Bimbo Banter

Can You Guarantee:  The Olympic Committee Gives it a Try

  • Crisis
  • August 5, 2016
  • by Merrie Spaeth


“Can you guarantee that X won’t happen?” That’s one of our formula questions; that is, it should be expected in certain circumstances.

When there’s an accident or something goes wrong, the question is, “Can you guarantee it won’t happen again?” It’s also a framing question because it appears to ‘’yes” or “no.” Usually, people are honest. Since it’s generally impossible to guarantee something won’t happen again, they say “no” and then repeat the word “guarantee.” The response goes, “No, I can’t guarantee it,” which is honest but paints a very negative picture.

Normally, we advise our clients to pick another phrase – we call them “acknowledgement phrases” – like “I wish I could,” or “I hope so,” and then repeat the word “guarantee” but attach it to a truthful and positive commitment. Our clients can truthfully say, “I hope so, and I guarantee we are conducting a rigorous review to see where we can improve our safety procedures.”

This week, there were stories about the pollution and garbage in the Rio de Janeiro bay. Included in the AP story were pictures of grotesque, rotting carcasses and trash. The AP had employed health inspectors to test the waters, and there are dire implications for Olympians who sail, swim long distance, wind surf or participate in events that include a water leg. It’s not your routine bacteria; there were things that could cause serious illness, even death.

A reporter asked Mario Andrada, the Rio Olympic Committee Spokesperson, if he could “guarantee athletes would be safe.” Andrada replied, “I guarantee athletes will be safe.”

We’re going to keep an eye on the competition and whether this guarantee comes back to haunt them. He committed Rio and the Olympics to a standard they cannot uphold, and people will remember. Stay tuned.

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