Interview for Radio Slovenija

Days before traveling to the Rio Olympics, I discussed sport, media, money, and politics for Radio Slovenija. Thanks to Tatjana Pirc for the very interesting talk; fans of the topic can listen to the interview (in the Slovenian language) following this link.

Despite the nice looks, the 2016 Rio Olympics have started falling apart one circle at the time (photo credit: Simon Licen)

Despite the nice looks, the 2016 Rio Olympics have started falling apart one circle at the time (photo credit: Simon Licen)

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Olympic Threats Interview in WalletHub

As the 2016 Summer Olympics get closer, WalletHub, a personal finance website, interviewed me for a story on the threats faced by the looming mega-event.

The story, which can be found here, crunches some numbers related to the event and features interviews with scholars on the risks and threats related to the Olympics.

My interview can be also accessed directly by clicking here.

Enjoy the read, and keep an eye on the Olympic and on independent reports from Rio.

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[SI] Zakaj je bila kandidatura Planice za SP 2021 neuspešna

Pred dnevi je Slovenija – natančneje, Smučarska zveza Slovenije – izgubila priložnost za organizacijo svetovnega prvenstva v nordijskih disciplinah v Planici leta 2021.

Prireditelja so izbirali na kongresu mednarodne smučarske zveze (FIS) v Mehiki. Za organizacijo tekmovanja sta se poleg Planice potegovala Oberstdorf v Nemčiji in Trondheim na Norveškem. Izbrana je bila kandidatura bavarskih prirediteljev.

Nekateri najpomembnejši slovenski množični mediji so predstavitev ocenili pozitivno: Delo jo je označil kot »uspešno« in »prepričljivo«, spletni portal javnega servisa pa kot »izvirno«.

Številni opazovalci v Sloveniji so predstavitev označili občutno bolj skromno; nekateri so jo celo opisali kot »sramotno«.

Ne eni ne drugi pa niso slovenske predstavitve – ali celo razlogov za njen neuspeh – temeljiteje analizirali. Škoda, saj bi množični mediji s tem naredili uslugo tako splošni kot strokovni javnosti države, ki se postopoma odpira organizaciji velikih mednarodnih športnih prireditev. Zato naj to storim sam. Na tej ali tej povezavi je dostopen zajem celotnega zvočnega kanala in pripravljenih video posnetkov.

Kritična izjava člana upravnega odbora Smučarske zveze Slovenije ter podpredsednika mednarodne smučarske zveze Janeza Kocijančiča, da obžaluje, da svetovna zveza nima strategije organizacije svetovnih prvenstev (»I feel sorry that we do not have a long-term strategy about World Championships, where you would accommodate on one side the interest of the experienced organizers and on the other side the idea that you should enlarge the basis and go to the new countries and new places,« na posnetku od 1:55 dalje), in sledeči odziv na izjave drugih o njegovem delu gotovo nista pripomogla k pozitivnemu prvemu vtisu delegatov. Pri seznanjanju z neznanimi ljudmi ali, v tem primeru, situacijami je prvi vtis izredno pomemben ali celo ključen. Tokrat je bil ta prvi vtis negativen oziroma celo prepirljiv.

Zamisel o prikazu predstavitve kot televizijska poročila Ski News (»smučarske novice,« pa tudi aluzija na britanski televizijski program Sky News) je bila zanimiva, sploh ker je predstavitev vodil Igor Bergant, sicer novinar RTV Slovenija. Manj primerna sta bila prikaza, da potekajo v živo tudi javljanja s predsednikom vlade (na posnetku na 4:35) in Petro Majdič (7:01): v Sloveniji sicer neredki t.im. »fejk vklopi,« pri katerih se voditelj v studiu pretvarja, da vnaprej posneto javljanje poteka v živo, v tujini (npr. Italiji in ZDA) pogosto naletijo na kritike in posmeh gledalcev in strokovnjakov.

