It’s not often you send your parents and brother a text that reads: “Don’t panic when you see the reports about the bullet in the press centre — we are fine! x”
But today at the Rio Olympics, that’s what happened. We were all quietly getting on with filing our lunchtime dressage stories, when the bullet flew in. To be honest, I didn’t hear it. I was engrossed in writing a piece about riders’ reactions to the course and the first thing I saw was photographer Jon Stroud sprinting for the front desk to get help. The bullet had landed perhaps six foot from him.
So now we’re in this strange situation where the media become the news. My colleague Alice Collins leapt over to see what was happening and when she came back and told me, I think the second thing I said was, “That’s a news story.” So she wrote it and the next thing we knew, Sky Sport news got in touch and interviewed Alice live. TV crews from non-equestrian outlets started descending. We were the story.
The update from Rio 2016 communications director Mario Andrada tonight was described as a “security update” but of course most people were more into garnering quotes for stories than thinking about whether they themselves might be shot. I think it’s the human survival instinct — none of us really think we’ll be in the line of fire.
It’s good to know our readers have a similar attitude. I’ve had an eye on our web stats all day and within a couple of minutes of our story about William Fox-Pitt taking the lead going live, it had more than double as many people reading it as were looking at our report about the bullet. That’s the best of British spirit for you.
William’s dressage test and talking to him afterwards were pretty special. To go into the lead at the Olympics is always going to be emotional, to do it less than a year after a very serious head injury is remarkable. Remarkable? That doesn’t even do it justice. We’re already out of superlatives — what will it be like if he wins?
Hanging out in the mixed zone – the playpen for journalists where we get to speak to riders after they perform — I caught William’s eye as he waited to do his TV interview and we gave each other a thumbs up. Then he strolled over and kissed me on both cheeks.
“People are going to think I’ve had a bang to the head because I haven’t shaved and I’m always clean shaven, but my razor’s broken and I haven’t had time to go to the shops,” he said, grinning.
William is press gold — pretty much everything he says is quotable and he had us hanging on his every word as he talked about his test and his comeback. We are incredibly lucky to have him in our sport and if he holds his place and wins an individual medal, this should be one of the big stories of the Games. Let’s hope that’s the case — it’d be nice if equestrianism came out of this Olympics famous for something other than the bullet that flew into the press centre…