In Focus | Olympics London 2012

Everybody needs a Voice

Britain’s biggest black newspaper gets accreditation after mayor’s intervention

  • By Robin Chatterjee Senior Associate Editor
  • Published: 15:24 July 27, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: AP
  • AP Leadin The last Olympic Torchbearer Tyler Rix, left, and London Mayor Boris Johnson celebrate together on stage at the Olympic Torch Relay Concert in Hyde Park, ahead of the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 26, 2012, in London. The opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics will be held Friday, July 27. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

London: Everybody needs to be heard when it comes to wanting something that they feel they deserve, and by that token ‘the Voice’ won a major victory after being granted press accreditation for the Olympics by the British Olympic Association (BOA).

What is so special about the Voice? Well, it is Britain’s biggest black newspaper and, after having its application for accreditation snubbed by the BOA, it managed to create enough of a stir in local circles. It forced London Mayor Boris Johnson to intervene and persuade the BOA into granting it the right to cover the 2012 Olympics. Over a 1,000 people signed a petition to protest against the decision.

Makes sense, given that the Voice boasts a pretty good clientele — all the black athletes in the world, irrespective of where they come from, who resonate with Britain’s diverse population.

The BOA initially tried to placate the paper’s sports editor Rodney Hinds (not even closely related to Rodney King) with a few football tickets, but he returned them saying ‘get real’, that they they can be bought, and athletes, not footballers, make more waves in the Olympics.

The publication’s cause was later taken up by the BBC, the radio station TalkSport and other newspapers in the country. Suffice to say that the BOA was caught on the wrong foot and got off their high horse.

There is a lesson here to be learnt by Olympic Associations all over the world who do not take accreditation requests from their local media seriously enough.

Many officials are not even aware of the criteria that merit accreditation, are not willing to ask the IOC, or host organising committees into giving them more forms. The forms that they have go to officials who go along for the ride, instead of deserving media who actually bring more attention to the exploits of athletes. This process is not new; the history of the Olympic Games is littered with such controversies.

Some officials don’t even take phone calls from journalists to update them on the status of their request. In one curious case, a senior editor from a newspaper stated that he spoke to the head of his particular Olympic Association just three times in eight months, such was the level, or lack of proactivity.

To make matters worse, employees at a few Olympic associations were unwilling to comment on the application’s progress, claiming that they were not authorised to make any comment or, even worse, had no idea where things stood. They, however, never failed to ask that an email be sent or, perhaps a fax as well.

Accreditation was assured, as always, but as the days leading up to the Olympics got closer, the signs became more and more depressing.

The point I am trying to make is it’s not just the Voice that needs to be heard.

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