A few years ago, I heard someone say Aachen should run every World Equestrian Games (WEG). I dismissed the idea at the time, thinking it would be boring, that it’s good for championships to move around for both competitors and spectators, and so on.
But after the first day or so of the European Championships here, I’m wondering if there might be something in it. I’m here to cover the eventing (Nations Cup, not Europeans) this week, then the showjumping next week. And while last year’s WEG in Normandy became something of a slog, I’m ecstatic to be here for another 10 days.
So here, in seven easy steps, is a tongue-in-cheek look at ways to keep journalists happy at championships and big events (PS I realise not all of these are fully in organisers’ control).
1. Food. We need to eat, just like anyone else. And often we don’t have a lot of time, so while I don’t expect events to provide meals for free (though it’s lovely when they do), dealing with huge queues isn’t really viable. I’ve often gone whole days without eating at events. Hungry people are not happy people.
Here at Aachen they’ve definitely got it right. On Wednesday night, we were all invited to a big party, with a huge buffet and a free bar. And every day, we are entitled to lunch in the “Riders’ Club” — yesterday I had salmon, pasta and roasted veg. Yum.
And last night, when we left the showground at 10pm, I was ready to go to bed, but my colleague Alice Collins made me go into town in search of nourishment. We ended up sitting on the pavement outside a lovely little Greek restaurant, eating huge salads and tzatziki. I was thrilled, as you can see.
2. Wifi. Not being able to get online, being unable to check emails, send copy back to the office or load web stories, drives us mad and can be a huge time-waster.
And we need to be able to get more than one device online. I know, I know, we’re demanding. But modern journalism is demanding. Very few people are here to file stories for one “platform” — we’re all juggling multiple jobs.
During yesterday’s eventing dressage, the amazing Jenni Autry from Eventing Nation was live tweeting, keeping a live page on their website updated, taking photos and talking to all the US and Canadian riders. Us H&Hers are writing for mag and web, as well as doing videos. Those tasks demand different kit — an iPhone for tweeting out and about, the laptop for most things, the iPad for video processing.
Only being able to put one device online at a time and having to swap is very time-consuming. Here, our media login gets several devices online — and the public wifi is good too.
3. Transport. No buses, slow buses, late buses. No parking. Parking that’s miles away. All things guaranteed to cause angst when you need to be somewhere at a certain time.
We’re staying in a media hotel here — not that I’ve seen any other media in it. Not only is there a shuttle bus stop round the corner, but if you ask at the desk, a nice man in a Mercedes-Benz turns up and delivers you in style to the showground. That’s service.
4. Weather. It’s sunny here. And hot. Too hot? Maybe, at times but better than rain and mud…
5. A colleague with a sense of humour. Please see photo booth picture above of me and H&H dressage ed Alice Collins from the opening night party.
Also, since Alice and I took on the acting print director job at H&H, she’s decided we need our own hashtag, like some sort of ironic power couple (I’ve pointed out I’m married, but she’s having none of it). And so, our desk in the press office is reserved with a somewhat unusual sign.
6. British riders doing well. Being patriotic is completely allowed at championships — look at my nails (right) — and reporting is so much easier when your competitors are happy, going well and winning medals. Explaining why it’s gone wrong isn’t fun for them or us.
7. Things being close together. There’s nothing more frustrating than the press stand being at one end of a huge arena and the mixed zone, for interviewing riders, at the other.
Either you watch — and know what happens but have no quotes — or you do interviews. Oh, and you do the interviews blind without knowing if the riders went well or badly, because there probably isn’t a telly in the mixed zone. This offers unparalleled opportunities for making a fool of yourself.
Here, the press office is right under the main grandstand. Run up two flights of stairs and you’re in the press tribune with a great view of the arena. Run down again and you’re in the mixed zone. I haven’t used this arena yet, but the signs are promising for it being user-friendly.
So, my friends, so far, I’m loving Aachen. Let’s hope I’m in the same frame of mind by a week on Monday…