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Home >> Sports
UPDATED: 17:26, December 22, 2006
Olympics to introduce new media relationship
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In early December, China announced a set of new regulations that will give international Olympic journalists more freedom to travel and report.

The most important aspect of the nine-point regulations, some foreign journalists were quick to point out, was that they will no longer need to apply to local government authorities for permission to carry out reporting, but need only to obtain prior consent of the organizations or individuals they want to interview,

The regulations represent an important move the Chinese Olympic organisers have taken to honour their promises and commitments on press freedom made during Beijing's bid to host the Games.

As these new rules will come into force in a couple of weeks, the logical question seems to be, how will they be implemented? Or put simply, will people be ready to answer questions from international media?

Some Chinese media have already raised the issue, with China's sports stars.

Take the Xinhua report that picked on the behaviours of some of China's best women tennis players at the Doha Asian Games. After losing to Uzbekistan, two young players "vaporized" before the press conference after the game. Later, one of them, who had found revenge by defeating Uzbekistan at a quarter final, left the court despite "earnest pleas" from journalists for comments. In comparison, her defeated foreign opponent "accepted the interview from the press despite her leg injury."

Why did they refuse to talk to the media? The Xinhua report explained the athletes might have felt bad about losses or didn't want to talk about the game at the time. But it also noted that "treating media nicely is an important, professional quality of athletes," and called on the tennis stars to learn international norms on how to deal with media.

Coincidentally, "treating media nicely" is also a new guideline for Beijing Olympic organizers who have expected sharp increases in international media activities in Beijing. This has marked a change from a traditional "managing media" approach.

Another recent report in a Chinese newspaper gave an account of sports officials' evolving ways of dealing with foreign media, through the case of Fu Mingxia, a "Diving Diva" in the 1990s and an Olympic gold medalist.

After the diver won an international competition in the U.S. in 1990, team officials told her to reply: "I don't know" to all questions at the press conference, which bewildered journalists who asked "Do you train very hard?" "Do you miss your dad and mum?" or "How old are you now?" The officials were worried that the 12-year-old might say something inappropriate.

However, two years later, Fu was allowed to say whatever she wanted to say to foreign media, because sports officials had changed their minds after the 1990 experience. The graceful and eloquent Fu later became a millionaire from international commercials and sports endorsements.

"How could we ask a teenager to answer each question from journalists perfectly? If she said something wrong, so what? Wasn't she just a kid?" Liu Ji, a retired top sports official, was quoted in the newspaper as saying when he reflected on the decision to be more transparent.

The good news to foreign Olympic journalists is that more Chinese sports officials are thinking like Liu. As for those uncooperative sports stars, they might also catch up after they know more about the give-and-take relationship between them and media.

Source: China Daily

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