Hard to picture: IOC orders Athletes’ Village strictly off limits to media to discourage negative publicity
Hong Kong media had little success in persuading officials to pass on photos of accommodation
First no video, then no pictures, what next, no looking?
The Hong Kong delegation refused requests from the media for pictures of the team’s accommodation at the athlete’s village, saying the IOC is tired of negative stories of Rio facilities.
A flurry of Whatsapp exchanges raised hopes of at least a non-intrusive photo of Hong Kong flags taken from outside their building. But at the last minute, fearing the IOC”s wrath, a desperate message was sent out saying even this was a no-no.
Hong Kong’s chef de mission Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, was keen to show that everything was okay at the Athletes’ Village.
“We have been speaking to athletes and coaches these few days and they are generally quite happy with the accommodation provided here,” he said.
“Of course there are glitches here and there but through communication with the organising committee, most issues have been solved [with regard to] our accommodation.”
When athletes started to trickle into the Olympic Park area last week, Rio organisers were criticised for being unable to complete the facilities on time.
The Australians were particularly critical, complaining of blocked toilets, leaky ceilings and exposed wiring. They even moved to a hotel before returning once the IOC and organisers ensured them that their grievances would be addressed.
The Whatsapp exchanges were mostly with veteran Olympic official Vivien Lau Fung Chiang-chu.
“If we can’t come into [the] Athletes’ Village, can you share pics of HK team accommodation?” came the request.
Lau replied: “Sorry, HK team accommodation are not allowed to be given to media. This is order from IOC.
“All athletes living quarters are not allowed to have photos taken. Too much negative report on residences by reporters lately.”
That was when Fok interjected with his “everything’s fine” missive, to which the journalists responded: “Good ... Then impossible to write negative story. Which means you can give pics safe in the knowledge that we will write positive things.”
Lau then clarified that it was not the Hong Kong media who were the culprits but still, the IOC was strict in applying the rules.
What about a picture of the flags outside the building. If you looked up and squint hard enough, you could see a row of Bauhinia flags pasted to the balconies.
After initially agreeing and providing us with a so-so shot of the building, a desperate message came a few minutes later, saying: “Sorry ... Once side [the] village, no photos can [be] given to press. “Sorry [the] photo [you] got cannot [be] put on your newspaper or website or [Facebook and] instagram.”