“He’s shadow boxing in front of Phelps! Chad le Clos won’t stop staring at Phelps!”
The media loves story-lines and that moment will last an eternity in Olympic history. Never mind that Phelps won another gold medal. The story will always be about how the South African swimmer tried to get inside the head of Michael Phelps and failed. Miserably. Not only did Phelps win another gold medal, but le Clos failed to medal at all. It’s a moment I will share in my media training workshops for the rest of the year because it is a perfect example of the intense media microscope which on full display at the Rio games, where there are very few places to hide from cameras. Heck, I just read a story about the athletes using the Tinder app to enhance their after-hours “activity”. Even their sex lives are apparently open territory.
Now back to le Clos. Was he really attempting to to mess with Michael or was he simply staying loose? It really is hard to know for sure but either way, a couple of media sins were committed. First, the camera is always on. At the Olympic games, ALL cameras are ALWAYS on. Even if the South African’s moves were unintentional, you have to be aware of what the camera is seeing and know the potential consequences. Even the slightest eye roll or grimace can become a never ending story-line. And that is my second point. The media wants a story. A really good story, and scandalous if possible. It is not enough to report on just the race-did the athlete get enough sleep or partying all night? Is he or she still squabbling with the coach or teammates? Is the crowd still booing Hope Solo? She openly criticized how Brazilian officials were managing the Zika virus and said she might stay inside her room when not playing.
If I were an Olympic athlete, the last thing I would want is a story-line that distracts from the game or motivates my competition.
The mega media microscope is unforgiving on the biggest of stages.