Park Seh-jik, the chief organizer of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, has made some very interesting revelations in his memoir on the inner workings of the Games, including three secrets that his organizing committee and the local media had made a pact to keep until the last minute.
Secret one: Financial issues regarding income and expenditures of the Seoul Olympics, such as possible profits.
Secret two: How would the Olympic Flame be lit up at the opening ceremony?
Secret three: Who would be the final torchbearers at the opening ceremony?
"I made a protest immediately after I saw a newspaper report that the flame would be lit up (by a torch-bearer) with the use of a lift," Park writes in the recently-published Chinese edition of his book "I Designed the Seoul Olympics."
The newspaper explained that they had taken the report from the Japanese media, which had got an inside scoop on the rehearsal.
"But I still hoped they would bear in mind the bigger picture and keep the secrets," writes Park, who believed that it would have been an "awful thing" if journalists reported on the Olympics with their characteristic outsiders' detachment and inclination to criticize.
Park recalls his organizing committee setting up Olympic evaluation teams that invited journalists to join in. The purpose had been to "convert the journalists from outsiders into organizers," to prevent the media practice of criticizing just for criticisms sake.
Seoul organizers are not alone in their efforts to influence what the media report about the Olympics. Even in the West, the media honour Olympic news embargos because they and the Olympics benefit from a mutually beneficial exchange of information and publicity, and share a common insider's perspective.
It's also in the best interest of the media to help promote a positive image of the Olympics, as the sport is a major source of advertising revenue and content.
But such collaboration will not always be easy.
For example, on Wednesday, the Beijing Olympic organizing committee had to call a damage-control press conference, at which officials refuted some earlier media reports that Beijing would expel one million migrant workers during Games time. Other media rumours denied at the conference included a plan to restrict car use to alternate days depending on whether a vehicle license plate ends with an odd or even number.
Why would the media run such stories, ignoring the organizers' stance that the 2008 Olympics is a grand gathering for the whole nation, and that the host city of Beijing will be more open-minded?
The simple answer is that Olympic sports events will have tension, conflict, drama, emotion, suspense, and other elements that make a good story. But at the preparation stage, years ahead of the opening ceremony, media may find mundane stories on work in progress not as interesting and appealing to readers. In a growingly competitive local media market that is challenged by emergent new media such as the Internet, compelling content is vital for the media to sell more copies and attract more advertising revenue, which fuels sensationalism and dramatization.
As most people will rely on news information for their knowledge about the Olympics, the media will be instrumental to the success of any modern Olympic Games. The media and the organizers may have to explore more creative ways to report on the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games in a respectful and positive, but also truthful and interesting way.
Source: China Daily