The Olympic Games are not just a highlight for women athletes. The scramble for accreditation is usually great even among media professionals. But this time it’s different. Because of the pandemic, there is a strict rule book for journalists on site.
“No, I’m definitely not driving,” says Petz Lahure when asked whether he will be reporting from Tokyo this summer. The veteran sports journalist from Luxembourg, who reports for the “Luxemburger Tageblatt” among others, has been to a dozen Olympic Games in his career. He had also firmly planned those in Tokyo this summer.
But under the current conditions, the journey is not worth it, he says: “I have been vaccinated twice, but the Japanese do not take that into account. In addition, for the first 14 days you can only stay in the hotel, the media buses and the competition venues and the so-called restaurants prescribed by the organizer. Public transport is prohibited for media professionals during the first two weeks of their stay. Wandering around the city and gaining impressions as it should be for a reporter, none of that is allowed. A journalist traveling to the Japanese capital for the Games is more busy keeping records of himself than writing reports.
Tokyo Organizing Committee’s Playbook
Usually, an Olympic accreditation is the most important door opener for on-site reporting. It gives you access to the venues, the mixed zones, press conferences and the Olympic village where the athletes live.
But the pandemic will cut those privileges. With the declared aim of containing infection, the Tokyo Organizing Committee has published a rule book called a “Playbook”. And since the second version came out in May, one thing has been certain: there are hard bandages for local media professionals.
As Petz Lahure mentions, an accredited person is only allowed to use pre-made routes during the first 14 days. You also need to announce in advance how you will use these routes. Even who you meet during this period should be stated.
So anyone who wants to do investigative research on topics that also affect the organizers will have a particularly difficult time this time. Because the organizing committee claims to know about every step outside of the hotel room.
Rules are a problem, especially for smaller media
That’s why Jirka Grahl decided not to travel to Tokyo. Grahl heads the sports department for the daily newspaper “Neues Deutschland” and says: “We made the decision a few days ago that we will not be occupying the Olympic Games this time. It has to do with what’s in the organizing committee’s playbook. Our reporter usually drives to the Olympic Games and of course also reports on the situation in the country, on social things that are going on around the Olympics. There is displacement, gentrification, environmental influences … “
It is true that the bubble with its prefabricated routes that only lead via the official Olympic sites does not apply all the time. Use of public transport is permitted after 14 days; a daily activity plan then no longer has to be stored. But you still have to be approachable to the organizers.
And anyway: there are only 17 days from the Olympic opening to the closing ceremony. So if you can’t afford to arrive two weeks in advance, the easing will only be of use for a few days at the end.
Smaller media in particular suffer from this, says Jirka Grahl: “We are a small newspaper and we have to make smart decisions with our budgets. We have freelancers who will report for us from there, and we try to ensure good coverage in our newspaper. “
15 percent of the accreditations for German media returned
Figures show that many media have made this decision. In response to a request from the German Olympic Sports Confederation, which handles the press accreditations for Germany, it says: “While all the accreditations were generally used at previous games and returned accreditations could be filled directly from the waiting list, the Olympic Games in Tokyo have been known since they were announced of the first playbook 35 accreditations returned. “
With 230 accreditations for German media, that’s 15 percent. Depending on the method of counting, there is likely to be significantly more backtracking. The Luxemburgish Petz Lahure does not want to travel to Tokyo, but wants to stick to his accreditation. In this way he retains access to the intranet, a platform on which, among other things, all press conferences are broadcast. So he can at least do the most basic of his work from home.
However, spontaneous interviews, as is common in sports journalism, will hardly be possible in Tokyo. And so the media cheer, which often emanates from the media industry during the games, will probably be thinner this time.