Ossian Shine

26.06.03

An early start to read the newspapers before joining the hordes on the District line heading to Southfields.

This time of year is always frantic for me, a solid chunk of 44 days beginning with the French Open and culminating with Wimbledon – not only the most prestigious grand slam tournament, but also the only one from which I can lurch home at the end of the evening.

Twelve/thirteen hour days at the All England Club are the norm, but the spirit there during the fortnight sweeps time along at lightning speed. Unless, of course, there’s rain. Clouds threatened early on but stayed away. Play was delayed however, by Working Title filming scenes of next year’s Wimbledon movie on Centre Court. The thesps were followed on to the main stage by Britain’s great hope Tim Henman.

“I hope it is notÉ our desperation to try to win the tournament one day that they are having to make films about it,” he smiled after his victory.

27.06.03

An early trip to Broadcasting House to record a Radio 3 show for Saturday night. I’d been invited along by producers of The Verb to discuss, and shamelessly plug, my new book The Language of Tennis. Once there, proceedings took a surreal twist when I was roped into playing a game of “Word Tennis” with John Inverdale.

The contest involved throwing obscure tennis terms at the BBC Wimbledon presenter who would then counter them with tennis phrases of his own. With Verb presenter Ian McMillan acting as umpire, it all went well. I then head back down to sw19 to cover Venus Williams’s third round victory. Eventually got away by 10pm.

28.06.03

Another day kicked off by radio. This time Radio 4’s More or Less programme. The show centres around numbers in the news. Struck by tennis fever, Radio 4 reporter Innes Bowen wanted me to explain why tennis scoring runs 15-30-40-game and why “love” counts for nothing. We record the interview at Queen’s Club.

BBC Radio Wimbledon followed, where I was quizzed for 10 minutes about my impressions of the first week of the grand slam and who I was backing to win it.

Wearing my Reuters Olympic correspondent hat, it was back to work on a piece for next week’s International Olympic Committee session in Prague to announce the host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

29.06.03

Up at 5am for the first flight to Prague, which proved pretty uneventful once six passengers attempting to fly on out-of-date passports had been weeded out.

The Olympic family has taken over the entire Hilton Hotel where I am staying. It seems everyone has a photo ID hanging round their neck. The accreditation process for the IOC’s 115th session is surprisingly smooth. I’ve been covering Olympic meetings and sessions for less than a year and have quickly discovered it is a tangle of politics, rumour and half rumour. The next few days will be spent sifting the stories from the spin.

Representatives from the three cities bidding to stage the 2010 Winter Olympics – Vancouver, Salzburg and Pyeongchang – are lobbying one final time for the right to host the Games. Before there is time for any lobbying, Olympic chiefs announce they are going to strip Russian skier Larissa Lazutina of the two silver medals she won in Salt Lake City.

A bad day for the Russians, but a good one for Afghanistan who are allowed back into the Games after four years in the sporting wilderness – they were suspended in 1999 for the Taliban’s refusal to allow women athletes to compete. I rush out 400 words on both stories before meeting up with fellow Olympic hacks for the evening.

30.06.03

I was approached early in the morning by a shady character who was insistent he had “an exclusive” for me, regarding a senior IOC member who had broken Olympic rules.

Dipped into the story and discovered that the scandal was nothing of the sort. Reuters sports editor Paul Radford arrived in the evening and we headed into the old town for dinner with Prague bureau chief Alan Crosby and Julia Ferguson of the Vienna bureau.

01.07.03

More frantic lobbying from the bid cities. London 2012 bid chief Barbara Cassani arrives for her first taste of the Olympic world. Have a chat with her in the early afternoon before previewing tomorrow’s 2010 vote.

Attend the IOC session opening ceremony. File a quick 300 words on IOC president Jacques Rogge’s speech before joining colleagues at the official reception. The great and the good of the Olympic movement attend these ceremonies – figures from Henry Kissinger to swimming legend Alexander Popov mingle at the buffet.

The reception is followed by more late-night chats with IOC members and observers. The IOC bar is the only place to be after 11pm. It is where theories are expanded – conspiracy or otherwise – and tactics explained. All, of course, on a theoretical basis. There are, as usual, a million theories but Vancouver remain favourite. It is a lively evening as all the bid cities representatives are still upbeat.

02.07.03

The vote. Everything goes very smoothly and we hit the wire with no hitches throughout the day. Salzburg lose in the first round, polling just 16 of the 113 votes, and are devastated.

Groups of Austrians, excited and jovial on Tuesday night, hang around the lobby ashen-faced as Pyeongchang and Vancouver head into a second vote. Vancouver pip it by just three votes, 56-53. Nobody predicted the Koreans polling so well. However, they too are disappointed and some delegates flee the hall in tears.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien is in Prague for the vote and heralds the victory a great day for Canada. A final meal with Reuters colleagues – they are heading off in the morning while I remain in Prague mopping up until Saturday before returning for the Wimbledon men’s final on Sunday.

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