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A walk through the mixed zone



Neže Žerjav’s column

Media and sport live in symbiosis. The importance of the media can already be seen in the fact that the VIP/Media exit station in Planica is closer to the stadium than the one intended for competitors.

It is much more telling that approximately 1,500 athletes are competing at the World Championship, and 2,000 journalists are accredited. In addition, a large part of the auxiliary infrastructure set up at the championship is intended for the media. Report vehicles and a media center can be found at the end of the children’s jumps, opposite the end of the jumps and at the running stadium there are “observation towers” from where reporters have a good overview of what is happening. On the track we find not only platforms with cameras, but also two special types of “start” numbers that allow access to photographers (“Photo”) and expert commentators (“Media exp.”). None of this directly concerns the competitors, unless you meet one of the legendary names in cross-country skiing on the track, for example Pettra Northug, who is an expert commentator for Norwegian TV2.

We have a mixed zone. This is the area where the competitors meet the press after the competition. It is a corridor along which representatives of various media are arranged, with their cameras, microphones, recorders and notepads. In Planica, the mixed zone runs along the running stadium and is about 200 m long. Pretty much. Walking through the mixed zone after the match is our duty and allows journalists to get instant fresh statements and we are guaranteed to be questioned at a known and limited time and place. In short, that we will then have peace.

Neža Žerjav is a member of the Slovenian national team in cross-country skiing and a participant in the Olympic Games in Beijing. She is a biochemist with a degree.

Immediately after arriving at the finish line, the microphone is bowed under the nose only of the winner. This first statement is addressed to Doris (the media coordinator of the International Skiing Federation) and is usually quite general, because the feelings of the winners in all races are very similar, and besides, after arriving at the finish line, very few people can give a lucid and interesting comment about the course of the race and conditions.

Neža Žerjav Photo: PT

All the rest of us, who do not get this privilege, can get dressed, take a breather and adjust our psychophysical state after arriving at the finish line. So prepared, we walk through the mixed zone, which is not only a place for our statements, but also for sponsors. Logos on clothing must be visible and in the right place. At the entrance to the mixed zone, the outfitters put a pair of skis and poles in our hands again, which makes it much easier to carry and position props. Along the corridor there are compartments with journalists, in the first place is RTV Slovenia, where we will definitely stop, followed by foreign media houses, which we are interested in only occasionally. At that time they also poke us by the sleeve, in Planica they are mainly interested in what it means to have the world championship at home.

This kind of way of gathering statements is very effective, because the journalists get the athletes just right full of endorphins and impressions from the match, which makes us easy to talk to and much more direct than usual. Admittedly, towards the end of the mixed zone, when you are explaining the course of the match and your feelings for the seventh time, when you are already cold and tired, your speaking skills quickly diminish.

It is an additional challenge to answer in different languages, because you have the feeling that because of the fog in your head, your knowledge of the language decreases by one level according to the SEJO scale. When you answer in your fourth language, a real Babylonian mess arises in your head and you just hope that you haven’t invented your own version of Esperanto.

Communicating with the seventh force is sometimes exciting, other times tiring. It is part of sport and has its own purpose, mutual cooperation is important. Original questions are always welcome, and athletes can try their best with original answers. The same goes for respect and understanding. After all, we are part of the same business.

Source: Rtvslo

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