the internet within three hours. This could never happen in Russia. Although we've added an extra date to cope with anticipated demand, the Russian consumer thinks in a completely different way. He very rarely buys tickets months in advance, usually in the last month and most often in the last few days. This makes events hard to plan and forecast in Russia,” Aleksander Mironenko, president of the Glavstar Promotion company, explains the particularities that need to be taken into account when doing show business in Russia.

The Olympic Stadium was built to host Russia's last Olympics in 1980. Now experts say even this facility is showing its age. In terms of size and facilities the Olimpiysky is the only venue capable of hosting the most technological event ever brought to the country.