While much of what appears in this report is from my perspective, I have incorporated some of the thoughts from other journalist about their observations.
There were things that were very good about the press services for the 2007 Pan American Games and others that were really terrible. The one thing that everyone seemed to agree on was that the staff was eager to assist you with any issue. The staff listened to any problems brought to them and there was ample staff to respond to questions. Unfortunately, no number of staff would have been effective in correcting problems established by rules created by administrators who were not even onsite.
The good thing was that they listened to our complaints and where they could made changes. For instance, when we arrived the first day our food was confiscated but there was no way to buy food on the premises and then they started to have fruit in the press room and a sandwich stand outside.
Access for some things was great but for others was a real pain and it changed from day to day. We were not allowed access into the stables, even escorted. There were also other areas that were restricted which prevented us from meeting up with the riders in some type of outside setting to take photos. Some thought should be given to having a mixed area for media and riders for photo ops. Also, the rules constantly changed of where we could and could not go. Some of the riders wanted us to get photos of them for candids and yet we were not permitted to go to areas where there would have been no problem to do this.
One example of this constantly changing access occurred to a photographer, who described the incident as follows: The stupefying military control led to me being ordered by two armed soldiers to leave the media designated areas around the arena during the jumping training day. Only on my refusal to heed their repeated orders to leave did they finally confer by radio with, apparently, some higher power was I allowed to remain there. If this had happened in the first couple of days it would have been understandable. This happened almost two weeks into the competition.
Another reporter gave his thoughts as follows: Areas such as a standard Ã?Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬Ã?â??mix zoneÃ?Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬Ã?Â were non-existent. Rules seemed to change and then change again without any reason. Understandably, the barn area was off limits, but there should have been an area established (outside of the press center) for interaction with the riders if a mixed zone was not to be made available.
Way too expensive. There were less press covering the event because most didnÃ?Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬Ã¢â??Â¢t want to go to the expense. Because of Cealy Tetley, three of us were able to stay in ideal accommodations at a very reasonable rate, but others had to pay as much as $330 per night and more. There were also many complaints about the distance that was traveled between housing and the venue.
The awards ceremonies were a mixture of good and bad. Sometimes we just needed more time and the winners needed more guidance about allowing us to get the photos we needed, but in general they worked out well. I believe there should be a dedicated photo manager in the arena at the time of the awards presentation to ensure the photographers are able to get the photos they need.
Some among the media felt that a blatantly nationalistic and inconsistent behavior at medal ceremonies was obvious. This reporter used the example of how during the eventing team medals in which Brazil was on the podium that was one of the smoothest medal ceremonies from a photo standpoint. Twenty minutes later, when it came time for the individual eventing medals in which only the U.S. was on the podium, two columns of the rainbow dressed troops positioned themselves in the center of the photographers’ position and it was much more difficult for the photographers.
Backdrop for photos
There were many areas around the ring that if you shot that way the backdrop was terrible. There was also not enough Pan American Games signage.
We were not allowed to walk the course. This was extremely unfair on many levels.
We were not allowed to bring food in and initially there was no access to food or food concessions but at our request that changed and ended up being okay. When people tried to bring their own food, it was quickly confiscated. The press center staff was able to secure fruit and water for the press after complaints. One small thermos of coffee was also provided for the press during the second week of competition. During the second week, a food vendor (carrying a box of hot dogs and sandwiches) came to the press center to sell food.
Excellent both LAN and wireless and it was free.
There was a huge language barrier. Most only spoke Portuguese. There were only three staff members (among the dozens of staff that seemed to sit around the press area) that spoke English or a second language. One of them spoke French, so that enabled several people to speak and translate for others.
They were too small for the photographers. The locker situation was terrible because we could not leave our stuff in the lockers overnight as we were told it was not safe. This meant we had to drag our cameras and computers back and forth every day which was a real pain, especially since we were there for almost three weeks.
