A writer covering Olympics finds tough sledding
Lake Placid, N.Y. — For a reporter, covering Super Bowls and World Series baseball games is one thing, reporting on the Winter Olympics quite another. The expression "never a dull moment" takes on new meaning after about a week here. The press conferences, press releases, events, interviews, and general hustle-bustle are seemingly unending.
Even during the World Series there's a chance to catch your breath between games. The Olympics, on the other hand, are a 13-day multiple-choice question. What to cover? -- (a) a men's speed skating race, (b) a women's cross-country event, (c) the bobsled competition, or (d) the Alpine skiing out at Whiteface Mountain. All seem to be saying, "Watch me," yet "all of the above" is not an option. That the Olympic venues are as much as 20 miles apart makes it impossible.
The biggest initial shock, though, is not the whirlwind nature of the proceedings, but the accommodations. Having gone the Hyatt Regency route on more than one occasion at a big event, I found that rolling up to my "home away from home" here was a new experience.
The lodge, one of several out-of-town locations in which reporters from around the country are being housed, is some 12 miles from Lake Placid. There are no glass elevators, and what few rooms there are snuggle up to either side of a nearly deserted restaurant that carries a sign proclaiming "Fishin' spoken here."
At night there's not a lot of the lobby loitering that one finds at the hotel headquarters of Super Bowls, etc., because there is no lobby. No menus, either. Ordering a meal begins with "What ya got tonight?"
Given time, it's possible to adjust to the backwoods simplicity of this place you call home for 2 1/2 very long weeks.
Learning to live in such semi-isolation, however, is much harder, particularly when the bus system devised to transport the press around was nonexistent for one whole week.
For the most part, reporters were thrown in with spectators, vying for the few vehicles that seemed to be running.
The Italian journalists became so incensed that they drew up a letter of protest to the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee, then chartered their own bus in an expensive show of defiance.
The transportation system did get better by the beginning of the second week, though it was still far from ideal.
The logistical problems have been such a source of controversy that the organizing committee has felt compelled to give nightly press conferences to clear the air. Petr Spurney, the committee's high-salaried manager, was placed on the hot seat during one recent grilling. Also on the firing line was a New York Telephone representative, who reported that the average time required to get a dial tone in the area had been reduced from 8.8 to 2.25 seconds.
During the latter moments of one meet- the-press installment, Jim Lampley of ABC- TV, launched into an on-the-scene report from the back of the room. As it turned out, his disruptive presence there became a flint for further sparks.
Those covering the games spend the greater part of each day in Lake Placid High School, which has been converted into an Olympic Press Center for the duration.
To gain entry, reporters must flash official-looking credentials which they wear slung around their necks. Name, rank, and serial number are carried on the front side, along with a mug shot that does no one justice. On the back, in both French and English (the official Olympic languages), is a warning that the card will be confiscated if misused.
Housed in the various classrooms is an array of worldwide press agencies, darkrooms, and administrative offices. In addition, there are a bank, post office, telephone center, snack bar, and cafeteria. The real focal point, however, is the gymnasium, where long rows of typewriters stretch from one basketball goal to another.
The typewriters are generally sorted into language areas. When umlauts or Swedish characters begin to dot your copy, you know you're working with an infiltrator.
The production of glowing prose requires an Olympian effort of its own. Concentration is not easily achieved amid the din created by typewriter clatter, correspondents' repartee, and countless announcements. "Attention please, attention please, a bus is leaving for the Olympic Village in 5 minutes," a public- address system will blare out, only to repeat the message several more times.
To a degree, it's possible to find out what's going on while never leaving the press workroom. All around the gym sit rows of colored TVs, which air whatever action exists at each venue simultaneously. There is no sound, however , and a picture in this case is not always worth the proverbial thousand words.
Fortunately a four-sided structure at the center jump circle holds reams of result sheets. Care must be taken to keep all these sheets straight, because besides official results, there are also copies made of practice results, starting orders, and unofficial results.
