As a public service, Stuart Weir provides us with a view into his world as a globe-trotting media specialist in athletics. Stuart and I have spoken about this before, just how hard it is to cover a major event and actually see the meet at the same time.
This is Stuart Weir’s second piece on the Paris Diamond League.
An Evening in the Life of the athletic writer.
As you may have gathered, I am in Paris for the Diamond League, also known as Meeting de Paris. When one goes to an event of this nature as accredited media, one has an allocated seat in the media area, a seat with a table, several electric powerpoints, and often a computer screen with updated information about the event, results, etc. Or one normally does! On arrival at Charlety Stadium, I found that I was not on the seating plan. I enquired and was taken to a normal seat in the spectator area but with a sticker saying “media” on the seat. I explained graciously why that would not work, that I needed power and a table. I was then taken back to the media area and offered a seat at the far end of a row in the broadcast section. I sat there for some minutes but gradually realized that the people between me and the exit would be broadcasting live during the event and that there was no space for me to get out without them stepping out of their seats – impossible if they were doing live commentary.
I decided to relocate to the media workroom, which had power, tables, and information screens but no view of the athletics. I worked there for a bit. The made-for-television Diamond League package lasts two hours, usually about an hour of a pre-program. Tonight there were three hours of pre-program!
My function at an event is to record some interviews with athletes as soon as they finish and WhatsApp them to Athletics Weekly and Scottish Athletics. In an ideal world, the gap between races would be sufficient to allow you to speak to an athlete from Race 1 before Race 2 starts. In reality, I am often the 10th person who wants to speak to an athlete, and by the time one has done the interview, I will have missed the next two or three races. If there happens then to be someone in the next race that I need to speak to, one can easily be in the mixed zone for a lot of the evening, seeing nothing of the action.
Occasionally the layout means that the mixed zone provides a view of the track so that one can watch the action while waiting for one’s interview target. But not in Paris! Tonight I made a point of seeing the women’s 200, 400, and 800m races, but I did not see any of the two-mile race with its unofficial world record, I did not see any of the women’s 5000 with its world record. I did not see the 110m hurdles. I saw none of the field events and left before the last event in order to get a bus before the rush.
I was privileged to interview seven athletes tonight, but the price paid was seeing very little of the athletics.