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Claire Hallissey

20 October 2009

Article by Claire Furlong, UKA Head of Marketing and Communications, as seen in Athletics Weekly magazine

Last weekend saw the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships take place in Birmingham. I was fortunate to be involved as Director of Media operations for the LOC, and once again enjoyed playing my small part in making a world class athletics event take place.

All events require a media operation that will support our writers, photographers and broadcasters in doing their jobs as easily as possible. And this is one of the unique characteristics about staging major athletics events. Although the competition arena may vary, the logistics and resources needed for the media rarely differ and that is one of my favourite aspects of communications.

Whether we are positioned in a field surrounded by mud and bleak weather, inside an arena situated above a candy-coloured 200m track or set up alongside a major Sports stadium in a blisteringly hot country, the logistics and needs of our media remain constant, regardless of the numbers in attendance.

Internet access, wireless and hard wire, smooth and efficient production of information, a trouble free accreditation process, easily accessed work areas, - you name it the requirements never differ.

The type of championship makes little difference to the event delivery either. Although African nations dominate endurance based events such as the half marathon and the World Cross Country, the interest level remains the same, albeit with a slightly different customer base.

The global identity of athletics has a unique way of bringing every country into the fold at some world event at some point during the year. Last weekend the African journalists were understandably out in force relaying every moment from each race back home over the wires.

In Berlin the mixed zone was buzzing with Jamaican writers and broadcasters who may not have been so prevalent in that part of the stadium until a certain Mr Bolt started making his mark over 100m early in 2008.

Every writer has a hero or someone they want to follow. Although for some UK press the withdrawal of Paula Radcliffe was a disappointment, for others it gave them an opportunity to focus on other areas of interest at the weekend. Team members Mark and Gemma Miles received coverage about their unique status of husband and wife Aviva GB and NI representatives, whilst others took some time out to take in the popular endurance conference featuring George Gandy, Alberto Salazar and Liz McColgan amongst others.

Likewise the impressive array of volunteer help that showed up to support the event never fail to raise a smile. In addition to our amazing officials and event staff, there was the support from the local community – sports enthusiasts who simply wanted to take part in the weekend and help out where they could. The volunteers who helped out with the media operation put their all into making the event a success, from Sandra – who is a near permanent fixture at athletics events up and down the country, to Shakil – a local man who jumped on his bike at a moment’s notice  and sped across the city in order to make a delivery and help our IAAF colleagues meet a tight deadline.

Each and every detail of the media operation was worked to ensure that the media could communicate the event as easily as possible, for without them and magazines such as Athletics Weekly, no-one would know of the amazing feats of athletics that were taking place in our own back yard.