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  • On the Scene: U.S. Olympic Team Media Summit Opens


    Chicago Mayor Richard Daley gave a welcome to journalists at the USOC Media Summit. (ATR)  
    (ATR) Chicago Mayor Richard Daley opens the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Media Summit with all the bragging that might be expected from the mayor of a city bidding for the 2016 Olympic Games.

    In a welcome that lasted less than five minutes he touted Chicago as a city that loves sports, speaks a range of languages and hosted a moving athletes’ parade during boxing world championships six months ago.

    "One of the most inspiring moments was to see the country of Iran walking, and the next country was Israel. It shows that sports really bring countries and athletes together."

    Daley will return for a press conference by Chicago 2016 on April 15, the second day of the three-day summit. More than 400 media are attending, along with 130 athletes headed to Beijing from the U.S.

    Among the stars are soccer forward Abby Wambach, swimmers Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin and Ian Crocker, delegations from both men’s and women’s gymnastics and the U.S. softball team.

    Athletes Pressed on Beijing Politics

    After Daley's remarks, Wambach and teammates Heather O’Reilly, Kate Markgraf and coach Pia Sundhage took the stage. Reporters began with questions about team dynamics and performance, but political questions followed soon thereafter.

    "We hope we are able to bring awareness to peace and team unity. That's our main objective. Winning the gold medal is where we can speak the loudest, by representing our country in the best way possible," say O’Reilly.

    O'Reilly says getting into politics is an individual choice for the team members and that they have never discussed a unified political position.

    Abby Wambach tapes a promo for Chicago 2016 after taking part in a morning press conference. (ATR)  
    and over again, the USOC have stated how they want us to speak our minds," says Markgraf.

    Wambach says she has been approached by Team Darfur – the athlete group founded by speedskater Joey Cheek. She says she is also involved with Right to Play.

    "It’s great for these [political] organizations to make all these athletes aware not only for their own education, so they don’t come to situations like this and get blindsided...But also to maybe spark some interest and want to take part in something outside themselves, out in the world,
    Vanoc media staff Suzanne Walters, Sam Corea, Lucia Montanarella and Mary Fraiser at the USOC Media Summit. (ATR)  
    something bigger than themselves."

    Hilton Renews USOC Sponsorship, Press from China, Vancouver 2010

    Outside the press conferences in the massive Palmer House Hilton ballroom, the USOC announced that the hotel chain will renew their partnership through 2012. The deal, which covers hotels in the Hilton family such as Hampton Hotels and Embassy Suites, includes special rates for the U.S. Olympic family, support for several national governing bodies and a contribution to renovations at the Lakeshore Foundation Paralympic Training Site.

    The number of attendees for the media summit, a USOC tradition before each Olympics, summer or winter, has drawn a record number of journalists representing newspapers, broadcasters and online organizations.

    Included this year are Chinese media, including China Daily and

    NBC, rights holder for the U.S., gets its own share of access with athletes during the summit, including staff from the USOC making sure all moves smoothly.

    Vancouver 2010 is also among the summit attendees, in part to study media operations put on by the world’s biggest NOC. The four staff members from VANOC also have the chance to canvass the Olympic media gathered in Chicago. Vancouver will host its first World Press Briefing from Nov. 18 to 21.

    Written by Maggie Lee in Chicago.

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