Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Cost of Covering the Olympics

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Cost of Covering the Olympics

Article excerpt

A year or so ago, a sports editor for a big-city paper went to Barcelona, Spain, to scout out living arrangements for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games coverage.

Apartment living might be nice, he thought.

"Apartments in Barcelona started at $19,000 a week for a four-bedroom, and you'd need them for three weeks. Add on that $2,000 in a rental agent fee plus a deposit--and you know you're never going to get that back--and you're talking 25 grand!" said the sports editor, who asked not to be identified.

Needless to say, the newspaper's staff will be staying at the Olympic Village.

For more than a year, news organizatioins around the country have been coping with Barcelona sticker shock as they plan Olympic coverage in a year of austerity.

What is worse is that Barcelona follows a Winter Olympics at Albertville, France, that was no cheap date, either.

"Albertville was very expensive," Detroit News sports editor Phillip Laciura said. "We're still going through the expenses now."

Those expenses include a $60 cabfare to take News sportswriter Vartan Kupelian the barely four miles from the hockey venue to the press center.

For Kupelian and colleague Joe Falls, the Albertville meter started running from their very first meal in the village.

The restaurant looked like nothing special, the orders were for steak--and the tab was $60 each.

"We started saying, yikes, at this rate we're going to run out of money," said Kupelian, who added the pair quickly found some much cheaper local dining spots.

Food prices were stiff even at the press center, Chicago Tribune outdoors writer John Husar wrote from Albertville.

"Missed breakfast at the hotel," he wrote in an open memo to his editor. "Had the petit dejeuner at the press center. A glass of water, juice, one croissant, one hunk of French bread, and a cup of coffee. Fifty francs. That's 10 bucks."

Consider that Husar was just one of nine reporters or columnists that the Chicago Tribune sent to Albertville, and a picture begins to emerge of the extent of expenses that a news organization can run up.

For whom the bill tolls

It will be especially easy to run up expenses at the Summer Games, which begin July 25.

Barcelona is generally considered the second-most expensive city in Europe. Reuters sports editor Steve Parry, who is based in London, goes so far as to call it the second-most expensive in the world.

Right from the start, Parry said, Reuters knew that it needed to keep expenses in mind for the Summer Olympiad.

"There was never any real thought given to going anywhere but the Olympic Village," Parry said of Reuters' housing plans.

"As far as hotels in Barcelona go," he added, "'A,' there aren't very many of them. 'B,' they're all booked up, or supposedly all booked up, and 'C,' they cost the earth."

Reuters is one of several big news organizations that said they intend to bring slightly fewer people to this Olympics compared with the 1988 Games in far-cheaper Seoul, Korea.

While 40 journalists covered Seoul, 31 will be assigned to Barcelona, Parry said.

"We're trying to cover the same amount of ground, but do it more economically," he said.

In order to make the most of the smaller team, more reporters will be assigned roving roles. They will be assigned at the last minute to cover events of high drama or interest.

"It's high-risk stuff because you can never be sure that it won't be the [event] where you do not have somebody that will be the place where things are happening," Parry said.

"It's high-risk," he repeated, "but in these financially straitened times, you do what you have to."

Few news organiZations know that as well as United Press International.

"Obviously, given UPI's Chapter 11 [bankruptcy] filing, we are not planning to field a humongous force of reporters," executive editor Steve Geimann said. …

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