Beijing Diaries: Press Conferences, a job hazard or help, by Stuart Weir


If you are in a media job, you go to press conferences.

I enjoy the pressers at most athletic meetings, but there are times when the insane and hysterical co-exist and one is left with a priceless moment.

I recall watching Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake at the London 2012 post event pressers and they were cracking up at some of the questions. I later asked Yohan Blake how he endured the press conferences. He smiled and noted that, at times, they are tougher than the races.

Felix_AllysonH1-Beijing15.JPGAllyson Felix, photo by

Stuart Weir's take on pressers had me smiling and laughing. He is right, some press conferences can be amazing and some can be, well, lame. But, there are also times, when they can be quite pogniant. Stuart has been to both kinds.

Enjoy Stuart's column.

Press conferences

I go to a lot of athletics press conferences in my job. There are event press conferences to give the event propaganda, I mean information. There are team press conferences before a major championship. There are medallists' press conferences after each race or event. At times it is like a game with the speakers trying to keep to the script and journalists trying to prise an indiscreet answer out of them.

There are serious and poignant moments like when Tunisia's Habiba Ghribi took the opportunity of the medallists' press conference to dedicate her 3000 metres steeplechase silver medal at the 2011 World Championships to those who had lost their lives in the Arab spring fight for freedom. Suddenly that fact that she had only won a silver and not a gold medal hardly mattered.

Less edifying was the 2015 World Championship men's marathon medallists' conference. Asked how he had felt in the final few kilometres, the winner, Ghirmay Ghesreslassiev of Eritrea, launched into a 3 minute 44 second statement, about his agent, his manager, his coach, his federation, his country, his school and his neighbour's dog - OK he didn't mention the dog - before asking the questioner to repeat his question!

The two most random questions I have ever heard were at the 2015 European Team Championships in Cheboksary, Russia. Question to Dinah Asher-Smith. "How much did you know about Russia before you came to Russia? For example, did you expect to see bears in the street?" Dinah with a "did he actually ask that" look, replied that she had not expected to see bears.

Question from a fat bearded Russian journalist to Polish shot putter, Tomasz Majewski. "When I was younger I was self-conscious because I was fat so I grew a beard. Why do you have a beard?" Question ignored.

I loved too, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce's answer to the question: "Are your recognized when you go out in Jamaica?" She replied: "O yes. People stop me .... And ask 'How is Usain?'"

Questioners also often try to sneak in a question about drugs or the other hot topic of the day. I really felt for the Kenyan winner of the women's steeplechase, Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi, who was asked about the two banned Kenyans. Giving all her attention to preparing for and running her race, she did not even know it had happened. In any case what is she supposed to say?

The most commonest question at a medallists' conference is: "How do you feel about winning or being champion?" It is an inevitable question, I suppose, but hard to give a memorable or meaningful reply. How can an athlete be expected to be articulate when the emotion is overcoming them

For all their shortcomings, I enjoy press conferences. I haven't been to one for - well at least an hour and I an getting withdrawal symptoms.

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