This summer I was in Singapore to cover the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) for Scholastic. It was the first-ever YOG organized by the International Olympic Committee. How cool is that?
Even after going back to school and getting into the homework routine, I can still close my eyes and be in Singapore. I can still see the opening ceremony with Y-O-G in big, bold letters in the foreground and hear the official soundtrack of the Games: "Raise your hand for our generation, fly the flags of every nation, reaching out for that moment in our lives..."
I know this sounds a little corny, but that moment in my life truly took my breath away. I loved the opening ceremony. I loved seeing kids from every nation compete at the highest level, learn about each other's cultures, and make friends for life.
I loved traveling all the way to the other side of the planet, walking around the city, and feeling its energy. I loved holding on to the pink handlebars in the bus. I remember like it is today my many trips in the Singapore subway. I remember that 'berhati-hati ruang di platform' means 'mind the platform gap' in Malay. I don't know when I'll have a chance to use that again, but it's imprinted in my brain!
Most of all, I loved being in the middle of the action at such an important event. It turns out I may have been the youngest reporter ever to have been officially accredited for the Olympic Games! A few journalists wrote about me because of that, which was a real surprise. But I'm not going to kid you: I'm not a pro! I was goofing up all the time: one time.
Once, I mistook a tourist for an athlete. I showed up at a venue at the wrong time. I started one interview with a long question, only to realize that the athlete understood not a single word of English. I almost got blamed for making another athlete miss his anti-doping testing!
But along the way, I learned a thing or two:
1) Introduce yourself and say who you're writing for: that's the professional thing to do when you're starting an interview, and it'll make you feel special. If you don't, the person you're interviewing is going to spend the first 10 seconds reading what's written on the badge around your neck. That's awkward. And he will forget your first question.
2) Speaking of first questions: prepare a first question, and be ready to scrape it. There's nothing more frustrating for someone who just lost a game than to hear: "So, how much fun was it out there?"
3) If you're interviewing famous people, don't ask them to spell their names. You can look it up later. It wastes time, wears out that person's patience, and you're going to have to double check it anyway to make sure you didn't write it down wrong!
4) If there's a line of reporters waiting to interview someone, stay close to the athlete as he or she is walking from one reporter to another, and listen to the questions and answers. If you then stand at the end of that line, you'll have plenty of ideas to follow up on things others have asked, or go in a totally new direction with your own interview. I got this tip from Jane at the US Olympic Committee. Thanks, Jane!
5) And remain objective: you're there to report, not to cheer too wildly for your home team (something I had a hard time with sometimes).For example, At the opening ceremony, the organizers gave each spectator a goodie bag with all sorts of useful things, like a bottle of water, a muffin, a portable ventilator, a poncho, a dove that lights up, etc. The bag also included a set of balloon clappers. I banged them so hard that they exploded in my hands. I smashed my parents' clappers too. And that was all before the ceremony actually got underway!
You could say that I was cheering too wildly, but then again, I was experiencing the moment!
NOTE: The Youth Olympic Games took place in Singapore from Aug 13-26, 2010. Check out Charlotte's daily posts from Singapore on the Scholastic Kids Press Corps Blog. For more about the Youth Olympic Games, check out the YOG official website.
PHOTO: The big YOG letters at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, August 2010. (Photo Courtesy Charlotte Samson)