SEOUL, South Korea, 5:35 p.m. -- I've mentioned at previous Olympics that the concept "no cheering in the press box" is distinctly American, or perhaps North American. As I was reminded repeatedly in Beijing, journalists (or perhaps that's "journalists") from other countries have no reservations about wearing the same clothing as their Olympic teams (a standard trait in Russia and other Eastern European countries in particular) or cheering openly for their teams and athletes. (During the gold-medal game in men's water polo, most of the Hungarian media stood and applauded their team's introductions, and celebrated boisterously with each of Hungary's 14 goals.)
I've often wondered what kind of reporting that produces. On my flight here from Beijing, I may have gotten an answer.
I'm flying Korean Air, and one of the short features shown on the plane's video system was a Korean news program of Olympic highlights. Thankfully, it included English captioning, so I got a sense of the standard of journalism
During the first of three reports on the Korean baseball team's gold medal, a report on the final game with Cuba, this was part of the narration: "Tensions rose in the second half of the ninth inning, the Korean catcher was ordered off the field after the umpire unfairly called four balls." Korea's 3-2 win was described as one that "will be a legend for generations."
Later, a report on the women's handball team, which won the bronze medal, it was reported that "due to unfair referee's decisions, the team had to participate in three preliminary games." Later, the same report said that "due to unfair one-sided decisions by the referees, the athletes could not maximize their performance."
Objectivity is a wonderful thing, don't you think?
Getting out of Beijing proved to be relatively uneventful. I was actually at the airport too early -- and I mean that not as an opinion, but because Korean Air wouldn't let me check in for about 90 minutes after I got there. I did get to watch the Korean Olympic team check in for an earlier flight, though, and let me tell you, those guys (and women) don't exactly travel light. I'd be surprised there was a luggage cart left anywhere else in the airport after they came in averaging, I'd guess, four checked items each, as well as cart after cart of team gear.
The Russian Olympic team was also on hand for an Aeroflot flight, the French Olympic team was starting to show up by the time I left, and the entire Marshall Islands Olympic team (not exactly huge) was on my Korean Air flight from Beijing to Seoul.
Time to catch my flight to Sydney. I'll be back when I get the chance.