EXCLUSIVE: Olympic protocol guide says "smile gently" but don't overdo it

Post by Daniel Fontaine in ,


protocol in play
Vancouver city staff are being trained in the finer points of international protocol

Over 600 employees at the City of Vancouver have been issued their official Olympic gear and are busy preparing for the throngs of dignitaries and visitors about to descend upon us in the coming weeks. This includes attending special classroom training on the do's and don'ts of Olympic protocol. Almost every City department will be affected by the Games, as hundreds of employees are seconded to work at various Olympic venues throughout Vancouver. Given there is a good probability staff will be rubbing shoulders with some of the world's elite politicians and royalty, it is essential they understand the ABCs of international protocol.

CityCaucus.com has obtained a copy of the official Olympic protocol handbook that City employees have been provided with over the last several weeks. The guide covers everything from the proper way to smile to when bathroom breaks are appropriate. The 120+ page guide book is very slick looking and has raised the ire of some employees who think it is simply overkill.

Some of the best advice to staff comes in the form of how to dress. The protocol guide provides a number of helpful hints to ensure some of the more slovenly employees shape up:

It is important to wear clothing that fits properly. Never dress in clothes that are too tight, they may make a slim person look gaunt and a large person look heavier. Make sure all attire is clean and pressed. Dress shirts may stain easily. Some protocol personnel carry extra shirts with them. Avoid wearing short socks. If they are too short, they may show bare leg when you sit down. Wear knee-high socks or stockings that reach above the calf. Socks should match pant colour. Accessories such as jewelry should be conservative. hair should be kept tidy yet stylish.

So you think you have a million dollar smile? Be careful, a bit too much smiling might get you in hot water with the President of Morotania. Here is what the guide says:

A smile denotes warmth, openness and friendliness. Smile "gently" and with sincerity. Be careful not to overdo it. False smiles can look artificial, and never-ending smiles may invite suspicion. A frown or a furrowed brow suggests anger or worry, even if your words are positive.

This guide is clearly full of very useful information that all employees should know, however, if you're not familiar with issues of protocol, it may all seem a bit bizarre.

Thinking of getting chummy with the Prince of Ulekestan? That's a no no:

You may get close to certain dignitaries and spend a great deal of time with them. But remember, you are not their friend and you are on duty. Be friendly and polite, but keep a certain reserve.

In section 17 of Appendix 17, the City cover issues related to handling bathroom breaks:

You'll be busy throughout the day so it is important that you keep hydrated by drinking lots of water and fluids. When you have an extra minute or it is convenient, use the toilet because you never know when you'll next have a break.

I'm pretty confident that not listening to that last bit of advice may well end up creating some sort of an international incident - or is it accident? In a section titled "Look Your Best", the City tries to ensure staff always put up a brave face despite some possibly adverse conditions:

Look your best - smile, be confident, cheery, upbeat, positive. even if you are nervous and unsure if what you are doing is correct, do not let the dignitary see that side of you.

As for how to handle the distribution of business cards:

Remember to exchange business cards as a courtesy and a communication aid. Present and receive business cards with both hands (typical in Asian countries). Be sure to have the side with the host language face up. Never use your left hand to offer or receive a card. The left hand is reserved for "unclean" functions in Middle Eastern cultures.

It must take City staff hours to memorize all the finer details laid out in the guide. This is especially true when it comes to the colour mugshots of the city councillors that was slipped into the appendix section. If you see a councillor walking in your direction, you'd best know their name!

Vancouver has one of the best protocol offices in the country – bar none! It takes its job very seriously, as any goof up could well become an international incident. That said, although the guide is well laid out and researched, it has clearly caught some folks off guard.

I for one think it should it is a must-read for all the current civic politicians on council who could actually learn a thing or two about etiquette. Do you recall the tip which refers to wearing the same coloured socks as your suit? Well, we'll thought you'd enjoy this excerpt from the Globe and Mail's profile on Mayor Robertson from last weekend:

...on a warm January day, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson tucks his grey suit pants into his blue dress socks, dons a helmet and sets off from his two-storey home near City Hall.

UPDATE: After first indicating they wouldn't do it, the city has now posted the protocol handbook online. Check it out here.