Povsem neposrečena je bila »vremenska napoved,« ki jo je vodila 21-letna smučarska tekačica Anamarija Lampič (od 3:27 dalje). Izbira športnice (ne pa športnika) je pohvalna, vendar je nujno izbrati takšno, ki dobro govori (tuj) jezik, ali pa vsaj besedilo prirediti njenemu znanju. Poskus potlačenja drugih dveh kandidatur (od 3:55 dalje) je velik faux-pas in spominja na športnike (še pogosteje pa otroke), ki poskusijo tekmeca premagati tako, da ga od zadaj potegnejo za dres v upanju, da bo padel ali pa vsaj počasneje tekel; nikakor torej zgled »fair playa.« Povrhu je sama napoved – »Globally, the weather may go wild a little bit, with prospect of big freeze up Northern Europe and touch of tropic in Southern Germany. But for Planica we see some fantastic prospect, even an upgrade from Planica 2020« – povsem nestvarna, saj je vreme nemogoče napovedati pet let vnaprej. Po izmišljeni napovedi in zaigranih vklopih začne gledalec dvomiti, kateri deli predstavitve sploh so resnični. S tem se krši najpomembnejše pravilo odnosov z javnostmi: Nikoli ne laži (viri ena, dve, tri…).

Izražena podpora predsednika vlade Mira Cerarja (od 4:35) je zelo neprepričljiva: odlikovalo naj bi ga to, da je sin dobitnika olimpijske medalje (5:02), kar je sicer res – vendar se ne spodobi kititi se s tujim perjem. Obenem se predsednico vlade druge države kandidatke omenja kot morda celo najboljšo možno bodočo generalno sekretarko Organizacije združenih narodov, kar sicer ni športna, vendar je gotovo bolj prestižna odlika. Poskus poudarjanja primerjalne prednosti in ugleda se je po neposrečenem »boljšem vremenu« torej spet izjalovil. Ni čudno, da celo zaigrani udeleženci izjave za medije (na 4:59) maloštevilni – dva stola sta prazna – in tako nezainteresirani, da eden od njih med govorom predsednika vlade celo zre v prenosni telefon.

Če sta pomanjkanje skromnosti in pretirana samozavest še nekako razumljivi pri izjavi Petri Majdič (vendar pa se vodstvu kakršne koli svetovne organizacije vendarle ne spodobi govoriti, kaj naj naredijo; 8:18), je voditeljev dovtip o prerekanju s slovenskimi dekleti nepotreben. V zahodnem svetu se nepotrebni namigi na spol že leta opuščajo tako v športu kot na drugih področjih, mednarodni priročniki pa novinarjem že leta zapovedujejo, da se dekleta, starejša od 18 let, označi kot »ženske«. Generalna sekretarka mednarodne smučarske zveze gospa Sarah Lewis se kot udeleženka prireditev in kongresov, ki opozarjajo na vlogo žensk v športu, tega gotovo zaveda.

Predstavitev Planice (od 8:42) je všečna, vendar premalo specifična; županovo izjavo o investiciji stotih milijonov evrov v turistično infrastrukturo v naslednjih desetih letih bi bilo treba dopolniti s pojasnilom, kako se morebitna organizacija prvenstva vklaplja v ta širši načrt (kot sta to storila Los Angeles in predvsem Barcelona pred olimpijskimi igrami v letih 1984 in 1992). Poudarjeni prizori vihrajočih slovenskih zastav v času finala svetovnega pokala v smučarskih skokih marca 2016 (na posnetku na 9:48) so slovenskim gledalcem sicer všečni, hkrati pa nasprotujejo napovedi »vremenske napovedovalke« Anemarije Lampič o »good vibrations provided by tens of thousands of happy people from all over the world« (3:45). Vprašljiva privlačnost velikih športnih prireditev za tuje obiskovalce – teh je včasih celo manj kot v času brez športnega dogodka – je eno najpomembnejših vprašanj na področju športne industrije (športnega menedžmenta, turizma, organizacije dogodkov itd.). V primeru kandidature Planice je bilo to vprašanje zelo slabo obravnavano. Podobno izgubljena je bila priložnost zaokrožiti predstavitev z izjavo, kaj naj bi bil odločilen argument v prid organizacije prvenstva v Planici (od 11:10): »I’m dealing with kids myself,« je dejal nekdanji smučar skakalec Franci Petek. »It’s so important, I really know it first-hand, it’s so important to assure a ski future. And Slovenia can be a role model about this, about all of this. And we want to share with the whole world.« As v rokavu naj bi torej bil kar »vse to;« a kaj je to, to?

