4 July 2017
This time last year I was unexpectedly preparing to go to Rio de Janeiro to work on the Olympic and Paralympic Games – a trip to South America that came about because of a chance meeting.
It was all a bit of a surprise as I had not been awarded accreditation when applying as a freelance journalist despite years of experience covering international swimming, athletics and cycling for some of the most respected outlets in the world.
That had been double edged really: I was sorry not to be there, to absorb it all and to see the very best at their very best.
But I also knew that I would have had to work myself to the bone and more likely than not forego any notion of comfort in order to cover costs of flight, accommodation and food just to break even.
First-world problems I know and I convinced myself that I didn’t mind the fact I wouldn’t be in Rio, that I wouldn’t be in amongst it and would miss witnessing athletes I had got to know over the years competing at the pinnacle of their careers and history being made.
I even told myself it would be preferable – I could put my feet up and watch it on television, cup of coffee in hand, hopping from sport to sport.
Even the fact there was a four-hour time difference which meant I would be staying up until the wee small hours was just fine I insisted.
I tried to bat away the fact I had missed out on covering the 2008 Olympics in Beijing after a less than level playing field.
But that all changed in May 2016 when I was covering the European Swimming Championships in London.
There I unexpectedly bumped into a former colleague Ian, someone who rarely reports on swimming and who I had not seen for many years, and I repeated my “I’m not going to Rio but it’s fine because……” mantra.
I felt a shudder as he told me he would indeed be in Brazil working for the press operation run by the local organising committee.
Known as the Olympic News Service, there are reporters at each venue producing copy and talking to athletes after they have competed collating what are called flash quotes.
These reports and quotes are then submitted to a central editorial team who edit them and they appear on a centralised system that all accredited journalists can access along with stats and results.
Ian suggested I contact the editor in chief despite the Games being little more than two months hence.
I did so and to my surprise I quickly got a reply and within a couple of weeks I had been offered a role on the editing team on both the Olympics and Paralympics, a 10-week stint in one of the world’s iconic cities.
But this blog is not about the Games themselves, it is not about Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps or the glorious GB hockey team that managed to delay News At Ten – women’s sport dominating the TV, who’d have thunk it?
It is not about visiting Copacabana or Christ the Redeemer or Sugarloaf. Or samba and caipirinhas.
There was all of that but it is about taking opportunities and about persistence and hard work creating those opportunities.
I felt anger and disappointment at missing out in 2008 – and especially the manner of it – and that all my years of hard work had brought me absolutely nothing.
But I realise now it brought me to a crossroads – I could either work just to pay my mortgage or I could drive on to be the best I could be and to see where that would take me.
And I chose the latter.
Rio was a different experience: rather than being in the midst of it as a reporter, I was editing but I absorbed it all, I learned and applied myself. If you have a job, do a good job or why bother?
And I must have done something right because they have asked me to work on the Winter Olympics in February 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
If I hadn’t have chosen to throw myself into things after 2008 I don’t know what I would be doing now but I certainly wouldn’t be travelling to far-flung places, meeting great people and reporting at the biggest sports events.
I do know that I am privileged but I feel I have earned that and I have had to take on board some harsh lessons along the way.
But what it has really taught me is to grab those opportunities, work hard and create more opportunities for the future because who knows where I’ll end up?
Article by KYF Associate, Liz Brynes.