- post by Daniel


Your post gives the impression that all City staff working on the Olympics are getting this training. This training is only being given to a small number of staff working in protocol who will be interacting with dignitaries.

Yes, City staff is correct. A small group who are actually working in Protocol are getting this training along with the other partners who all need it because they also have volunteers working in Protocol. It's a very good course and worth attending.

finally 2 normal replies to your story that (correct me if I am wrong) is attempting to make it seem like an unnecessary thing as CC attempts to highlight this as a waste...clearly it is not - and we all appreciate the clarification of the 2 ppl above who described the course value and who is getting it as that is conveniently left out in the reporting....finally..

Although I think this is a waste of money and time, I do think the author states "this guide is clearly full of very useful information that all employees should know..." He also says "Vancouver has one of the best protocol offices in the country – bar none! It takes its job very seriously, as any goof up could well become an international incident."

This doesn't sound like citycaucus totally slagged this booklet. I think they're just haven a bit of fun with it. You city employees need to chill out and just have a giggle once in a while. But don't laugh too hard, that might be perceived as not caring :-)

I think the CC boys are having some fun with this. While some think the booklet is too much, really, there are people who need to be told how to act in front of dignitaries, etc. There is a worldwide protocol that many of us don't know about..who sits on the hosts left vs the right. It's not a profession I plan on making a career in for sure!

Trust me, there are a lot of city employees who would benefit from some basic protocol training. this is money well spent in my opinion. one councillor always walks around city hall with day old food in his beard. groase.

Hee hee! This is great!
I think I can manage the matching socks and the properly-fitted clothing, but the 'gentle' smile could be a problem for me. I smile big... pretty much constantly. I may have been inviting suspicion without knowing it.

First impressions is always important and I think some of these advice are ridiculous. Why not just be yourself, anybody, dignitaries or not, would know if you're faking it or not.

"First impressions is always important..."

Yes, yes, they is.

"...and I think some of these advice are ridiculous"

Yes, yes, it are.

I sincerely hope that was tongue-in-cheek.

I guess this is Gregor's version of project civil city? Give me a break. What a joke this city has become.

Does this mean that once the games are over, slovenly can become the order of the day again?

If someone is a natural born grouch - how can he/she pass off a genuine smile?

For those carrying around too many pounds - there are foundation garments for men and women. And they work - sort of.


would you rather city staff not be aware of protocol issues when greeting foreign dignitaries from such places as England, Russia, China etc.?

Just let them unknowingly insult some dignitary by not knowing the correct method of addressing them or something like that and we'll see how the press blows that up into an international issue.

Only the staff who will be working with foreign dignitaries have received this training in order to help them do the best job they can.

It must have been a slow news day.

Does anybody know how to get a pdf copy of the protocol? I agree that there are a lot of useful tips in the protocol we could all use. I would like to develop one that is suitable for our company and this is a good starting point on a sometimes thorny topic in our "so-casual" business world today.

The middle finger salute is valid in any situation and it means almost the same in any culture (Ok, there are slight variations here and there).
It goes waaay back in history.
Be it the "straight finger" "read through the lines" "the telescopic" "the fishing rod"...use it with love and affection. And remember, smile gently!

Bruce the City just posted it on it's website: http://vancouver.ca/mediaroom/pdf/CoVProtocalManual.pdf

Hi Bruce I agree with you about value of this document. Perhaps this document encompassed with a Customer Service component will add value to your business docs that you would like to employee. Attended a British Council CCS Course and it was most beneficial. PS City staff should be most curteous and a smile truly sets a nice pace and boosts City morale. Productivity is bound to improve and the social status will most improve. Does the link to upload the doc work..... I seem to be expriencing some technical difficulty. Anastasia Tolias | City of Mississauga, Go Vancouver Go!

lol, oh my , lol.

there goes the City ....'now you servants Behave and act accordingly or we will whip ya for bringing attention to yourself',
' you servants are all robots during these games ,operate as such or we get nasty big international negative PR.'
No personal style allowed.

Oh City of Vancouver Council, chill out .
it's the Olympics and let them enjoy and have fun . that will make others happy too ya know.
They are coming Here to Vancouver Canada to see us live our lives freely too ya know.

its Vancouver, let yur hair down.

Check out BCWineLover.com!

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