Predstavitev je zaokrožila do gostiteljev zelo žaljiv stereotipni prikaz Mehičanov kot muzikantov s sombrerom (od 12:18). Številne ameriške medijske hiše so se zaradi podobnih stereotipnih prikazov (predvsem v času mehiškega praznika Cinco de Mayo) morale že večkrat opravičiti; o tem sta med ostalimi poročala CNN in Huffington Post.

Če je bilo v predstavitvi kandidature Planice vse to narobe – kaj pa bi sploh lahko oziroma morali narediti? Tukaj ali tukaj poglejmo predstavitev Oberstdorfa, ki je organizacijo prireditve tudi dobil.

Ta predstavitev je bila krajša, jedrnata, specifična. Ni se ozirala na tekmece, pač pa se je dotaknila vseh tem, ki v tem času zaposlujejo organizatorje velikih športnih prireditev in novinarje, ki jih spremljajo: uporaba obstoječe infrastrukture in nastanitvenih kapacitet (na posnetku od 5:25), zavedanje vpliva na okolje (5:40, 6:07) in potreb medijskih hiš (5:59).

Z besedo in sliko so se dotaknili potrebam po osebju za takšne prireditve (t.im. »staffing«): »With a pool of around 2000 passionate volunteers…« (6:51).

Najpomembnejše in najpomenljivejše pa je zagotovilo po solidni finančni konstrukciji, saj omenjajo in prikažejo podporo prepoznavnih podjetij, kot so Audi, Adidas, Intersport, Viessman, Würth in približno 35 drugih, ki bodo plačala za organizacijo prvenstva (od 8:15 dalje). Spomnimo, Planica se je na tem področju naslonila na predsednika vlade (torej implicitno na državna finančna sredstva) in župana Kranjske Gore (torej občinska sredstva). Tekmovanje bi torej spet financirali pretežno z javnim denarjem, namesto da bi profesionalni šport podpiralo gospodarstvo (in proračunu vračal, namesto da bi iz njega jemal).

Pred objavo tega prispevka sem se obrnil na Smučarsko zvezo Slovenije z vprašanji, kdo je predstavitev (njen koncept, scenarij, videoposnetke) pripravil in ali je pri tem sodeloval kakšen zunanji izvajalec (podjetje, agencija) oziroma partner. Njen predstavnik za odnose z javnostmi Tomi Trbovc je odgovoril:

»…[k]ar ste videli na youtubu ni bila predstavitev Planice. Tako neprofesionalno je seveda ne bi naredili. Predstavitev je potekala v živo in je bila namenjena 17 članom predsedstva, ki so sedeli v dvorani. Naredili smo vse od igre luči do osebnega kontakta in bili po mnenju drugih najboljši. Seveda pa so si pri nas nekateri te posnetke, ki so bili vrženi skupaj iz konteksta predstavitve razlagali kot predstavitveni video. Samo idejo in izvedbo smo naredili v ožjem krogu ljudi, ki tudi drugače delajo za vsakoletno prireditev v Planici. Stroškov pa praktično ni bilo oz. so bili minimalni.«

Seznam članov organizacijskega odbora zadnje skakalne tekme v Planici je dostopen na http://www.planica.si/Organizator.

Nekateri slovenski komentatorji so po izboru gostitelja prvenstva preko družabnih medijev pisali o spletkah in teorijah zarote, po katerih naj bi bodisi namenoma oškodovali Planico in Slovenijo bodisi koristili Oberstdorfu in Nemčiji. Morda res. V vsakem primeru je bila s strokovnega vidika predstavitev Oberstdorfa zmagovalna, predstavitev Planice pa pač ne.

(Opomba 22. junija ob 13.26: Iz objave sta bila odstranjena nedelujoča videoposnetka s spletne strani YouTube. Za ogled video posnetkov kliknite na povezave med besedilom.)

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Appearance at Maraton Franja Panel Discussion

On Thursday, June 9, I will be speaking in a panel discussion on Values in Sport organized by Maraton Franja, a cycling race.  The round table starts at 8 p.m. in the Crystal Palace (Kristalna palača) BTC City in Ljubljana.

The discussion will revolve around the importance of cultural and sporting values at international sports events. Organizers anticipate “examples of practices from different environment and possible approaches in training children, adolescents and young athletes in the relationship between coaches and supportive environment that works with the athletes.”

