Britain’s oldest and biggest black newspaper, The Voice, has been refused media accreditation for the Olympic stadium, meaning that it won’t be able to cover the most high profile track and field events in person.
The paper’s editor and managing director, George Ruddock, called the decision “a slap in the face by the British Olympic Association”. He continued: “We are truly disappointed that The Voice, which has covered the glorious achievements of British, African and Caribbean athletes for many years, will not be inside the Olympic stadium to record more expected glory.”
The rejection the paper received read as follows:
The extraordinary interest and demand from UK media saw the British Olympic Association (BOA) receive more than 3,000 requests for the approximately 400 accreditations available.
After careful consideration by the Media Accreditation Committee, we regret to inform you that your application for accreditation for the London 2012 Olympic Games has been unsuccessful.
Should we be in the fortunate position to receive additional accreditations from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the Games near or if any granted accreditations are returned, we will reallocate them to applicants on our waiting list. You will automatically be put on this list.
The Voice’s readers have already reacted with outrage. The activist Zita Holbourne has set up a petition calling on the BOA to reconsider its decision, which has so far attracted 750 signatures. Labour MP David Lammy, Jamaica’s high commissioner Aloun Assamba and Simon Woolley, chair of Operation Black Vote, have also called for the decision to be reversed.
The problem, Holbourne feels, is that bigger, more general publications, have been prioritised, with smaller and more specialist publications like The Voice left out. But as the paper’s sports editor Rodney Hinds has said, a commitment to diversity has underpinned all stages of London’s Olympics so far, so “if we can’t have one reporter reporting on what’s happening from inside the stadium something is very wrong”.
There’s no indication at this stage that there’s been a deliberate attempt to exclude the paper explicitly because of the nature of its readership. But having a publication like The Voice kept outside the stadium when members of Team GB come from the very communities it represents is unacceptable. As Hinds says, something is very wrong if the media accreditation process is so unbalanced as to refuse access to a sports journalist from a well-known and respected paper, albeit a specialist one, that caters to a readership that many other outlets don’t reach.
Three Voice journalists have received accreditation for the Olympic football competition, but the paper is still waiting to hear from the BOA about the details of the criteria by which media outlets were assessed for access to the stadium.