I covered the Endurance competition for the 2006 WEG. This competition was held on the first day of the Games, Monday August 21, 2006. I know that I was not alone in feeling as though we had come in during “dress rehearsals” at the Press Center.
Press stand and photo ops
During the Opening Ceremonies, press was directed to stand in one roped off area in the stadium. There was not enough room for all of the photographers, nor did it allow room for photo taking without other photog’s heads. Everyone spread out the best they could, but the direction for Press was vague, at best.
For the endurance Awards Ceremony, the press was shuffled off to the side, making photos difficult. There were now photogs 6 deep, and none but the longest lens could capture the podium.
I would like to add something here about the endurance journalists. Endurance is a specific discipline that takes a good deal of endurance itself to follow. Heading out by 4 or 5 am, the endurance journalist strives to stay in front of the riders for photos and stats while checking information available at Vet Gates for official pulls and changes in the lead. This is along any road or trail in all conditions during a 24 hour period, through every sort of weather. The day after the ride, when many of the stadium photographers had just arrived, those of us that had followed the ride the day before found ourselves elbowed and blocked at the awards ceremony by the larger stadium and TV lenses. There should be some credit for journalists covering specific disciplines. Might there be some way to insure that the discipline specific journalist has needed access for photos? If the IAEJ Photographer’s Delegate covers this, it would work well to have the name of that Delegate made available via signage or electronic communiquÃ?Æ?Ã?Â©, to be sure that our needs are known and conveyed to the correct party.
The working pressroom was fairly organized, except that there were not enough electrical outlets for equipment, nor cable lines for Internet. There was no set-up to print out anything, nor was there a common computer with information (background, information, profiles, etc.) with a printer attached. In Jerez there were several computers, and the information on rider/horses was up-to-date. There were no lockers available of which I was aware.
Press Conferences were not announced and were easy to miss. In fact, there were several that occurred while we were sitting in the Press Center, but not announced. The Press Staff tried to pull together what we needed as we asked, but the most important thing we needed was information on our discipline, which was not available.
Entrants list and map of the course
There was no pre-entry lists or profiles nor anything else made available in the pressroom before the endurance event. The approved entry list did appear by 8 pm the evening before the event. The course map was available only if you could access the database for the WEG online. The online map was entirely too small to see any detail, and then there was the issue of no printer. There was not enough course information available, specifically on what to expect for the start and end of the race, best places to be and photograph. There were no drivers provided for the Press. We rented our own car and spent 2 days going over the endurance route. As the OC bussed out tourists to many of the choice spots, this was problematical for photos as hundreds of onlookers crowded access and trails.
We were given bibs to take photos for the Opening Ceremony, but these same bibs were not good for the Awards Ceremony, and we had to go back and get an official to let us into the Stadium at the last minute. The reason for this was explained as a choice made at accreditation, an unclear concept for many journalists who also take their own photos.
There was no Press parking nor shuttle for PressÃ?Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬Ã?Â¦. and parking was quite far from the venue and sometimes impossible to access. As this event required journalists to check in between loops for stats at the Vet Check, it would have been ideal to be able to find parking quickly and head back to the trail. Some accommodation for Press to come and go or be dropped off would have worked well. We had to park and walk/run for 20 minutes to get back to our car after finding the start. It was obvious that the Organizing Committee did not understand Press needs for this discipline.
I did not receive any official word from the OC until about a week before I left for Germany. I did check with the FEI several times starting two months prior to the WEG to make sure that I had been accepted and could complete assignments as given. The FEI representative assured me that I was to be accredited, but paperwork was slow in coming from the OC.
There was very adequate cafeteria-style food service that served participants, press and officials. It was a bit of a walk, but was well done. For the first two days at the Press Center, there was nothing but drinks: available was coffee, water and soda. On the day we were leaving when dressage and vaulting Press were arriving, cookies and various snacks appeared at the counter.
Looking forward to Lexington, I am sure that some of these things will be remedied, as the OC seems to be taking an active interest in each discipline to find out what might be needed. I would be happy to help work with the OC in what will be needed to cover the endurance event.