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The five-ring circus: Lost in translation

Depending on the venue you happen to be at, there are two ways the post-race press conferences can go. At some events, including the men’s and women’s road races, the press conference room is outfitted with hearing devices that allow members of the media to hear translation of what the athletes are saying in Greek and French, while up on the podium is a translator taking care of English-language needs. It’s a reasonably smooth process that keeps things moving along at a decent clip. On the other hand, you have the venues that are not outfitted with hearing devices, like the velodrome.

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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor

Depending on the venue you happen to be at, there are two ways the post-race press conferences can go. At some events, including the men’s and women’s road races, the press conference room is outfitted with hearing devices that allow members of the media to hear translation of what the athletes are saying in Greek and French, while up on the podium is a translator taking care of English-language needs. It’s a reasonably smooth process that keeps things moving along at a decent clip.

On the other hand, you have the venues that are not outfitted with hearing devices, like the velodrome. Instead the Greek and French translators join the English speaker up on the podium, which makes for tedious and sometimes useless question-and-answer sessions. See the problem is that there is only a small window of time for these press conferences, because the athletes have to make sure and get to anti-doping on time. But when you have to wait for each question and answer to be translated into two and sometimes three languages, you’re lucky if each of the medals winners speaks once.

After the first day of racing at the track, a request was made to have the process changed, so that each medal winner was brought in one at a time, allowing journalists who were targeting a specific athlete more time to get what they needed. But the Greek organizers aren’t real keen on change, and the request was denied.

The whole deal with athlete access is a real eye-opener for first time Olympic reporters like myself. I’d gotten pretty used to your average NORBA race, where you could grab Alison Dunlap, find a spot in the shade under a tree, and ask all the questions you want. Here it’s borderline hand-to-hand combat, as the media push and shove to get a good position along the mixed zone fence, hoping to get in a question or two when the athletes pass by. I’ve seen one fight, and lots of shouting.

No other real great adventures to report from the last couple days. Between the daily track sessions and the mind-numbing commute into the main Olympic complex each morning, there hasn’t been a ton of mess-around time.