Getting media accreditation for the Sochi Paralympics is one of those things that for me has huge meaning, and since September 2012 has largely defined my involvement with Wikimedia projects. The amount of work for doing it feels in its own way like the equivalent of finishing a masters by research. I traveled from Canberra to San Francisco to Colorado to earn it. I traveled from Madrid to La Molina. It was one of the reasons I sought a second Wikimedian in Residency in Spain with the Spanish Paralympic Committee. It was a huge part of the reasoning I did a lot of work towards The Wikinewsie Group, so people wouldn’t have to do as much work to follow in my footsteps. I wrote a large number of articles on English Wikipedia and Simple English Wikipedia. I created a winter Paralympics portal on English Wikipedia. I created a large file full of information to make it easier for others to automate the creation of articles about Paralympians in other languages. I wrote a number of articles on English Wikinews and Spanish Wikinews about Paralympic sport. I attended a conference in Slovakia. I followed up on paperwork. When you want something, you do the work and this required a lot of work.
There were a lot of inadvertent hurdles. Doing something like reporting for Wikinews at the Paralympics is a team effort. Successful reporting requires that. The hurdles were Russian non-response to request for accommodation. They wanted that in in August. I sent it in. I repeatedly sent it in. I followed up with the NPC about that lack of response issue. No dice. No accommodation. (And considering the Olympic reporting problems in Sochi? Not surprised now.) I had to find a Wikimedia organization to be our accrediting body since Wikimedia Australia was out. You can’t attend the Paralympics as a freelancer. There are funding challenges as I cannot rely on WMF or WM-AU funding. Accreditation was supposed to arrive in January. My e-mails to the NPC and them to me were not being received. It arrived February 13. Until it arrived, I was not 100% despite everything that I would have them.
So now with about three weeks to go, I’m feeling a bit like I am flailing around. I need to get a cheap flight from Madrid. I need to find accommodation that is cheap and accessible to a media bus to the venues. I need to find out hidden costs because London charged the media about €120 for access to the internet per person. Erk. Erk.
If anyone has any recommendations for cheap accommodation still available near either the skiing venue or the down in the valley venues, please let me know. If anyone has any leads on potential funding, please let me know. I’m happy to wear someone’s branded jacket when I am there. If anyone has frequent flier miles they could spare, please let me know.
The Paralympics are important to cover, because they remove some of the stigma people with disabilities face. They also celebrate the Olympic spirit at its finest because few of these athletes have any sponsorship deals. They spend large amounts of money to compete. This is one of those things that is about real love of sport, and the connection between it and assisting in health lifestyles feels so much clearer. If the media isn’t there to report on it, if we aren’t about freely sharing this, it doesn’t get done. (And whatever I publish, you can ask your local newspaper to reprint because the licenses allow it.)