Monday, August 22, 2016

Covering the Olympics

The Olympics is the pinnacle of a sports journalist's career. Some of us are very fortunate indeed to be part of the extravaganza. Since I spent most of my adult years hitting the keyboard under the warm roof of the New Straits Times Press (NSTP) Berhad, the loose cannon shall take you down memory lane and highlight the elite group of sportswriters on NSTP's payroll who had been handed the privilege to cover THE Games.

Norman Siebel was perhaps the only print journalist to have enjoyed covering four successive Olympics - Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964 and Mesico 1968. Following Siebel's passing in 1969, taking turns to cover the Games were Conrad Ng in Munich 1972 and Mansoor Rahman in 1976 and 1984.

Siebel, a legend, an opinion-shaper who called a spade, a spade. I wonder how today's keyboard warriors would react to his comment pieces

Conrad Ng (seated, second from right) and Mansoor (seated, left) covered the Olympics for the New Straits Times

Rosmanizam Abdullah was dispatched to Los Angeles to cover the Olympics in 1984, thus earning the distinction of being Berita Harian's first ever representative to the Games. The previous practice was for BH to translate New Straits Times' best pieces into Bahasa. Rosmanizam earned another feather to his cap decades later. As an office-bearer of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), he became the media attache to the Malaysian contingent to the Olympics on two occasions - in Beijing 2008 and London 2012. 

Due to the distance, two journalists from BH - Amat Mat Top and Khairul Anuar Mokhtar - were picked to cover the 1988 Olympics. And...

Khairul (left) and Hj Amat, 28 years on...

The print journos in 1988 - from left Khoo Kay Soon (The Malay Mail), Amat Mat Top (BH), Nasir Ahmad (Utusan Malaysia), Khairul Anuar (BH), Fauzi Omar (Datuk) (New Straits Times), A. Subramaniam (The Star) and Mustakim Aminuddin (Datuk) (Utusan Malaysia). Fauzi was the Malay Mail Editor when I made the move from BH to the tabloid paper in September 1996. Subramaniam served as the media officer of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) when it was still located at the OCM

The BH sports editor Zian Johari covered the Barcelona Games in 1992. One of my duties was to pick up the call from Barcelona and check whether or not his stories were in the system. I translated several pieces on track and field for Jaguh. Zian was fortunate enough with the rest of the media corp for Razif-Jalani Sidek created history with the bronze in the men's doubles. A historic moment indeed.

Zian's successor, Hishamuddin Aun (Datuk) went to Atlanta to cover the centennial Games in 1996. The Kampar-born Hishamuddin, now a consultant at Astro Arena, was one of 5,695 accredited print journalists who covered the Games which was best remembered for Michael Johnson's pair of golden shoes as he cruised to the 200m and 400m gold. I enjoyed the Games from afar, as I was coping with the pressure of being a journo at the news desk, covering political and national news. The contingent performed one better this time, with Cheah Soon Kit-Yap Kim Hock picking up the silver, having lost narrowly to Ricky Subagja-Rexy Mainaky, while Rashid Sidek won the bronze in men's singles.

Radzi Wahab, fondly known as Ron, went to Sydney. By then, I was already into my fourth year at the Malay Mail. To help fill up the pages, we surfed the Net for stories written by Australian newspapers online without relying entirely on news agencies The contingent, unfortunately, returned home empty-handed. For Ron, he would go on to cover the 2008 and 2012 Games for Harian Metro! Sydney was the last time the hockey team qualified for the Olympics!

Badrulhisham Othman, fondly known as Buddy, now Datuk. The whole NSTP media corp were housed under one roof, in an apartment rented out by the Morous. First one to leave the apartment and usually the last to come back, due to the five-hour difference. Imagine waking up at 6am in Athens with KL, at 11am, already expecting a few stories to be in the system by then.

Norbakti Alias as the BH sports editor, witnessed the one-sided final between Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan. We exchanged messages over the phone to discuss many issues as I was no longer in the mainstream media. One silver was the only medal the contingent had to show.

V Ashok was the BH sports editor when he covered the Games in London. Ashok and I joined the BH sports desk on the same day, in December 1991. He was transferred from the Berita Minggu desk, while I was then attached to the news desk. Lucky him that he was able to report on Chong Wei's silver medal and diver Pandelela Rinong's bronze in the 10m platform individual

Azahar Md Taib moved from Utusan Malaysia to Harian Metro and became only the second representative from the latter to cover the Games, after Abdul Rahim Md Zain's Sydney adventure in 2000

NST sports editor Tony Francis and seasoned photographer Khalid Redza formed the quartet from NSTP in 1992, alongside Zian and Khoo Kay Soon of the Malay Mail. Loose cannon was truly inspired by the reports carried by the Malay Mail in the 80s, when Tony Francis was the sports editor. Loose cannon did not get to work under him, but was on the receiving end of his anger instead when I picked on Malaysia Today in 2005...Khalid and I were together in Jakarta for the Thomas Cup in 1994, the Jakarta SEA Games in 1997, the Thomas Cup in 1998, the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002 and Athens 2004.

Dan Guen Chin, the ghost-writer for the widely-read Mokhtar Dahari column in the NST in the 80s, covered the Sydney Games for the New Straits Times. Loose cannon had the good fortune of covering the 1995 SEA Games in Chiangmai and the 2003 Asian Track and Field championship in Manila with Dan, who is now undergoing treatment for stomach cancer in Johor

Athens 2004 was the second time Lazarus Rokk covered the Games, having been to the Atlanta Games eight years earlier.

Rokk, as a reporter, in 1996. He claims that he looked better in 2004.

Vijesh Rai, who boarded the plane to Beijing 2008, London 2012 and the ongoing Rio de Janeiro 2016, could be eyeing the chance of emulating Siebel in Tokyo 2020. Vijesh was a silver medallist in taekwondo in the 1987 SEA Games in Jakarta.

Khoo Kay Soon covered the 1988 and 1992 Olympics as the Malay Mail sports editor. When I made the move to the Malay Mail in 1996, Kay Soon was helming the Football magazine. I was humbled when he invited to write for the Euro edition of the magazine while I was still with Berita Harian

Tony was not yet the sports editor when he covered the Sydney Games, a precedent set by Johnson Fernandez in Atlanta. Sixteen years on, Tony was made the media attache of the contingent to Rio.

Had I stayed at BH, I might not have the opportunity to go to the Olympics, as tradition dictates the sports editor gets to cover the Games. Into my eighth year at the Malay Mail, the then sports editor, Rajan Etickan, nominated me for the Games in mid-2003, insisting that I was versatile enough to go for having been covering football, track and field, shooting, weightlifting, badminton and the National Sports Council (NSC) and Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) beat over the years. It was a natural progression for I had gone to the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002. Since I was the most junior among the NSTP group, I was tasked to arrange for accommodation with the designated and official travel agency Read Azahar Taib's column here. Two-time Olympic champion, Lin Dan, three-time silver medallist Lee Chong Wei and 9-time gold medallist Usain Bolt have one thing in common - they made their Olympic debut in Athens. Like the Malaysian contingent, the trio returned home empty-handed. Read my memoirs in Athens here

For the Rio Games, BH was represented by Hussain Said, while Metro sent Hamdan Saaid, who went as a Bernama reporter to Athens in 2004. Graig Nunis is the first writer to cover for the Malay Mail (under the new management) after an eight-year absence (loose cannon was the fifth and last under the NSTP management).

Another Olympics has come to an end. The gold, sadly, has remained elusive. Till Tokyo 2020!

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