Olympic Truce event

We both meet at the ZPC at 12.15pm awaiting information about the Olympic Truce press conference. There is nothing available yet, so we check emails, etc. At 12.40pm, Cathy Freeman turns up with her Samsung-sponsor entourage. We spend some time watching the media frenzy and get a sense for why she is there. We are given the opportunity to interview her, but declined. Nevertheless, her associates seem to know which media is worth giving specific time to; we are asked just because we have already begun to make friends there. Stelios Korkidis, Greece Press Counsellor in Beijing and previously Sydney, spends a bit of time talking to us and at 2pm we leave the ZPC just in time to catch the cyclists whiz by for the road race. We then try to find one of the Cultural Olympiad exhibitions, but find it difficult to locate the venue, despite asking advice from the local police. Actually, we get the impression that a lot of the police on the streets have been brought in from elsewhere.

At around 315pm we arrive back in the ZPC for the Olympic Truce conference, due to take place at 4pm. What we were led to believe would be a low-profile meeting turns into the highest profile meeting of the entire schedule for the ZPC. It is not completely chaotic, but certainly no media were getting into the official meeting. All press were lined up ready to take photographs of guests, but only the select few – mainly international news wire reps such as Associated Press – were allowed into the meeting room, where Jacque Rogge would introduce the Truce. We arrived and managed to squeeze to the front of the press line, increasingly frustrated at what was happening. Truce is one of our major interests and we thought we had planned for this event. But, here we were being squeezed out of the main meeting. Admittedly, we had no entitlement to be there, as we learned once the guests started arriving.

Among the VIPs were Tony Blair and Cherie Booth, Juan Antonio Samaranch, Prince Albert of Monacco, Queen Sofia of Spain and many, many more. So here we were, missing the entire event, only to see people arrive and walk into the adjoining room. We just weren’t having this. We quickly needed a plan B! Andy protested at our exclusion to one of the ZPC staff, who clearly did not have any influence. So, he tried someone else who seemed a little more central to the proceedings. This woman, as it turns out, was coordinating the event. He quickly explained that we are university ‘professors’ and that this was central to our research and, by the way, could we get in. Andy also tried to play the ‘we met Cherie Booth yesterday and arranged to see her here’ card, which seemed to work reasonably effectively, though her PA was clearly not overwhelmed. Could it be for the fact that he was in beach wear and looking not much like a professor? What can we say? We did not expect this to be anything like the event it turned out to be. Anyway, perhaps it was because this woman was from the UK, but, she let us in and we were able to get a reasonable position on the speeches. At the close of the meeting, one of the initiatives was the Truce wall, where guests were asked to sign their support for the initiative. Beatriz nearly rugby tackled Tony Blair on the way out, but everything went fine enough.

Afterwards, we had a chance to speak with Stelios and also foreign press counsellors Stavros Stathulopulos (Germany) and Nikos Papaconstantinou (London and Egypt). We have some renewed kudos from having been two of the few to make it into the meeting. Hehe. It is a very fruitful conversation, about the ZPC, how it emerged, who was pushing for it and what were its expectations.

After the main guests had left, everything calmed down considerably and it was back to the real work. We sent a couple of emails to inquire about access to the International Broadcast Centre and the Main Press Centre, and Monday seemed possible. Then we took a walk to the Acropolis and Monistiraki, where we had a drink. The restaurant where we ate that night had an ‘Olympic’ theme – a 5 course meal, each course representing one of the rings and the food even corresponded to the colour of each ring. ZPC again at the end of the day and home by 1am.