WPB2010: “Overall, we are in great shape”

This week’s London 2012 World Press Briefing was a concentrated, informative operation. SJA chairman BARRY NEWCOMBE, along with around 200 others from around the world, listened to how a working day at Olympic Park and beyond might take shape in two years’ time

Most of the Olympic Press in 2012 will be staying in hotels in Bloomsbury, and they will be able to take the Javelin train from St Pancras to Stratford in just seven minutes, or opt for the bus services.

Once at the Olympic Park, everyone will go through security at the entry gates.

The Olympic Park contains the International Broadcast Centre and the Main Press Centre, and to keep the wide range of operations moving properly, there will be 15,000 staff working at any one time. The assumption is that there will be 250,000 spectators there for the events in the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre, Velodrome and other sports as well.

In the MPC, the media work area will contain 816 desks. The photo work room will have a capacity of 300. The main conference room can take 700 people.The second floor houses the IOC’s press operations and the third floor will rented to news agencies.

The MPC will have to cope with 5,600 accredited journalists. On the ground floor, there will be a replica of a traditional British High Street with a variety of support services including Visit London and Visit Britain, cafes, banking facilities and two bars honouring two British sportswriters and Olympic specialists, John Rodda and Steve Parry.

The catering village promises to provide thousands of meals, while the coffee stations which were one of the more successful offerings at Beijing will be replicated.

A decision was taken early on by LOCOG to make a fixed internet connection available at all desks. Internet access and access to the info service will cost every journalist £150 for 30 days.

In the stadium, there will be 1,000 tabled seats. There will be 350 tabled seats in the Aquatics Centre. Press working areas at competition sites will be remain open for four hours after events are completed. The latest planned finish time at this stage is basketball at midnight.

There will be 30 different media centres across all Games disciplines, with 35 conference rooms and 47 mixed zones. Venue media centres will be open at least three days before competition.

Mixed Zones, which have long been a difficult working area, have become a major focus in preparations and Tim Barnett and his info+ teams will be endeavouring to produce a faster and wider ranging service in flash quotes. We are promised flash quotes from every medallist. “Dynamic news reports”, statistics, milestones and “reactive material” will also be provided.

Photo chief Bob Martin, who has worked with his cameras throughout the higher echelons of world sport, gave an optimistic view of the opportunities which will be offered to photographers to showcase the Olympics and showcase London at the same time.

He urged his colleagues to plan ahead for events which had some of the great views of London as a backdrop, and reminded them that it was possible to use public transport to move around some events at considerable pace. Doubtless, the snappers will sort it out for themselves on the Underground system.

Martin said that remote cameras are an integral part of today’s photography and London would have more in position than ever before. He also reminded his audience that there is a strict code when fitting overhead cameras.

There is no question that the visiting media was impressed by what London 2012 has to offer, and some of the loose ends – such as the venue of the central London Media Centre for the non-accredited Press, due to be announced in the next week or so by London Mayor Boris Johnson – will be tidied up by the time of the briefing next year.

Knowing that Heathrow will be the only official Olympic entry point for air travellers is very useful, as is the knowledge that it has four terminals in operation and a direct Tube service into central London – as was used recently by the visiting IOC inspectors. No $100 taxi fares for them.

It’s also useful to realise that the estimated walk time from north to south in the Olympic Park will be 25 minutes (but who’s estimate – the ever-lean Seb Coe jogging the distance, or a 40-something snapper carrying half a hundredweight of photographic equipment?). There will be, of course, a continuous bus loop operating through the Park as well.

Although the focus in 2012 will be on London, the other Olympics venues for sailing, football and rowing were also showcased during the briefing, with the lively Weymouth team stressing that they will be more than ready for the thousands of visitors which that will attract. So they should – their venue was the first to be completed.

Lord Coe, chairman of LOCOG, opened the briefing by stressing: “Overall, we are in great shape.

“The longest, truest sponsor that sport has is the Press,” he said. “We’ll be doing everything we can over the next year or so to make sure you can tell the stories, buttressed by our operations.”

At the end of my first working day in Olympic Park, I will be heading for the Steve Parry Bar for a welcome pint with Paul Radford, the Reuters sports editor.

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