Media circus is world's eye on Whistler
By Chris Woodall
More than 150 representatives of the world's newspapers, radio and television media are scrumming Whistler during World Cup week, a concentration of attention that will be putting this premier snow-bound resort before the eyes of millions.
From Liechtenstein and Japan, from Slovenia and the United States, they come to follow the fortunes of their national ski racing heroes down the Dave Murray course Saturday and Sunday.
They'll also be poking about town to tell their readers or listeners back home about Whistler.
Television coverage of Saturday’s downhill will be carried by several networks, including RAI in Italy, Eurosport, RTV Slovenia, Fuji (Japan), Outdoor (USA), TV3 Catalunya (Spain), ORF (Austria), DRS/TSI/TSR (Switzerland), and ARD (Germany). NTV Moscow, TV Norge (Norway), Telemontecarlo (Italy) and RTV Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina) may also carry the broadcast. The American network CBS may carry highlights and is shooting material in preparation for the 1998 Winter Olympics.
The media centre in the Whistler Ski Club cabin is the hub for requests and work space. It may seem like a glamorous business trailing the World Cup circuit, but the ringmaster of Whistler's media relations circus says these guys come here to work.
"For the most part, they are hard working," says Jane MacCarthy. "The media centre is pretty much like a zoo. All they care about is having a space to work or transmit their stories."
Meeting the deadline is everything. "We have a later start time due to when sunlight hits the Dave Murray course," MacCarthy explains. When international time zones are factored in, writing and transmission time is often crunched to not enough time.
The large journalism presence has a lot to do with Whistler's World Cup date coming at the start of the season.
"There's far more anticipation about the ski season at this time of year," MacCarthy says. "Everyone's looking at how new ski team members will perform, or how others have recovered from previous injuries."
Then there are smaller surprises to report: who's using what new piece of equipment or wax job, for example.
If ink is the blood that breathes life into a thrilling World Cup victory story, then the telephone is the artery that'll get that story to the home front.
"We have 25 phones, 10 more than last time, and they'll all be used," says MacCarthy, of the versatility of the phone to communicate voice, fax, computer images and photos.
The media centre also provides bios on all the athletes, helps set up interviews and arranges transport up and down the ski mountain.
Other than a good phone line, media requests for esoteric services are few. "They come pretty self-sufficient," MacCarthy says.
That includes a need for food and drink. It is customary for a media centre to provide some sort of refreshment, but beyond a communal coffee urn and a fruit bowl, it doesn't get too exotic.
"They don't care about frills," MacCarthy says. "For the most part, anybody looking for a big schmooze fest is not among the regular media."
The numbers of journalists and their assorted support staffs does open the eyes about the prominence of World Cup skiing.
"It's huge in Italy and many parts of Europe," explains MacCarthy about why there are so many international media here and why their news outlets will probably publish truckloads of stories, compared to the one main story and a couple "sidebars" published each day in the Vancouver dailies.
And then there are the spin-off stories about our home and native resort community.
"Hopefully, once they get organized at the beginning of World Cup week, they'll have a chance to see the rest of Whistler," says MacCarthy of the World Cup buzz that translate into visits — winter or summer — to Whistler for years to come.
So tell us, Jane: any juicy rumours from the media mill?
"There was one that we didn't have any snow, but we quickly dispelled that," MacCarthy says.