ESPN and Sports Reporters Snub Beijing Olympics of ‘Shame’

For sports reporters, being sent to cover the Olympic Games has always been seen as a privilege, a career highlight, an opportunity to bask in the athletes’ mirrored glory. top of the world while enjoying a few weeks in the sun or on the slopes, at all costs.

Now, not so much. Reporters assigned to next month’s Beijing Winter Olympics are being warned to leave cell phones at home and pack “phones with burners” and “clean” laptops for prevent Chinese spies from getting into their data. They were sent a 36-page guide on how to adapt China’s extremely strict COVID regulations just to enter the country, including a health tracking app and multiple PCR tests. While in the Olympic bubble, they can food served by robot, modulated by a robot, to limit unnecessary human contact. And if after all that, they test positive for the rampant Omicron variant, it’s all in vain; Their Olympics will be over.

It’s no surprise that some editors have decided it’s not worth it and are keeping their staff at home, including ESPN executives, the US sports television giant has announced. on Thursday that the four reporters they are scheduled to send to China will stay home and cover games from the United States.

As a non-copyrighted entity, ESPN will never be able to broadcast any actual sports news from Beijing. The agency’s news reporters would typically travel between locations, strike up conversations with American stars to create off-the-beaten-track stories and shoot videos of stand-up scenes at key locations. As part of their anti-pandemic plan, however, Beijing Olympic organizers are treating all three Olympic clusters — in central Beijing and two mountainous areas outside the capital — as Olympic venues in strict accordance with the law. their meanings, further restricting the activities of those without rights.

ESPN’s executive editor Norby Williamson expressed his frustration at those restrictions in a statement confirming insurance plans. “With the pandemic continuing to be a global threat and with COVID-related restrictions in place in place for the Olympics that will make coverage very challenging, we feel that Letting people stay at home was the best decision for us,” he said.

But even NBCUniversal, which has paid billions of dollars for the rights to broadcast consecutive Olympics, is cutting its team in China. Its anchors and announcements will cover the Games from the NBC sports center in Stamford, Connecticut. They will follow the example of the BBC, which successfully covered last year’s Summer Olympics from a Studio “green screen” in the Manchester suburbs is designed to fool viewers into thinking they are watching a live feed from downtown Tokyo.

With the United States leading the “diplomatic boycott” of the Beijing Games — meaning Western political leaders secretly held the opening and closing ceremonies at the Bird’s Nest stadium — NBC was riled up. by suggestions from human rights groups that its coverage could legitimize China’s repression of ethnic Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region. Molly Solomon, NBC’s Olympic producer, told reporters this week that athletes will “remain central to our coverage” but the “geopolitical context” will not be overlooked.

That political pressure will remain, at least until America’s skiers, figure skaters, snowboarders and hockey stars start showing off their medals. surname. A bipartisan group led by Representative Tom Malinowski, a Democrat of New Jersey, on Friday called on the International Olympic Committee to explicitly guarantee freedom of expression for athletes in North America. Jing after a Chinese official warned that opponents who speak out against human rights abuses could be sent home.

Some journalists were not even allowed to go. Canadian reporter Devin Heroux tested positive for coronavirus late last year and has been told he is currently unable to cover the event. “Unfortunately, my plan to cover the Olympics from Beijing has been derailed,” CBC reporter wrote.

Reporters will admit that they will not be allowed to report freely. “It is naive to think that the pandemic did not hit China right away,” said Christine Brennan, a USA Today Categories Talk to Washington Post. “They want to control us anyway. This just gives them another reason. China will be China”.

Owen Slot, main sports writer at Time of london, describe his shock When he and other reporters assigned to the Beijing Games were invited to a security briefing at the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper in December: “Don’t use your phone there, we were told. Get a recorded phone. Get a clean laptop.” And even then, if you phone home, your friendly hosts can get straight into your wife’s data. “

Luckily, Slot wrote earlier this month, he already has a recorded phone at home so he can call home to his family. “However, we are just scratching the surface here. How did we get to the point where we gave storage permission to a country where you can’t use your phone? ”

He added: “The truth is that we are entering the most terrifying year yet for our global sports parties. We start 2022 with the Olympics in Beijing and end with the World Cup in Qatar. That’s a double shame. We will hold our noses, award medals, and leave us with empty excuses of disapproval.”

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