Saturday, August 15, 2015

Buzz from Beijing

This Just In:
Dreams Do Come True
Our Cub Reporter Gets a Press Pass

Main Accreditation Center, 15th IAAF World Track and Field Championships, Beijing

There’s something about the last Friday in May.

This year, Friday, May 29, was 40 years ago to the day since I had brought my camera to a track meet at the University of Oregon, one of only two times I brought it in my first 5 years of meets at Hayward Field.

As Steve Prefontaine and Frank Shorter warmed down after the 5,000m, I took a snapshot of the two of them, likely around 8:30pm. It may well be the last photo ever taken of Prefontaine in a competitive setting. Four hours later, Pre died in a car accident.

In this, my second year of writing trackerati, I decided it was time to start applying for press passes. To test the waters, yes, but much more for the access a pass gives you to the athletes. I was eager to fill out my stories with their voices more clearly heard.

I was delighted with positive responses from the Prefontaine Classic (IAAF) and US Nationals (USATF); the Pre Classic media people wrote back to say, “Who are you? What are you doing?”

I tried for the Olympics and World Championships as well; the Olympics application lasted about two weeks.

From Beijing, in spite of the fact that they had adhered rigorously to their application timetable at first, the LOC (Local Organizing Committee) of this year’s World Championships fell oddly silent. Their notification deadline blew by, and hope of this dream coming true anytime soon slipped away.

I don’t usually check my email right before I go to work, but with a flight to Eugene and its fabled “Distance Night” scheduled for late in the afternoon of May 29, I thought I’d better look.

A message from Beijing.

In the sort of chatty tone that suggested we were picking up a recent conversation, they said 'we need just two more documents from you. Once we receive them we’ll issue you a writer’s credential for the World Championships.'


Then a follow up message to clarify that this is for writing only, and if I’d like to take pictures, even if only in the mixed zone (interview area), they’d have to send my application back and it would trigger new rounds of review for a different kind of credential.

Conversation with myself: dude, you are hours away from having a press pass to Worlds. You could mess up the entire thing by reaching for too much. How would it feel to be on press row at the Pre Classic tonight with a World’s media credential in hand?

Came the email from Beijing: ACCEPTED.

So when it came time to retrieve the Worlds pass itself, I found myself in Beijing this past Wednesday on a sweltering, heavily polluted day. The only description I can give to the air that day is apocalyptic.

My first attempt at getting to the Accreditation Center at the foot of Ling Long Pagoda in Beijing’s Olympic Park ended when I found myself – at the end of a very long walk – fenced in by what I later deduced was the protective fence for the marathon and race walk events.

Try getting into those without authorization.

My retreat brought me back to my hotel, a cooling off period, and more careful scrutiny out the window of my route.

By the time I got to the pagoda half an hour later, I was beet red in the face and drenched in sweat. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop the sweating. A young woman showed up and asked if I’d like water and I declined; she brought it anyway.

My photo on the media credential shows the glistening, shows the redness, and indicates the insufferable heat and humidity of that day. But it shows something else.

I’m beaming.

*   *   *

Unexpected epilogue:

Yesterday, Track and Field News invited me to join their events news writing team for the World Championships. My assignments will come next week and I’ll post them here.

Two years, one week, 6 days since I started writing again.

Now I know how long it takes for a dream to come true.

*   *   *

Interestingly, two related pieces, “A Ride for Robert” and “Teardrop of Sunlight” have been my two  most widely read pieces of the first two years of trackerati. They are, respectively, the longest and shortest pieces I’ve posted. “A Ride for Robert” starts and finishes when? On the last Fridays of May in 2012 and ‘13.

I’d like to send out special thanks to Sieg Lindstrom, Managing Editor of Track and Field News; Amanda Brooks, USATF Marketing and Communications Manager; Curtis Anderson, Director of Communications for TrackTown USA; and Kim Spir, Editor of the TAFWA (Track and Field Writers of America) newsletter.

It was Sieg who saw something he liked in the summer of 2013 and starting linking to my work on the Track and Field News website. It was Curtis who vouched for me for the first press passes, including this year. It was Amanda who made it possible for me to initiate the Beijing application process by issuing an accreditation access code to trackerati. Without an accreditation code from Amanda, in this business you are toast (or, as my laptop autocorrected so wisely here in China, Taoist). And it was Kim who introduced me to my colleagues in the US by including several of my pieces in the TAFWA newsletter.

Without the four of you, I am not sitting in a hotel in Beijing writing this post.

To you and to everyone who has read a single article on this website the last two years, thank you.

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