Behind the scenes at biggest show in town
Many will hardly leave a facility that has been designed as a 24-hour production line of sports news. Medallists will be shuttled from their venues to deliver their reactions in one of the press conference theatres, the largest of which has room for 700 reporters. At peak times, there will be 24 press conferences a day. Veterans predict it will be exhilarating but exhausting and organisers will be on the lookout to prevent frazzled reporters setting up camp under their desks (see panel).
“One of the quietest places at an Olympic Games is a media shuttle bus from the main press centre to a competition venue,” said Darryl Seibel, who has worked on press relations for US and UK Olympic authorities at eight Games stretching back to Barcelona in 1992. “It’s where the unofficial, but highly popular Olympic event of bus-napping occurs. Journalists work extraordinarily hard during the Games. It’s long hours and often extreme pressure. Finding 15 minutes to grab a nap can be pure bliss.”
Mandy Keegan, the press centre’s operations manager, said: “We have built a high street for the media, which not only contains a pharmacist and technology shop but also a massage centre and a fully kitted-out health centre staffed by doctors and nurses.”
Freshly baked pizza and cold beer will be delivered to desks for reporters working between 11pm and 4am. For diversion there’s a gym, a prayer room and, of course, a bar.
It is little surprise so much attention is being paid to the fourth estate. The Olympic movement relies on international television audiences for its income and earned a reported €3.3 billion from the sale of television rights for London 2012 and the winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010.
“We recognise the media are massively important stakeholders in the games,” Andy Hunt, chief executive of the British Olympic Association, told an audience of accredited journalists this month. “We are totally committed to you having a successful Games.”
But the news list will not be entirely dominated by reports of world-record performances and quotes from medallists. Riots and terror attacks are already on the agenda, according to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog) press office, which is now receiving 2,000 calls a week. “They are the obvious questions to ask,” said Joanna Manning-Cooper, Locog’s head of PR and media. “We ran a beach volleyball test event on the Tuesday of the week the riots took place [last August] and people remember that the 7/7 attacks on London came the day after the bid win.”
Some media outlets are expected to be hostile. Last year, Iranian media complained that the London 2012 logo was a disgrace because it could be read as “Zion” and said Iran might pull out.