Posted: Feb 17, 2010 4:13 PM by Mike Moran
Mike Moran was the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee through thirteen Games, 1980-2002. The Omaha,Nebraska native was the Sports Information Director at the University of Colorado for a decade before joining the USOC in 1978 as it left New York City for Colorado Springs. He was the Senior Communications Counselor for NYC2012, New York City's Olympic bid group from 2003-2005 and is now a media consultant. Contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here we go into the always predictable Bermuda Triangle Of Olympic media coverage............it usually starts about this time, maybe a bit later, but here it is again...........we're about six days in, and there's a modest segment of the 5,500 journalists, bloggers, web pundits and TV personalities doubling as writers on the side who are carving up the Games' organizers about the glitches and moguls that they are encountering...........I've read the small cadre of the usual rippers, laptop narcissists and enjoyable humorists this week as they battle Olympic boredom and lack of the usual amenities with their coverage, and yet, I've seen this script a whole lot over 14 Games in my career in person..........It's not necessary here to recap the problems, we have read and heard about it daily across scores of forums, but they are the same issues that plague every Olympic Games I have been part of.......weather, transportation, bad ice, timing, equipment malfunctions, even an Olympic cauldron surrounded by a chain-link fence that keeps the public away, but nothing in my career could ever compare with beginning the Games with the unspeakable tragedy, the death of an athlete..........I don't know how you recover from that if you are the organizers or the IOC, no matter the statements, the moments of tribute, nor the genuine, heartfelt display of sorrow.............British journalists, ever ready to pounce on misfortune, have suggested that these Games are "the worst ever,"...............one moaned "It is hard to believe that anything will surpass the organizational chaos and naked commercial greed of the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta or the financial disaster of the 1976 Games, which bankrupted Montreal, yet with every passing day the sense of drift and nervousness about the Vancouver Games grows ever more noticeable.".............Organizing committee spokeswoman Renee Smith-Valade, who probably would like to take a mulligan on one statement made to the media yesterday, told the assembled scribes that "It's a little bit like lost luggage, it's not whether or not your luggage gets lost, it's how you deal with it."...........for the sake of full disclosure, I was no stranger to making awkward statements as U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman at 13 Games, including one in Nagano following the departure of our NHL hockey players after trashing their rooms, throwing furniture over the balcony railing and burning some clothing.........trapped in a hallway outside my office, I was asked if the incident was "embarrassing" to the UOSC..........always quick to respond by nature, I said, "Of course it's not embarrassing to the USOC, we're not babysitters here for American professional athletes."..................not so good.........it turned into a savage sound bite and quote, and I caught hell for that for a week......after all, these athletes had not only embarrassed the USOC, but a nation.............The IOC has had its share of issues already, with its demand that our men's ice hockey goaltender Ryan Miller remove a sticker on the back of helmet that read "Miller Time," since it could be viewed as a popular slogan for an American beer, not a reference to his own last name..........then, backup goalie Jonathan Quick was forced to remove his helmet sticker that read "Support Our Troops," which as you might imagine, is a hot button on numerous cable news shows and radio talk shows today...........In Salt Lake City in 2002, we came up with an idea, along with our athletes, to honor the memory of those who died in the horrific tragedy in New York on 9/11 by having our delegation carry in the tattered World Trade Center flag during the parade of nations in the Opening Ceremony.........we even flew in two of the New York Port Authority policemen and a firefighter with the revered flag and a role in the event..........when the IOC learned of our plan, they informed us that we could not, under any circumstance, carry out the plan, because it was a "political statement" forbidden by IOC rules.........this made its way quickly into the vortex of the New York radio talk shows and tabloid world, and within hours at a midnight meeting with our leaders, the IOC reversed itself and invited us to indeed bring in the flag as part of the march of nations.......the IOC had misjudged the emotions of a nation, and when that flag made its way to the base of the poles that would carry the flags of the IOC, the host United States, and one other, where President Bush, the IOC President and Games chief Mitt Romney stood and waited, it was one of the most emotional and inspiring moments in our history............but back to my original point, there is always a point in the Games where there is a lull in the action at the venues, where some small segment of the media turns its gaze to the glitches and problems, and for awhile, it dominates the reporting and the mood of coverage on a worldwide basis..........such is the case now. This happened in my first Games in 1980 at Lake Placid early in the event, when transportation was an issue (some 5,000 fans were stranded atop Whiteface Mountain one late afternoon when busses failed to show up on time and the temperatures dropping).........for almost a week, Lake Placid press chief Ed Lewi and his wife drove reporters back and forth to venues in their own cars when media transportation fizzled..........and all this after a lack of snow right before the Games resulted in the first use of artificial snow in Games history........and you know what? These issues were soon forgotten in the wake of the U.S. ice hockey team's improbable Miracle On Ice and Eric Heiden's stunning triumphs in all five men's speed skating events..........the truth in Vancouver is that these Games can be magnificent.........the genuine warmth and generosity of the citizens of Canada and the thousands of volunteers is compelling, the city is a gorgeous marvel of seafront and mountains, the athlete performances are riveting, NBC's ratings are superb, the athletes love the Olympic Village and there is a very comfortable security presence and a lot of just plain courtesy..........it is impossible to stage an event of the magnitude of the Olympic Games in any city on earth without glitches......there is no other event of this size and scope, and its dependence on volunteers, luck and the ability to patch and mend when it's needed.........all this over 17 long days and nights, with the scrutiny of the world on your shoulders and national pride at stake...........in the end, as it will be in Vancouver, it's all about the athletes of the world and their triumphs and small setbacks as they chase their dreams...........I would bet the focus in tomorrow's newspapers, tonight's television coverage, and most of the columns and blogs just might have to do with today's brilliant and inspirational Gold and Silver medal finish by Americans Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso in the women's downhill at Whistler Creekside on the mountain........and a nation's pride in the best of its youth.