SJA welcomes the media world to Fleet Street

The SJA welcomed the world to London on Tuesday, helped by St Bride’s church and BT. DAVID WALKER reports on the international m service and reception

Michael Parkinson
SJA President Sir Michael Parkinson: time for the Games to begin

Most journalists think of St Bride’s church, Fleet Street, as a venue to be visited for memorial services in honour of dear, departed friends. After all, isn’t that why we get there and invariably depart feeling uplifted by the wise words of the Rector David Meara and the heavenly music performed by the wonderful choir?

Well on Tuesday evening, as part of the countdown to the London Olympics, St Bride’s staged an inspirational service called: “Light the flame, ignite the Spirit!”

It had been organised by the church and the SJA as a way to welcome the journalists visiting London. The event, and the reception afterwards at Stationers’ Hall, was supported by BT, one of the main Olympic sponsors.

Members of the SJA assisted in the service with committee member Mary Fitzhenry contributing with a reading.

And another reading used as its text an essay written by former SJA stalwart John Rodda. The piece, called “When Swan Vesta supplied the Olympic Flame”, was the last piece ever written by the late and much lamented Guardian correspondent. About covering the 1948 London Olympics, it was published by this website to help commemorate the Association’s 60th anniversary.

The main address of the service was delivered by Sir Michael Parkinson, the SJA President. He spoke with typical authority about the role of sports journalism in the world of the media – both written and broadcasting. He also supported the growing belief that after weeks of scares and negativity, the nation is ready for the action to commence and for sporting heroics to hog the headlines.

Sir Michael is understandably an acclaimed communicator whose erudite style and deep knowledge make him a wonderful ambassador for our Association.

As well as extending a warm welcome to members of the visiting media, the service also included an act of dedication. The Venerable David Meara is well aware of St Bride’s tradition as the journalists’ church. And in these troubled times for many parts of the British media the act of dedication he led us through was particularly poignant.

“I call upon all present to dedicate ourselves afresh to our calling as sports journalists and reporters, that all who speak where many listen and write what many read may aspire to the highest ideals of truth and integrity. May we, whose words influence the lives of others, find fresh inspiration and deeper wisdom and discernment in all that we say and do.”

As ever the St Bride’s choir was superb, ably assisted by their director of music Robert Jones and organist Matthew Morley.

Tuesday evening was wonderfully warm and the garden at the Stationers’ Hall provided a convivial setting for drinks and canapes, amid a growing belief that the spirit of the London Olympics really had arrived.