Luke Graham: Upstaged by the prime minister
February 9, 2014
Sochi, Russia — The interviewing process at the Olympics is always challenging.
It's interesting, it's tight spaced, and often, it's downright frustrating.
Here's generally how it works.
There are red fences that wind back and forth through the media section, essentially like a livestock corral.
When athletes finish their events, they go to the start of this corral, which is reserved for television and exclusive rights holders. Each area has a little tag on it with the corresponding country.
Once athletes make it through that, they stop and talk with news organizations that get information to everybody else. There is usually an Olympics reporter who immediately will file quotes for anyone to use. There are also organizations like The Associated Press and Reuters that get stories and information on the wire for papers across the world to use.
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Finally, athletes get to the "mixed media zone," where sweaty reporters are bunched together. It's a jam-packed area with little to no room for movement.
Usually, by the time an athlete finishes and makes it to the mixed media zone, it takes anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes. Sometimes more.
Once they've hit the mixed media zone, they've answered the same question at least five times.
You have to shout questions and hold your recorder in the air, around people, over people, through people or then move down the fence farther and hope the athlete will stop again and answer the same questions for the sixth time.
On Saturday, the crowd was gathered around women's gold medal moguls skier Justine Dufour-Lapointe. She talked for about five minutes — I was in the center with exactly zero room between the poor girl in front of me and the overzealous Australian behind me — when I was finally able to ask a question.
But before she could answer, a press person from Canada came up and pulled Dufour-Lapointe away.
At first, I was upset.
Then the press person said, "I'm sorry, but the prime minister wants to talk to Justine."
And with that, she was off into the night.
I suppose being upstaged by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn't the worst thing.
However, I had the last laugh. Later that night, when scouring stories (I always do it to see how mine stack up), I came across this nugget.
Dufour-Lapointe immediately left the press area to go to the press conference (this is a whole other bag of fun).
During the press conference, her phone rang. It was the prime minister. Apparently, she hit decline because she was in the press conference.
It's a sick world we live in when neither I nor the prime minister can chat with gold medalists.