Mailboxes are another source of information. The boxes, assigned each reporter, are continuously being stuffed with schedules, media guides, junk mail , and even tickets. A limited number of press seats at certain events (mostly the indoor ones) necessitates a distribution of tickets in this way. If there aren't enough tickets to go around, well, it's back to the workroom for a seat in front of one of those silent TVs.
Some reporters have weathered the storms of confusion better than others. One, whose patience has reached an end, carries his return plane ticket with him at all times in the event he finds a ride to the airport.
There's something to be said for watching a $67 figure skating session at no charge. For many writers, though, a chance to head for sunny Florida and baseball spring training begins to look better all the time. Olympic results Men's Downhill Skiing
1. Leonhard Stock (Austria)
2. Peter Wirnsberger (Austria)
3. Steve Podborski (Canada) Women's 1,500 Meter Speed Skating
1. Annie Borckink (Holland)
2. Ria Visser (Holland)
3. Sabina Becker (E. Germany) Men's 30 Kilometer Cross-Country
1. Nikolai Zimyatov (USSR)
2. Vasili Rochev (USSR)
3. Ivan Lebanov (Bulgaria) Men's 500 Meter Speed Skating
1. Eric Heiden (USA)
2. Yevgeny Kullkov (USSR)
3. Lieuwe DeDoer (Netherlands) Women's 500 Meter Speed Skating
1. Karin Enke (E. Germany)
2. Leah Poulos-Mueller (USA)
3. Natalia Petruseva (USSR) Women's 5 Kilometer Cross-Country
1. Raisa Smetanina (USSR)
2. Hilkka Riihivuori (Finland)
3. Keveta Jeriova (Czechoslovakia) Men's 5,000 Meter Speed Skating
1. Eric Heiden (USA)
2. Kai Stenshjemmet (Norway)
3. Tom Oxholm (Norway) Two-man Bobsled
2. E. Germany II
3. E. Germany I Biathon: 20 Kilometer Individual
1. Anatoly Alabyev (USSR)
2. Frank Ullrich (E. Germany)
3. Eberhard Rosch (E. Germany) Men's Luge
1. Bernhard Glass (E. Germany)
2. Paul Hildgartner (Italy)
3. Anton Winkler (W. Germany) Women's Luge
1. Vera Zolzuya (USSR)
2. Melitta Sollmann (E. Germany)
3. Ilngrida Amantora (USSR) 70 Meter Ski Jump
1. Toni Innauer (Austria)
2. Hirokazu Yagi (Japan)
3. Manfred Deckert (E. Germany) Women's Downhill Skiing
1. Annemarie Moser-Proeli (Austria)
2. Hanni Wenzel (Liechtenstein)
1. Marie-Theres Nadig (Switzerland) Women's 1,000 Meter Speed Skating
1. Natalia Petruseva (USSR)
2. Leah Poulos Mueller (USA)
3. Silvia Albrecht (E. Germany) Pairs Figure Skating
1. Irina Rodnina-Alexandr Zaitsev (USSR)
2. Marina Cheresekova-Sergei Shakrai (USSR)
3. Manuela Mager-Uwe Bewersdorff (E. Germany) Men's 15 Kilometer Cross-Country
1. Thomas Wassberg (Sweden)
2. Juha Mieto (Finland)
3. Ove Aunli (Norway) Women's 10 Kilometer Cross-Country
1. Barbara Petzold (E. Germany)
2. Hilkka Riihivuori (Finland)
3. Helena Takalo (Finland)
Medal Standings (Through events of Monday, Feb. 18) G S B Tot. Soviet Union 6 3 2 11 East Germany 3 4 5 12 Austria 3 1 0 4 United States 2 2 0 4 Netherlands 1 1 1 3 Switzerland 1 0 1 2 Sweden 1 0 0 1 Finland 0 3 1 4 Norway 0 1 2 3 Italy 0 1 0 1 Japan 0 1 0 1 Liechtenstein 0 1 0 1 Bulgaria 0 0 1 1 Canada 0 0 1 1 Czechoslovakia 0 0 1 1 West Germany 0 0 1 1