Posted Wednesday, January 27, 2010
By Rod Mickleburgh, The Globe and Mail

Olympic protocol officials lay down the law
Coming soon. To a theatre near you. Protocol Man! Thrill to the adventures of an outwardly normal guy in business suit and matching socks who takes on the dangerous, ever-challenging task of…..etiquette!

The plot line of this exciting new saga is outlined in the City of Vancouver’s spell-binding Protocol Manual for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

You think cops have a tough job? Hah!

“There are few jobs in the civil service more challenging and demanding on a day-to-day basis than protocol,” the manual declares.

Prison guards may have hardened cons to deal with, but consider the steely protocol officer who must, like it or not, “worry about a myriad of details”. The manual adds: “Everything that can go wrong does go wrong….Why in the world would anyone want this job?”

Why, indeed?

Not just anyone with a winning smile, but not too winning, has the right stuff, warns the manual. “It is not for the faint-hearted or thin-skinned.” Who knows, for instance, when someone might pull a George Bush and throw up on the dignitary next to him and ask the protocol officer to clean up?

“Nor is it a position for the lone wolves, who believe they can do it all themselves, and are egotistical to a fault,” our friend the meticulous manualist continues. No wonder Brian Mulroney never made it in protocol.

Mixed martial arts? Pshaw! Easy street compared with “the pressure cooker that is protocol”. In that maelstrom of etiquette, the immaculately turned out protocol officer, with not a smidgen of bare leg showing because of short socks, “must be able to remember the most minute details, plan for every possible contingency, and perform proper staff work.” Let’s see Chuck “the Iceman” Liddell manage that.

But what exactly is this protocol? The manual explains: “Protocol is whatever your boss says it is.” Kind of like the news biz. “News is whatever your boss says it is.”

What do you with a flag not looking its best? I thought you’d never ask. “When a flag appears worn, damaged, or tattered, the correct procedure for disposal is to burn it in a private manner,” advises the manual with a thousand tips. Who knew?

And of course, not everyone can cope with a situation where a dignitary is showing something he oughtn’t. But Protocol Man can. “Try to move the individual out of hearing range of others and quietly let them know, ‘Your trouser zipper is open.'” Note the diplomatic term “trouser zipper”, rather than the mundane…well….you know.

Like all good productions, the manual leaves the most critical element to the end. In the security pecking order of “internationally protected persons”, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge is on the same level as the president of the United States and the Governor-General of Canada. It’s right there, on page 95. You can look it up.

Read the rest of the article @

Choose another article of your interest in the blog archive in the right column. Or scroll further down for books about protocol, interesting links, articles about protocol and protocol related tweets.