Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Prepare now for Olympics coverage

Smog makes breathing in Beijing a difficult task. Streets are clogged with cars. Factories belch smoke into the skyline. It’s not the grand setting one would expect for an Olympics venue some believe will be the most significant event of our lifetime.

But this sooty atmosphere should not affect the athletes competing in the 2008 Olympics less than a year from now thanks to some sci-fi gimmicks and a little bureaucratic bullying. At least, that’s what the U.S. director of media services says. Apparently, the Chinese have pellets that will make the sky turn blue. And residents will be persuaded not to drive for a few weeks.

“The air quality is the worst I’ve seen it,” said Bob Condron, the U.S. director of media services. “But on August 8, you will see a clear blue sky. And traffic will be fine – even if they have to take cars off the road.”

China will be ready for the thousands of athletes and journalists who will converge on Beijing next year. Will you? Even if you do not have the budget to send reporters to China, you can put together a strong Olympics package that includes coverage of athletes from your area. Condron cited a few ways the USOC will work to help editors and reporters cover events from home. The USOC has created a website that includes sections that focus on news, games in action (such as information on world records and upsets in the making), media guides, and media credentialing.

The USOC will also offer USA Daily, a newsletter that will preview the next day’s events; USA Wrap-Up, which will include results of every U.S. athlete, including those who do not finish; and updated media guides. Newspapers can also schedule coverage of their local athletes. First, though, editors should speak with these Olympians before they depart for China. “Get a relationship with your athlete,” Condron said. “Let them know you want to speak with them. Talk to their mom and dad. Get phone numbers of their agents. And get in touch with the national governing body for that sport and with the USOC staff.”

Many athletes will write blogs, something the USOC will publish. But, Condon says, make sure you let the athlete know when the diary or blog is expected. Make sure you chart the difference in time. Beijing is 13 hours ahead of newspapers in the Midwest. You can also work with USOC media specialists to get more hometown coverage by calling 719-866-4677 or going to their website.

“Let us know what your plans are,” said Darryl Seibel, the chief communications officer for the USOC. “The earlier we know, the better we can help you.”


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