The round table is the final event of a week-long workshop entitled, Franja Academy. The initiative, co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, aims to develop, share and promote good practices in sport.

Speaking in the discussion will be sport professionals from Italy, the Netherlands, Scotland, and Slovenia.

A list of participating speakers, as well as details about the initiative can be found online at http://my.franja.org/ and on Facebook.

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Guest lecture – check

The guest lecture offered to sports journalism students at the University of Ljubljana on May 25 was successful. Students were interested and attentive, prompting me to run out of time to discuss almost half of the material I had prepared: Their questions and scenarios were more engaging. Admittedly though, I do have a tendency to over-prepare (and I did incorporate a fun activity to generate practical student involvement). Apologies to Jim Crawford for not showing his Shooting for Seven feature; in turn, I did recommend Play the Game as an invaluable resource to the true journalist about sport.

Faculty attending the lecture seemed very satisfied as well so this meeting will hopefully lead to tighter collaboration in the future; students, academics, and (future) professionals would benefit from it. Stay tuned for announcements on future writing and educational efforts!

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Guest lecture at the University of Ljubljana

Coming up on what used to be the Day of Youth in former Yugoslavia is a guest lecture your correspondent will offer to students enrolled in a course on Specialized (Sports) Journalism at the University of Ljubljana, his alma mater.

The lecture will focus on the role journalism has in sports.  Your correspondent is a proponent of the concept of sports journalism as “journalism about sports,” meaning there is no reason to waive fundamental professional principles when reporting about sports.

The topics covered in the meeting will include several issues of global relevance that will be applied to the Slovenian context.  Among them will be the use of performance-enhancing drugs: Excellent journalistic work will be exemplified with a reference to Hajo Seppelt’s work at ARD/WDR.  Match-fixing will be touched on with references to the work of Declan Hill and a local case study.

After introducing global topics we will switch to local sports and use Jim Crawford’s (www.jimcrawf.com) feature, Shooting for Seven, as an example of a compelling story about youth sport that is sure to attract interest of local audiences.  Proud to have had the opportunity to interact with Jim in an instructor-student capacity!

Finally, we will “localize” the discussion and controversies surrounding mega-events by discussing some findings on popular attitude, willingness to pay, and international media coverage of the European Basketball Championship for men hosted by Slovenia in 2013.  A fun class activity is also planned!

The talkative guest is likely to run out of time before being able to cover all topics.  Nonetheless, he will surely do his best and hope to satisfy student curiosity!

Stay tuned for more activities coming up soon!

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Article for Communication & Sport Published Online

The results of an international study I co-authored with colleagues from four countries was recently published online before being printed in an upcoming issue of the Communication & Sport journal.

The article entitled, “International Newspaper Coverage of the 2013 EuroBasket for Men,” examines global print media attention dedicated to 2013 edition of the foremost European basketball event.  The tournament was played in four cities in Slovenia.

Results indicate that the event actually attracted only limited international coverage, “contradicting organizers’ assertions and popular belief of widespread promotional and economic benefits deriving from the event.” To that end, we indicated some suggestions to aspiring organizers of similar events in the future.

The abstract and the full article can be accessed following this link.

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Africa as the Next Frontier for Varsity Athletics

A student in the graduate program in Sport Management at Washington State University, where I work, recently shared a very interesting resource following a class discussion on the effects of mass media effect.

When looking at news media coverage and trends from an agenda-setting viewpoint, it is interesting to observe the different amounts of coverage dedicated to national vs. international stories in various countries. One of my areas of interest, and one I hope to move further into in the coming years, are post-colonial countries, many of which can be found in Africa.

Almost all major (U.S. and international) networks and broadcasters pay little attention to the continent, with the bright exceptions of the BBC and Al Jazeera, whose purpose includes being a global mainstream voice for the Arab world and Africa. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Al Jazeera recently announced the imminent closing of their U.S. channel, Al Jazeera America.

This is a loss for cultural, as well as financial reasons: Africa is next in line in terms of great economic development. After China lifted a stunning 680 million people out of poverty over the course of just 30 years, consumption of goods and services including sports increased greatly (does the name Yao Ming ring a bell?). Nowadays, the NBA and the UEFA Champions League are the most popular sports leagues in the country of 1.3 billion people.

