Horst Faas reports from the
2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
no pushing and no shoving, and nobody got in the way. It was the
easiest 100 meters ever. Just as the participants and the organizers
scripted it. The pictures were exactly what we expected." Thus,
Gary Hershorn, the veteran Reuters photographer, picture editor
and planner of many Olympic Games summed up the photo coverage
of the 100-meter runs for women and men, a highlight of the Sydney
2000 Olympic Games.
of 400 to 1200mm long lenses faced the finish line, many more
followed the runners from their starting blocks from both sides
along the 100-meter track. When the winners ran their lap of honor,
agency and Australian newspaper photographers were handling their
laptops while in their positions, and transmitted selective pictures
on standby ISDN lines. Others simply transmitted the full content
of their digital camera disks by radio to the offices at the main
press center. The first pictures reached newspapers around the
world in less than 10 minutes after the finish of the race, and
Australian papers were in print 40 minutes later.
The ease with
which the 100-meter races could be covered was symptomatic for
each event, and at each sporting venue. More than a thousand photographers
went through the grueling 17-day schedules of the Games and there
were none of the complaints so familiar during previous Olympics,
none of the hurdles that made life miserable for the photographer
who had to rush from one event to the next.
went so smooth that Olympic old timers were almost suspicious.
As an Associated Press photographer and editor, I have covered
the Games, summer and winter, since 1972. For a second time, I
am the coordinator of the International Olympic Photo Pool (IOPP),
which is made up of the three agencies: Agence France Press, Associated
Press and Reuters Photos. The daily meetings of the IOPP member
agencies with officials of the Olympic Organizing Committee were,
in the past, lengthy and often bad-tempered griping sessions,
about bad photo positions, missed opportunities to get the right
pictures, obstructive venue managers, lack of transportation,
daily fights for the limited space available for photographers,
and the hours of queuing for special passes for the swimming,
men's basket ball finals and other competitions.
None of that
in Sydney. The daily IOPP 12:30 meetings with Sydney photo chief
Gary Kemper and his adjutants were brief, friendly affairs sorting
out who would ride the motorbike ahead of the marathon runners,
or who would shoot from the rafter of the stadium during the opening
ceremony. "Is there really nothing wrong here, is there nothing
we should complain about?" questioned AP's Mike Feldman halfway
through the Games. No, nothing, was the comment of the other agency
representatives. Day after day, meeting after meeting, all remained
well and everybody smiled. Sorry, no complaints.
By Day 14,
two highlights among "complaints" concerned an agency Pool photographer
who had taken off his shoes and socks during a basketball preliminary
game (with the aggravated charge that he had smelly feet), and
a British photographer who had taken a packed sandwich and a soft
drink to his pool position and proceeded to have his lunch during
the event. Another day, the sole problem was the Pool's road cycling
motorbike rider who insisted that the photographer should sit
on the bike looking backwards, a practice which the experienced
Tour de France photographers have abandoned a few years ago, after
it led to accidents.
of the Sydney Games came from the fact that there was no stress.
Some photo editors and managers almost seemed to miss the good
old fights, the arguments and the occasional disasters that would
stir the adrenaline.
became a veritable festival of photojournalism. While television
ratings plummeted and stirred some controversies in Australia,
the Sydney 2000 Games have become the best photographed Games
ever. For the very competitive Australian press the Olympic Games
are the biggest event ever covered in the history of Australia.
Never before has coverage been so meticulously prepared. "We have
36 photographers on the job for the Olympics," said Julian Zakaras,
the photo boss of Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd. "Everybody knew for
weeks exactly what we wanted them to do. We took the test events
very seriously and are now getting what we prepared for."
major newspapers are either in the camp of News Limited (the tabloid
The Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, the Australian and
other papers in each of the six Australian states), or with the
Fairfax Group (Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age). Their
lively competitiveness resembles very much that of the British
press, or the competition which took place back in the days when
American cities had two or more morning and afternoon papers.
