By Michael Lewis
Yes, I know that is a parking pass and not an actual press credential that is pictured above this story and we’ll get to the reason why in a minute.
I have had the privilege of attending and covering seven Summer Olympic Games, mostly soccer (football, according to FIFA) since 1976.
With the United States hosting the LA Summer Games in 1984, many of the group soccer games were hosted by satellite sites such as Palo Alto, Calif., Annapolis, Md. and Cambridge, Mass.
I knew long ago that I wasn’t going to get a credential for the LA Games because Gannett was going to send columnists to cover multiple sports. But with Cambridge on a straight line via I-90 from Rochester, N.Y. where I worked for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, I figured I had a better opportunity to get one there.
The paper wasn’t going to send me east to cover the games, so I took several days off. There, I several stories for Soccer America and eventually for my newspaper, about Norway, a late entry due to the Soviet boycott (revenge over 1980), the security in and around the stadium and a notes column capturing the feeling of the games some 3,000 miles away from the Olympic epicenter.
They even at opening ceremonies Harvard Stadium. Prior to the first doubleheader, a helicopter landed next to the venue and dropped off vice president George Bush. With Bush in attendance, the stadium was crawling with members of the Secret Service. There were snipers on the roof of the stadium.
Security was tight, so I figured that was a logical story to pursue. I met with the venue director, who just happened to be the Boston University men’s head soccer coach. He looked a bit intimidating with a handlebar mustache. You might have heard of him — Hank Steinbrecher.
When teams flew in from Annapolis — the squads alternated between the two venues — a helicopter sometimes followed the fans carrying the players from Logan Aiport.
“We do not want to live in infamy n Olympics history,” Steinbrecher said. “The massacre in Munich in 1972 occurred two days before the end. There’s no way we’re going to let down our guard.”
If you were unaware, Steinbrecher went on to become secretary general of U.S. Soccer from 1990-2000 and made a major impact in shaping the sport in this country.
After returning to Rochester, I received a call from the Soccer America editor saying that the person who was supposed to cover the Cambridge matches did not file a story and was nowhere to be found. Could I write a story? As a good reporter, I took notes and went to press conferences, so I had plenty of material. Within a day — Soccer America was a weekly publication back then — I got my story in on time. No Pulitzer, but it had all the facts.
Oh yeah, about the credential.
This was the most unusual process. As the media entered the stadium, we were given general press passes, without names, affiliation or photos. When we left, we had to give them back.
Never did I have to return a credential.
For the next set of games, all media repeated that.
I look at a press credential as a badge and in some respects, a trophy, that you covered that particular event. If you have been a regular reader of this series, you know that I have saved credentials from just about every game/event/tournament that I have written about in person, soccer or otherwise.
Well, at least I will have the fantastic memories and the parking pass from the 1984 Summer Olympics, Cambridge, Mass. style.