Reporting from the Olympics is something like reporting Badminton, Hickstead and Aachen all at the same time, but on fast-forward.
Many of the faces around us are the same — Badminton’s press officer Julian Seaman is also in charge here; Peter Morris is bringing us riders to speak to in the mixed zone, just like at Badminton. You can hear the familiar voices of John Kyle and Steven Wilde in your earpiece. Former H&H showjumping editor Penny Richardson is part of the team getting “flash quotes” from the riders. And pretty much everyone you know is in the Greenwich Tavern every evening.
But the pressroom is also a Babel of foreign tongues. I’m interviewing riders I’ve only seen before on the telly — who knew that American showjumper Rich Fellers looked so like Richard Gere? Or which riders you’d find enjoying a crafty fag in the beer garden of the aforementioned Tavern, which must be making a year’s profits in a fortnight?
It’s a unsettling mix of comfort zone and unknown territory.
Tuesday (the day that the eventing medals were decided) was sheer mayhem. Packs of journalists who know as much about horse trials as I do about handball descended, drawn by the Zara magnet.
Some were great, asking questions about the sport, trying to get a handle on the story as a whole and producing excellent copy. Some had clearly made up their minds before they got here to sneer at “posh horsey people” — riders and journalists alike. It’s a cheap score. I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t behave like that if I ever got sent to cover a story about handball.
It was the most intense day of my working life. A 5am start, a 2am finish and many thousands of words in between, underpinned by the rhythm of my heart beating twice as fast as normal with the excitement and pressure.
I can’t quite bear the thought of these Olympics being over. Most H&H editorial staff have thought — and talked — of little else for so long. “I’ll do that after the Olympics” is a seriously overused phrase.
What will we do “after the Olympics”? This event has put everything in our lives to the power of 10 — the speed we work at, the facts that we can retain, the demands we can make of ourselves. I think life will seem very flat for a while.
Thank God for the forthcoming hunting season!