Olympics they fought it out with special editions, day-by-day
photography souvenir insert pages, and ever larger and better
displays of superb sports photography, including double-page panorama
photos. One looked, during breakfast, into the Sydney Morning
Herald and the Daily Telegraph to see and read what happened during
the previous late night hours. News photography is indeed alive
and well in this newspaper city. Television can't match the drama
displayed and written about in everyday papers.
figures of the Sydney papers rose by 15% during the early days
of the Games. They continued to rise as Australian sportsmen and
women reaped more medals. The biggest story was the Australian
athlete Kathy Freeman, an aboriginal indigenous Australian runner,
who lit the flame and stopped traffic in Sydney when she won the
400-meter race. The papers came out with special editions to report
a press conference she gave after her victory.
previous Olympic Games we measured our performance with the British
and the American Press," said John French, a picture editor with
the Sydney Morning Herald. "This time we are the object of envy,
we even had foreign photographers telling us how much they would
love to work for a paper like ours."
49, a native of Nebraska, attributes the obvious success to the
three years of meticulous preparations and planning and the good
cooperation in the beginning stages. "We had an early start: when
the plans for each venue were drawn up the photo chief was consulted
and we sat together with television representatives to design
photo facilities that are definitely an improvement over the past
and yet did not conflict with television, nor the interests of
sports the federation and spectators.
"We were listened
to, and not much had to be repaired after construction was completed."
who previously held the position of the Olympic photo Chief in
Atlanta, brought Olympic experience to Sydney dating back to Sarajewo
(1984), when he was with UPI. In Seoul 1988, he was the IOPP Coordinator,
and in Barcelona 1992, consultant with Kodak, assigned by the
International Olympic Committee. He started in Sydney three years
to maximize the best space possible for still photographers. We
could hold on to all our traditional photo positions and are getting
the most out of them now. We could also add some positions and
make it possible to file from these positions. The moat around
the field of the main stadium is now comfortably wide, we established
tiered platforms at gymnastics and other venues. With improved
designs in the detail we ended up with fewer or no problems."
a Sydney photographer who has covered Olympic swimming for more
than 30 years, said about the photo facilities at the Sydney Aquatic
Stadium, "this time they got it right. Especially at the swimming
we always had headaches. This time no hassles at all, easy work
and excellent pictures. No waiting and fighting for passes. Work
was a pleasure."
key to success seemed to be the selection of photo venue chiefs
and their staff, the people assigned to assist (and control) photographers
on-site. Kemper selected them in coordination with the Sydney
newspaper and agency photo editors. Most of the venue photo managers
are experienced photo editors and photographers themselves, like
Paul Matthews, the venue manager of the main Olympic stadium,
who is a former Sydney Morning Herald photographer, and Peter
Charles, who was at the Aquatic stadium and came as photographer
and editor from the Melbourne Age. "The venue managers have been
terrific, they really understand us," said Julian Zakaras of News
Limited. Word was out to be helpful, first of all, and keep order
second. Ronald Kubik, a journalist from Apia, Samoa, could not
believe his luck when a volunteer helped him to get right up to
the boxing ring - a "Pool Only" position - to take a picture of
a Samoan boxer. "I got a real boxing picture with my snapshot
camera," he said, "but I must admit I got better pictures from
the IOPP later on."
of the close to 700 venue volunteer workers - many of them unpaid
and some of them backpackers, grannies and retirees - was infectious.
The "G'Day" and "Howyahgoin' mate" sounded so much more honest
than the "Have a nice day" of Atlanta.
As the Games
progressed, praises for the Sydney organizers from hardened and
often cynical Olympic veterans abounded.
The 2000 Olympic
Games were covered by 1,077 photographers, just about as many
as in Atlanta. The three big agencies: AFP, AP and Reuters brought
in a total of 161 photographers a greater number than in the
past - as more sports have been added. Among the additional events:
triathlon, women's weightlifting, and Taekwondo.
owned by Getty, has 24 photographers in Sydney, by contract with
the I.O.C. AllSport has sole commercial rights for photographs
taken at the Games. All other photographers have to sign a pledge
to use photographs for editorial purposes only. At Sigma agency
photographers with Corbis logos were spotted. Corbis, the other
major stock agency, has bought Sigma since the Atlanta Games.
