Changing China

Giant on the move

An Olympic wrestling match

August 19, 2008

Olympic wrestlingIf you have been to the daily Olympic press briefing by Games organisers you’d think there was a war on around the venues and not a well-run Olympic Games, packed with memorable moments.

While the Games, on a sporting level, have been a smooth operation so far, with records set and ecstatic crowds, inside the press conference room it is a different story.

These 45-minute daily scraps are dominated by questions on human rights, explosions, fake opening ceremonies and banned protests. No sports question ever makes the cut.

Heated exchanges between reporters and International Olympic Committee officials and Beijing Games spokesmen have raised the profile of what at past Games was a dull progress report of operations.

The verbal tug-of-war between IOC officials, spokespeople and journalists has at times escalated to wrestling matches between reporters wanting to follow up on their questions and eager volunteers ordered by officials to grab the microphone.

“If you stopped wrestling with the volunteer over the microphone then I could answer your question,” IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies had to tell a persistent reporter.

Journalists who would have otherwise never thought of covering the presser, now make a point of not missing it. If they are not covering a sport on that day, the daily presser is usually their highlight.

“I’ll see you at the slaughterhouse,” a colleague told me earlier this week. “It’s a date,” I said.

PHOTO: Besik Kudukhov of Russia (in red) fights Tomohiro Matsunaga of Japan during their 55kg men’s freestyle wrestling semi-final match at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 19, 2008. REUTERS/Oleg Popov

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