Storytelling Beyond the Gold ...

olympics media coverage

Alexandre Bilodeau winning Canada’s first gold medal in the men’s freestyle moguls on Sunday got me thinking.

Every Olympics reveals terrific human interest stories such as Bilodeau and his inspiration coming from his disabled older brother. You certainly don’t need a media kit to write up Team U.S.A.’s historic beat-down of the Russian hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics.

But these high-drama moments don’t occur on a daily basis, which begs the question:

How is the Vancouver Organizing Committee, affectionately dubbed VANOC, facilitating storytelling at the games beyond the athletes?

For answers, I took a look at the media centre on the official Winter Olympics Web site and was greeted with the words:

These resources help tell the story of the 2010 Winter Olympic games.

Encouraged, I pulled up the “Quick Facts about the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games” (under media kits)  expecting compelling information, anecdotes and perhaps an obscure tidbit or two. Instead, nine pedistarian facts came to the fore:

  • 17 days of Olympic Games events
  • 10 days of Paralympic Games events
  • 5,500 Olympic Games athletes and officials (projected)
  • 1,350 Paralympic Games athletes and officials (projected)
  • 80+ countries participating in Olympic Winter Games
  • 40+ countries participating in Paralympic Winter Games
  • 10,000 media representatives
  • 3 billion worldwide television viewers
  • 75 million visits worldwide to (projected)

Of all the documents in the media centre, the one with the most promise proved to be the backgrounder on ice making, which started:

The Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will see the world’s best winter athletes compete on the coolest fields of play: ice. Making great competition ice is not an easy task. It requires the world’s top ice makers, known as ice meisters, as well as state-of-the-art ice making equipment and a dedicated team of specialists whose job is to maintain perfect surfaces for figure skaters, speed skaters, short track speed skaters, curlers, wheelchair curlers, sliders, ice hockey and ice sledge hockey players.

I had no idea the temperature of the ice varies depending on the competition.

For example, figure skating ice is the softest of the Olympic ice surfaces at −3° C which helps skaters dig in for jumps and spins. In contrast, speed skating ice can be as cold as −9° C since it’s all about speed as opposed to grip.

Good stuff.

I also liked the concept of ice meisters. The backgrounder goes on to identify the ice meister for speed skating, the ice meister for curling, etc.

With that said, they could have humanized the story by sharing how each of these ice meisters came by their gifts. Perhaps one was a prodigy, complaining about the density of ice cubes in his or her soda pop at a young age.

In spite of this deliverable, the vast majority of content in the media centre is a tad dry.

VANOC did work out an arrangement with the AFP news service to feed stories to the site under the News section (not technically part of the media centre). This means for every drab release on how to clear security or the revenue generated from Olympic swag, we also get stories such as “Women Lugers Bemoan Abnormal Child’s Start:”

“It’s not a ladies’ start, it’s a kinder (child’s) start,” Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger blasted after training.

“We trained the whole summer and we are strong and fast and now the fastest starters are slow. It’s not good for us. It’s not fun.”

Still, the VANOC Web site doesn’t exactly give writers a running start on the storytelling.

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