Corbis' owner, Bill Gates, was among the VIP spectators at the
opening ceremonies and several venue events.
papers had accredited just over 100 photographers. All other accreditations
were handed out - as usual - via the national Olympic Committees,
lead by photographers from the U.S.A. (184), Japan (158), Germany
(150), the U.K. (144), France (147), Canada (120). The Olympic
Games leave no room for freelance photographers, unless they work
for a major newspaper, magazine or agency.
population in Sydney also included some 3,500 writers and editors,
and just about as many technicians. Television rights holders
sent almost 12,000 people, an incredible number. Their headquarters
was the International Broadcast Center, inaccessible for all the
"normal" media people.
were held in the isolation of the venues in the Sydney Olympic
Park, west of Sydney, a city of three million. Others were held
in Brisbane and Melbourne.
events took place against the dramatic backdrop of Sydney Harbor.
When the triathlon swimmers crossed the harbor it looked as if
a school of large fish were invading the skyscraper waterfront
of Sydney, behind the City's landmark Harbor Bridge. During the
sailing competition some of the sails beautifully matched the
roof architecture of the Sydney Opera House.
and some television people could stay in hotels or in luxury cruisers
anchored in Darling Harbor, the mass of the press corps was housed
in a vast fenced in compound with prefabricated huts, called alternately
the "Gulag" or "Australia's answer to Soweto." Stories had it
that it was once a mental asylum. The bus ride to the Olympic
Park did not reveal any of the pulsating life in this great city,
especially as the bus rounded the biggest cemetery in Australia,
dating back to the days when convicts from England arrived here.
were other diversions: On the way to the bus stop, journalists
could walk past a little zoo with an aviary full of Australia's
rich and varied bird life. White, pink and black cockatoos, crimson
rosellas, rainbow corikeets and king parrots were caged for the
benefit of the world press. The displayed birds became a gathering
place for the many other, still free wild birds - attracted to
their kind behind bars. Birdwatching took on real meaning in Sydney.
Next to the
aviary was an enclosure with samples of the unique Australian
wildlife: Kangaroos of several varieties, swamp and agile wallabys,
emus. But no crocodiles.
feeling more adventurous could get even closer acquainted with
the wildlife of Australia through the menu card of Edna's Press
Table restaurant at the Main Press Center. The excellent nouvelle
cuisine of old Australia included crocodile in wafer-thin pastry
with spinach, grilled wallaby served with luscious and fleshy
red Rosella blossoms, very tender Kangeroo grilled or pan-fried,
raw Emu steak tartare with bush tomato and pepperberry, wild quail
with quail eggs served on an outback salads - or, for the more
traditional taste: a "carpet beggar" filet steak, filled with
raw oysters. Edna's cuisine tries to revive some of the unique
and special Australian indigenous tastes and flavors - which,
of course, go well with the now large selection of Australian
wines growing up and down the south Australian coast.
was worth the 26-hour trip in a tight airplane seat. Sydney is
a city many like to visit again. Except for a quick train ride
into the city center, few of the press people saw much of Sydney.
There have been nasty rumors that the Games may return to Sydney
if the Athenians don't get their act together. The other rumor
is that the MPC may be built adjacent to the Parthenon. At least
we would see more of Athens.
have become big and bigger. As sports are added, the number of
athletes and press people grows. That alone deserves a re-think
of the Olympic Games.
technology is another problem which needs to be tackled by the
Press Commission of the International Olympic Committee. The IOC
will come under pressure from advertisers and readers to release
more content to the Internet for future Olympics. The IOC's current
policy of denying media credentials to online journalists, and
preventing live Olympics coverage online may have to change before
the 2002 and 2004 Games.
rules for the Sydney 2000 Games, video footage is restricted to
the U.S. broadcaster NBC's Olympic website, and any online footage
must be shown on television first. Most of NBC's broadcasts were
delayed, often long after still photos had already been published.
The IOC rules
regarding video coverage for 2000 exclude all but NBC's video
coverage. If any photographer decided to use a still-cum-video
"Platypus" camera for video coverage of the Games, any use of
that video would be illegal and become a serious matter for the
lawyers of the IOC. And if noticed, a "Platypus" would loose the
IOC or Sydney Olympics Organization's accreditation.
native Australian platypus is one of the three mascots of these
Games platypus-type coverage is a definite no-no. The Press Commission
has yet to put this issue on their agenda.
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