What does Africa have to do with college athletics, which is the field the student from the first sentence operates in? Well, the United States are the 18th most obese nation world-wide–and the most obese nation in the OECD–so in a generation or two, American universities will have a very limited pool of fit student athletes to recruit from (with the exception of American football, where obesity is not a limitation for some playing positions).

Recruitment in Europe is already widespread; at Washington State University alone, non-revenue women’s basketball has 7/14 players (50%) coming from outside the United States, while in tennis, the share is 100%; WSU has not had an American varsity tennis player since 2012. But Europe is hardly a “secret” for the hundreds of American universities eager to attract athletic talent. Also, the competition from local universities is strong–Central Europe and Scandinavia have started recruiting international high school students for academic purposes as well.

With a population of 37 million or so, Oceania is too small to become a sustainable source of athletic talent, so the next obvious, and largely untapped, frontier will be Africa: the world’s youngest continent, where half of its 1.1 billion inhabitants are under the age of 19, and 70% of the population is under the age of 30.  Elite soccer has moved into the continent to establish “farm systems” years ago.

The first educational institutions to realize the potential will profit handsomely from an athletic viewpoint and will have an opportunity (and the great responsibility) to elevate the educational, and thus social, level of the continent. Hopefully, they will do so responsibly. Until then, I will be researching, teaching, and consulting.

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SI: Nov zakon s področja športa – v Kanadi

Pred dnevi sem pisal o prepovedi igre z glavo v mladinskem nogometu v Združenih državah Amerike.

Danes je kanadska javna radiotelevizija poročala, da poteka v pokrajini Ontario priprava zakona o zaščiti (predvsem mladih) športnikov po pretresih možganov.

Povod za uvedbo zakona je smrt 17-letne ragbistke Rowan Stringer. Igralka je med tekmo padla v nezavest, iz katere se ni več prebudila. Pred tem v manj kot tednu dni doživela tri pretrese možganov; kljub temu ji nihče ni preprečil igranja ali jo napotil na zdravljenje.

Novi zakon bo določil postopek povratka k vadbi po poškodbi glave. Pri tem se bo naslanjal na mednarodne strokovne smernice, ki so bile določene v Švici.

Smrti na športnih igriščih so bile že zabeležene tudi v Sloveniji: leta 2005 je nogometaš Nedžad Botonjić zaradi srčnega zastoja umrl med treningom. Štiri leta kasneje se je igralec malega nogometa zgrudil po trku z drugim igralcem. Na podlagi sicer skopih informacij se v tem primeru zdi povsem možno, da je igralec umrl zaradi posledic pretresa možganov po trku z glavama. Še en nogometaš je zaradi srčnega zastoja umrl leta 2014.

Kljub nemalo smrtim – resda ne vse posledica pretresa možganov – ni nobena poslanska skupina v Sloveniji pripravila kakršnega koli osnutka spremembe zakona (na primer o športu), ki bi bolj zaščitil posameznike (predvsem otroke in mladino), ki se ukvarjajo s športom. Zakon bi lahko predpisal ravnanje po poškodbah mladih športnikov (predvsem v primeru resnejših poškodb, kot so poškodbe glave). Navsezadnje pa bi bil dober začetek že, če bi se začelo dosledno izvajati obstoječi (sicer precej pomanjkljiv) Zakon o športu, po katerem morajo prireditelji športnih prireditev zagotoviti prvo pomoč. Z izjemo šolskih športnih tekmovanj usposobljenega osebja za takojšnje nudenje prve pomoči na (klubskih) mladinskih tekmovanjih v Sloveniji namreč ni zaznati.

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Media appearance on Radio Capodistria

Il Vaso di Pandora (Pandora’s Box), a radio show on Slovenian-based Italian network, Radio Capodistria, recently did a feature on soccer and politics in Slovenia and, more generally, in the Balkans.  They interviewed me and we spoke about national/group identification, as well as about the “likeability” of soccer for people in Slovenia.

The feature (in the Italian language) starts one hour and nine minutes into the show, and my comments can be heard around the 1h 29′ mark: http://4d.rtvslo.si/arhiv/il-vaso-di-pandora/174371086.

Invitations to speak in Italian media reach me relatively rarely; hopefully, more opportunity will emerge in the coming months and years!

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