At Beijing Press Conferences, the Questions Tell Their Own Story

At Beijing Press Conferences, the Questions Inform Their Personal Story

BEIJING — The primary query on the Olympics each day information convention on Saturday got here from a German reporter, and anybody might have guessed what he would ask.

“On the Kamila Valieva case,” the reporter started, referring to the teenage figure skater in the course of the most recent Russian doping scandal, “are you able to clarify why it took six weeks for the optimistic check consequence to come back to gentle?”

The second query went to a reporter from Xinhua, the official information company of China, and the discourse went, effectively, some other place.

“What’s the favourite dish among the many athletes?” the Chinese language reporter requested. “Do you’ve a selected quantity for what number of roast geese are being served?”

On this went. There have been 12 questions requested in English, and 11 have been concerning the doping scandal. There have been seven questions requested in Chinese language, they usually have been about, principally, anything.

It was, in a single neat hour, an ideal encapsulation of the parallel method to reporting on the Games contained in the Olympic bubble. Every morning inside a cavernous corridor, reporters from outdoors retailers outdoors China pepper the Worldwide Olympic Committee spokesman with usually indelicate questions on what’s awry. In between, home reporters question his Chinese language counterparts about all that’s effectively.

The 2 press corps, after all, have completely different goals, and limitations. However hardly ever are they so starkly juxtaposed, and for such an prolonged interval, as they’ve been at these Video games.

“The entire goal of the media right here is completely different,” mentioned Mark Dreyer, a Beijing-based analyst for China Sports activities Insider. “Within the West, it’s to carry individuals to account, expose lies, corruption, all that stuff, in addition to report information. Right here, it’s to inform China’s story. If it’s not formally authorities managed, it is authorities authorized. And when you’re too removed from that line, you get in hassle.”

China has made small concessions to accommodate the Olympic equipment. Folks on the Olympic grounds, for instance, get pleasure from “barrier-free web,” permitting them to bypass the nation’s regular firewall and entry web sites and on-line platforms most Chinese language can not.

Nonetheless, generally, it’s as if the 2 press corps are dancing aspect by aspect, inside the identical cramped ballroom, to 2 completely different songs.

The tone was set on the opening information convention of the Video games, when reporters typically hearth questions on numerous controversies on the president of the Worldwide Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach.

First, although, got here a query from China Central Tv, the state broadcaster. “After two years of darkish occasions,” the reporter requested, “do you’re feeling the approaching of spring?”

The whiplash was palpable when a reporter from Reuters then stepped to the microphone to ask Bach about his plans to fulfill Peng Shuai, the Chinese language tennis participant who disappeared from public life for weeks after accusing a high authorities official of sexual assault (Bach did meet her). Tales about Peng proceed to be censored in China.

The diverging sensibilities have been on show on the Olympic venues, too. On Thursday evening, after China misplaced to the USA in hockey, a reporter requested a participant from the Chinese language group, which has a number of naturalized gamers, how he felt about taking part in alongside his “overseas nationwide teammates.”

A Chinese language reporter turned, shocked. “You may’t say overseas nationals,” she mentioned.

Equally, at Saturday’s I.O.C. information convention, after three consecutive questions from worldwide reporters urgent Olympic officers concerning the Valieva doping case, a Chinese language reporter modified the tone.

“There are a variety of tremendous performances by the athletes, a variety of Olympic information are being damaged,” she mentioned. “Is that this good efficiency associated to the help of the Olympic villages, the nice service to the athletes?”

You may guess the reply.

The Western journalists have procured few solutions to their delicate queries. The Chinese language journalists have usually obtained flowing, paragraph-long responses to theirs. (Chinese language media retailers, Dreyer mentioned, usually adhere to requests to submit questions earlier than officers are made obtainable for interviews.)

On Saturday morning, a Chinese language reporter requested Zhao Weidong, the spokesman for the host committee, if he had any remark about the truth that some athletes had carried out effectively and a few had not.

“I need to share with you a historic story on Olympic historical past …,” Zhao started, the beginning of a two-and-a-half-minute soliloquy that spun a story from the 1908 Olympics right into a lesson on the significance of mutual respect.

The reporter had grooved a fastball down the center of the plate, and Zhao had slammed it out of the park.

The session, although, ended with a pleasing shock.

Granted the final query, a reporter for The Related Press stepped to the microphone, addressed the Chinese language spokesman, and, shock, requested about meals: Have been there kosher and halal choices on the athletes’ village?

These reporters’ pursuits might align typically, in spite of everything.

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