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Newsroom Diaries 2016: Covering the biggest sports event in the world – the Olympics

Editor's note: This article is part of a series of newsroom diaries by various members of the Firstpost team. These diaries will provide you with the journalist's recollections of a particular bit of news coverage in 2016 in which she/he was deeply involved.

The year 2016 – despite its notoriety with news – was a cheerful one for sports fans. It was packed full with major tournaments across sports, both annual and periodic – Asia Cup, World T20, Indian Premier League, Grand Slams, Test cricket, Euro, Indian Super League, more cricket, you name it. But the biggest events of them all was the biggest sports event in the world – the Olympics. Undoubtedly, the 2016 Rio Olympics was also the biggest challenge for us on the sports desk – in terms of scale, work involved and (for me at least) satisfaction derived.

There was a great excitement and enthusiasm to cover the Olympics, more from a biased Indian fan point of view. This was India’s largest ever contingent and a large part of my enthusiasm stemmed from the watching the athletes perform (and win.) I had Live blogged the 2012 London Games and knew that as a sports journalist, very few things match the excitement of watching an Indian athlete reach the podium. Despite the objectivity required to do the job, there is a lot of sentimentality involved when India is taking part in global events. It’s part of the jingoistic, sport-loving Chak de India-watching part of me, and Rio promised to be better than London.

 Newsroom Diaries 2016: Covering the biggest sports event in the world – the Olympics

File image of Olympics opening ceremony. Reuters

In preparation, the sports desk compiled the lists of athletes who were qualifying, and by the time the Olympics began in August, had profiles for each of the over 100 athletes — their ‘Road to Rio’, their strengths and the expectations from them. We had approached experts in various fields to write about specific sports before and during the event, and were previewing the different sports and disciplines India would be participating. We were all set for the almost two weeks of sporting action, but this just the beginning.

During the 16 days of the event, we ran had a 24-hour sports desk. No stops, no breaks, passing from one to the other, like a relay race. The timings of the events were such that it began at 4 or 5 pm IST and went on till almost 8 am – and we covered, and wanted to watch it all. All the matches/bouts/games/contests/races/heats involving Indian athletes were covered Live in our constantly running Live blog. The big international moments and major matches had separate Live blogs. During the day, we did Facebook Live shows from our studios daily, with various journalists, and focused on every sport we could.

India’s hockey games to Michael Phelps reaching podiums, Dipa Karmakar’s Produnova to Usain Bolt’s records – it was a buffet for sports lovers. But as sports journalists, it meant an insane schedule as well.

For the large part, I enjoyed it, even thrived on it. The early (very early) mornings at work, the late, late nights watching the marquee events, getting up in the middle of the night briefly to see some athlete perform, then appear on camera with bags under your eyes – it was all a part of the adrenaline-pumping package.

But then there was also the disappointment, seeing India underperform, miss out on medals – Abhinav Bindra coming fourth, Dipa missing the podium by 0.005 points, Sania Mirza-Rohan Bopanna losing the bronze medal match, it was heartbreaking as an Indian fan. You tried to stay objective but there was definitely a tinge of disenchantment in the coverage. And then, when the first medal came on the 12th day, when Sakshi Malik came from the bottom to pull an incredible win and notch a bronze – it was a moment to savour. The very next day, PV Sindhu assured us of another medal, and there was hope of a gold even. Her fight to the silver was definitely one of the highlights, both as a game and as the emotions they evoked.

Overall, it was an amazing, but also mixed experience covering the Olympics – as the game as well as an Indian sports fan and it will definitely stand out for me as one of the best times to be a sports journalist.

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Updated Date: Dec 31, 2016 09:36:16 IST

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