London’s MPC lays on haircuts and tea cups

And so the countdown continues, the latest milemarker on the way to the London Olympics being the opening of the Main Press Centre, with its offers of free hair cuts and massages, and even the chance to see daylight. PHILIP BARKER was there

Someone has been working for the past three years to ensure that the pigeon holes in the MPC are just right

Most offices were still unoccupied, and you could have had your pick of desks, but the Main Press Centre is now open, one month before the Opening Ceremony.

Arriving media will be greeted by walls of shocking pink, vibrant orange and deep purple. You might not want LOCOG decorating your front room, but the end result here is that surroundings are colourful bright and cheery.

For those who will spend much of their time within the very considerable four walls, there are windows on all levels including the workroom, something we certainly haven’t had in either Athens or Beijing. The journalists present were delighted to find that daylight will be allowed in, without a pass, which is more than could be said for Minister of Sport Hugh Robertson when he arrived to proclaim the centre open alongside Lord Coe.

Tucked away in an office at one end of the building, the Info team is gathering, including a selection of experienced former national newspaper sports correspondents and several SJA members. They’ll provide quotes from all 26 sports, just in case you were at the cycling when something spectacular was happening in synchro swimming.

Unlike Athens and Beijing, there are no escalators at London’s MPC but the building has “intelligent” lifts – you have to select your floor when calling the lift. The computer selects the first available one. After a false start during the World Press Briefing,they worked perfectly on day one here.

The main media conference hall is not far off the size of that in Beijing, yet somehow it seems more intimate.

LOCOG have named the other smaller rooms, Tower, Buckingham, Piccadilly and Trafalgar.

They claim the MPC will be “a home from home” and have installed a High Street 200 metres long which includes a post office, a pharmacy, a bank – only the sponsors of course – and even offers dry cleaning, though hopefully not as expensive as that in Beijing.

Pleasingly and appropriately, and thanks to some judicious lobbying by the SJA, the room where most print journalists will file their copy has been named after John Rodda, the former Guardian Olympics correspondent and lifelong Association member. A special plaque carries an appreciation: “John was an outstanding and influential news reporter whose reports and books inspired his many friends and colleagues at home and around the world”.

LOCOG appears determined to continue stereotyping journalists as people who spend their time in bars… The Steve Parry Bar in the now open MPC

The bar nearby commemorates the life of Steve Parry, the former Reuters sports editor and another influential figure in Olympic media circles. LOCOG has seen fit to include a karaoke bar and  decorated the area with pieces of modern art. They are supposed to represent the Olympic and Paralympic mottos, but it did rather look like yet another case of the Emperor’s new clothes.

Long hours will be a given at London 2012, so a massage may be welcome. Other free services include a barbers and grooming centre and 24-hour medical support. Perhaps the most popular will be the quiet room where loungers will be available for when you just need 40 winks. During the second week in Beijing, it was not uncommon to see people sleeping anywhere they could find.

There will be one other facility to help keep you going. The tea trolley will be doing the rounds over the next month. This is England after all.


Tue July 24: Olympic media service and reception, St Bride’s Church. For more details click here.

Thu Dec 6: 2012 SJA British Sports Awards. An Olympic year extravaganza. Note the date in your diary now. Details to be announced soon.