THE LIFE OF A SPORT JOURNALIST BEFORE THE ADVENT OF TECHNOLOGY
I went to Italy last month to get away from my busy everyday life in London, back to my hometown Rome for a few days. Apart from the usual catch up with friends and mad cuddles with my beloved dog Ulysses, I also experienced one of the loveliest night out ever: my parents and I had dinner at a cosy traditional Osteria in the centre of Rome and enjoyed ourselves with some genuine Italian food and red wine. I felt amazingly well: warm, relaxed and nurtured.
I was already thinking about cycling and knew that my dad had covered some important cycling events back in his days as a sports journalist. So I started asking him questions about what it was like to be there – on the road – and write about such a fascinating sport as cycling.
My father is an old school sports journalist with a career spanning over 40 years, reporting and writing about important championships and competitions in the fields of cycling, boxing and football. He’s witnessed the rise and fall of many incredible sports figures in his time.
At the end of the 60s, he was working for La Gazzetta Dello Sport, the most popular sports newspaper in Italy, and for which he covered, six Giro d’Italia and one Tour de France between 1968 and 1975
As the main organiser of the Giro, La Gazzetta used to cover the events by sending out six or seven correspondents. This was because covering events is physically demanding and so it was usually the youngest who got the privilege of reporting important cycling events. Each journalist was tasked with doing it through the lens of their field of expertise and talent. There were the technical experts, the general reporters, the interviewers and the colour feature writers. This last category had to deliver light and creative stories from the road, the “trip” itself, along architectonic lines and the amusing discovery of Regional Italian cuisine.
“Cycling is an amazing experience for a young journalist because, in a way, it encapsulates the profession’s inner thirst for adventure” was one of his most interesting answers.
In fact, during the more than twenty days of the contest, the cyclists pass through an impressive variety of places: from snow-clad mountains to green valleys and all across Italy’s most beautiful cities, and so does the whole “cortège” that follows. The journalists, for their part, experience all these different scenarios as well while getting to sleep every night in a different bed and eating all sorts of food, ranging from cheap sandwiches on-the-go to the fanciest restaurants in town – often together with the mayor and other representatives of the town’s administration.
It is like a big moving festival: the whole town gets involved and follows the athletes along the race. Since it is a sport that happens on the streets, everyone can see and it’s this that makes it so democratic and within everyone’s grasp.
While my dad was dragging me on an amazing journey back in time, along his memory lane, I suddenly realised that the walls of the restaurant we were in were sprinkled with beautiful vintage pictures of athletes and sports scenes, and that amused me even more. And that was also the moment when he gave me the best part of the entire story. At the time, there were no sky camera drones or modern technology. Those who were watching the race managed to see very little of what was really going on.
“A typical scenario would be us standing with the rest of the public on top of a mountain, waiting for the cyclists to arrive, only to have them speed past in just a few seconds. Then you would follow and chase them for the rest of the race”.
This meant that, there was a lot left to the imagination. And that is probably why many talented and famous Italian writers wrote some great stories on the back of the races. They managed to find a way to express themselves creatively and literally, through journalistic coverage of one of the most romantic sport ever.