Logos for the Pan Am Games
There were very few logos and since this was a priority to have in our photos instead we often had advertiser signage. Even if there is other signage they should also include visible signage of the event.
In addition there was a real lack of media presence at this event. The only media present were the following:
A. Three U.S. media reps (Molly Bailey, Diana De Rosa and Ken Braddick)
B. Three Canadians (Cealy Tetley, Karen Robinson and her husband)
C. One Argentine and 2 Brazilians
D. Three USEF reps (no photographers)
During finals/jumping the number increased with media reps, primarily photographers, from:
A. Wire services (AP, Reuters, AFP, EFE)
B. Brazilian newspapers and magazines
C. Brazilian TV (O Globo, Folha)
D. Occasional other foreign media rep (e.g. Jennifer Anstey of Canada, one other photographer who came just for the eventing, the Jamaican guy when the Jamaican eventer was competing, the French writer for breed reports).
This in general worked out well. The ability to shoot from most any place around the arena and the fact that we were allowed to shoot from the seats as long as we werenÃ?Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬Ã¢â??Â¢t blocking anyone was great. There was also a covered seating area where we could shoot from when it rained and this was much appreciated since we had a couple of rainy and overcast days. On cross country day the situation worked out okay but we were not allowed to walk the course ahead of time and therefore had no time to prepare for what we would want to photograph. Instead many of us just opted to stay at one jump because we werenÃ?Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬Ã¢â??Â¢t aware of our options.
Press Conference Room
A portable building was used for this important space. It was too small and the sound was terrible. The windows would make a vibrating noise when the air conditioning was operating. There were so many translations that I wonder if there couldnÃ?Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬Ã¢â??Â¢t have been a better and quicker way to do the press conferences. The U.S. would have their team do a separate press conference beforehand or afterwards in order to quickly get some quotes and this worked well.
Press Room Sub Center
This space was not accessible for a sufficient amount of time each day. According to the staff, the facility would open and close two hours prior to and after each day of competition. They did not take into account awards ceremonies or press conferences or jogs or training days. Consequently, the timing of when the press room was opened and closed was extremely inconvenient. We were forced to stop working our deadline projects until we could get to the next location. The Press Room should be open starting early in the morning and should have stayed open for about 5 or 6 hours after the event was over so that we could have finished our work and get it sent to meet our deadline. There were times that when we arrived the Press Room was closed. On several occasions, w arrived at the press facility to find it closed, and had to wait hours for it to open. Additionally, the press room should have been open much longer after the end of competition. Many people had to take shuttles to the MPC or to hotels to complete their work when they should have done so in the venue press room.
The safety concerns proved to be no problem as there were so many police around that we never once felt threatened or afraid. However, there were times at the venue when the security limited to an extreme our access to areas that would have been appropriate for the media to go into.
One very positive note was how helpful everyone was. The staff were always as helpful as they could be within the boundaries set for them. The bureaucracy was a huge issue. They did what they could within the rules and they were always there for us when we needed them.
The shuttles were good and bad. To begin with there was no consistent shuttle schedule. It changed from day-to-day. Sometimes they were there on time and other times not. We waited for 2 hours more than once for a bus when we were on deadline. We had to take a shuttle to the Main Press Center and from there to our accommodations and sometimes those shuttles were on time and other times not. However, taxis from the MPC were an option when things did not work out and fortunately they were plentiful and not too expensive.
The Venue for dressage and show jumping was wonderful. The arena was very much like an Olympic arena and probably the nicest of any arena weÃ?Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬Ã¢â??Â¢ve seen at a Pan American Games. The cross country was okay but not great. All the riders applauded the facilities Ã?Â¢Ã¢â??Â¬Ã¢â?¬Å? both stabling and competition areas.
There was always plenty of water available and they even came around and gave us water when we were shooting outside the arena.
The best thing about the press experience at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro was the attitude of the staff. Of course, they could only solve so many problems as they were being managed by a very bureaucratic system.