Monday, July 30, 2012

Memories of Athens Olympics, part 1

It is customary for journalists covering the Olympic Games to pen a column to be dispatched to the head office on top of the daily news. I wrote a few when I was in Athens in 2004.

Below is one of them.

A tale of two attaches

Jordao Antero Marques Henrique and Jean-Francois Quenet are Press attaches in the ongoing Athens Olympics. But they are worlds apart.

While Timor Leste's Jordao appears to be streetwise and fun, Frenchman Quenet, with his ala John Lennon spectacles, is a highly educated yuppie who represents the other end of the spectrum.

Jordao is a member of the six-strong Timor Leste contingent, while Quenet, who prefers to be called Jeff, is in charge of the French media covering the Games, all 186 of them.

I knew Jeff since 1997, when he first came to Kuala Lumpur to cover the second edition of Le Tour de Langkawi.

He has missed only one Tour since. I met Jordao only yesterday. He approached me when I was browsing at the Olympic Shop at the Main Press Centre (MPC).

He overheard me talking over the mobile phone in Bahasa. "Apa khabar orang Malaysia?" was his way of breaking the ice.

Over a cup of espresso on the rooftop of the MPC, it emerged he is in fact a journalist masquerading as a Press attache.

His ID security tag indicates OLV, MPC, IBC, all venues plus the fork and spoon pictogram, which mean he has access to the Olympic Games Village, the MPC, the International Broadcasting Centre and the Games Village dining area, superseding those even of the chefs-de-mission who are not allowed to enter the MPC.

"I believe I am the only media personnel staying inside the Games Village. Haha ... Europeans like to think they are better than we Asians. They tend to underestimate Asians. We may be small in size, but big up here," his finger pointing at his temple.

A former youth footballer for Timor Leste, Jordao works for a Portuguese-language newspaper, Semanario. Among those he had interviewed included FIFA president Sepp Blatter, Asean Football Federation (AFF) secretary, Datuk Paul Mony Samuel and Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) deputy president, Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan, who happens to be the Malaysian chef-de-mission in Athens.

For most sports journalists, including yours truly, covering the Olympics is the pinnacle of our career. Yet Jordao insists on wanting to tread on the untrodden path.

"I want to become a war correspondent," he said.

Jeff, a Breton who is a history graduate, faces a different kind of war.

"I'm here to please my French colleagues ... I am the press attache for the French media contingent ... my job is to help ensure there is a flow of information between the contingent and the media," he said when I paid him a visit at his office, more like a cubicle, at the fifth floor of the MPC.

Quenet (right) at the Beijing 2008 Games

Our conversation ranged from Tour de Langkawi organiser Datuk Wan Lokman Ibrahim to the newly-appointed French national football team coach Raymond Domenech and Zinedine Zidane's retirement.

I happened to buy copy of the 2004 official guide of Tour de France with eventual winner Lance Armstrong on the cover, without noticing his article.

Wearing a look of pure satisfaction, he showed me his byline under the title Tale of the Tape, comparing German rider Jan Ullrich with Armstrong.

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