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August 15, 2008

Photo Services Drops the Ball

It’s now day six of competition, and my work in an official capacity at the Olympics has come to an end. You may remember that I’m here as part of a delegation of international volunteers, and for the past few weeks I’ve been working at the road cycling course. I had hoped to transfer to another venue after the final cycling competition this past Wednesday, but to my dismay, photo mangers that I’ve spoken to say that their venues are full, or that it’s impossible to obtain the accreditation I would need to access their venue.

A transfer to the Main Press Center was also in the works, but I was told on Wednesday that the “upgrade card” I’d need to get inside would not be issued. I’d been given access to the MPC before, including once for a welcome party for photographers, and gaining access wasn’t a problem then -- a Kodak representative requested a guest pass on short notice -- but when I requested to work at the MPC as a volunteer, where they desperately need more native English speakers, accessing the MPC is no longer a possibility.

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I agree with management -- that there are too many volunteers -- but for BOCOG to bring us all the way to China for two months to work for three days seems like a huge misallocation of resources.

Meanwhile, photographers have been calling me and sending emails, even from the MPC where BOCOG claims there are too many volunteers, for information about getting to venues, scheduling, and how to deal with the Chinese staff. From what I’ve heard from photographers, BOCOG desperately needs more English speaking volunteers, and I’ve made it clear that I, along with other native English speakers, am more than willing to help.

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Photographers are having a tough time communicating with the Chinese staff, but the language barrier is only half of the issue. More often that not, the flow of information is nonexistent until it’s already too late -- Vincent Laforet shares a perfect example on Newsweek’s “Visions of China” blog, from a failed attempt at shooting fireworks at the Great Wall during the opening ceremony. The cycling photo staff, myself included, had no idea that there would be fireworks at our venue until photographers began to arrive hoping to shoot them.

I’m optimistic that BOCOG Photo Services will come to their senses and bring on a few idle English-speaking volunteers to help get clear information to the photographers in a timely manner, making everyone’s lives much less stressful. But for now, I’m going to sit back and enjoy BOCOG’s free tickets to the Olympics, acting as a “filler” to give the appearance to those watching at home that “sold out” events really were sold out.

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