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|| News Item: Posted 2000-04-27

Jet Lag, Stress and Getting Knackered in Oz
By Tim Clayton, Sydney Morning Herald

Planning you trip to Sydney 2000 ... a word of advice: get here early!

Jet Lag is a weird and wonderful thing, some people get over it with eight beers, a bottle or two of cab sav and fourteen hours of sleep. Others suffer for days, weeks, even months as they never seem to recover from the body clock change.

The Sydney Morning Herald coverage of Atlanta is an interesting case. We sent a team of twenty five, which included four photographers. Two photographers were sent two weeks early with three reporters, these five people worked so hard that by the time the Olympics started they were completely knackered!

One of the two photographers sent early only managed to work seven of the 16 days during the games. The rest of us arrived with five days to go and rather than ease ourselves into things, we hit the ground running. This was partly due to the desire to help our colleagues who were walking stress bombs and partly due to the fact that once at a big event you really feel you have to start filing straight away just to justify your existence!

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We got it all wrong! I was 'lucky' in the fact that we had a drug story break with an Australian athlete testing positive. I was flown to North Carolina (or was it South?) where the movie "Bull Durham" was made and spent three days chasing one athlete. I arrived back with one day to go to find the entire staff in 'stress city'.

The problem then was I had no familiarization with any of the venues and for the first five days it was just a bonus to get to the event I was supposed to cover! My work suffered. I shot safe and straight, happy just to get a picture before I finally got up to speed with everything and started getting the hang of things and shoot as I do at home! Unfortunately, half the Olympics were over by this time!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (the Main Press Center) the stress levels of our staff were going through the roof! Journo's whose stories were cut were going ballistic and threatening to slit their wrists.

Photographers whose best picture of the day didn't get run were ready to lynch those 'blind' idiots back in Sydney who seemed to make their choice of pictures with the use of a white cane! " ... even Stevie Wonder can see that's a seven column picture!"

Alas, the Chief of Staff became a stress counselor and fortunately he had the sense to let everybody vent their spleen in his direction and he didn't take it personally! The mark of a good boss!!!

Then the bombing happened and we got back to our hotel at 8am, slept till 11am and started again. I finally jumped on the 'stress express' and managed to call my sports editor a ***in'stupid ****ed up **** wit who was ****in' useless! And he took it very personally!

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Recovery time back in Sydney varied from person to person. One of the early arrivals didn't shoot a good frame for six months, he was brain dead and recovery for him was long having a young family and a high pressure job on the back of covering an Olympic games! Be warned!

My advise to anybody working at the Sydney Olympics is get here early if possible and familiarize yourself with all the venues you will be shooting at. Don't work too hard too early. There's nothing worse than going to bed at ten at night absolutely knackered and then waking up three hours later, unable to sleep for the rest of the night that for three or four nights, which is not uncommon, and you are soon pretty knackered!

Get fit before you come and try and incorporate some light exercise when you get here! If you have a boss who is confrontational heading the group to Sydney, run him over with a car now! We just survived Atlanta as a group because the boss handled everybody. As he said, once the Games start it's like being in charge of a group of patients in a psychiatric ward.

Fortunately, nobody jumped out of a window! Plan who's doing what as far in advance as possible. It's better to know now you won't be covering the 100m final than told twenty four hours before! If you're a part of a small team of photographers, sort out your 'wish list' now so everybody has a fair chance at doing something they want to do.

The four of us in Atlanta all managed to cover our first AND second choice preferences because these were worked into our roster...a big stress reliever. DON'T look at the cuttings, don't ask what was used and not used, one bad run eats away at your mind and your feelings under stress are greatly exaggerated!

Have some down time ! After day three and seven missed meals we got into a routine of going to the same restaurant every night for two weeks from midnight till 2 AM, a good meal and a few drinks to relax was so important at the end of each day!

Down time was almost more important than sleep! We managed on roughly five hours sleep a day! Above all, have fun! it is the biggest and best event in the world and just being there is a bonus. Remember how lucky you are!

The best thing I covered in Atlanta was the women's team handball final! There are no bad sports assignments at the Olympics (except shooting)!!!

See you at the 100m final, the swimming 1500M, the basketball final....etc.....

(Tim Clayton is a sports photographer for the Sydney Morning Herald.)

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