CCA cutting down on distractions

GEORGE KARRYS, For QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

Mike Harris couldn't believe his eyes.

The skip of Canada's Olympic men's team 12 years earlier, Harris had just fired off an congratulations e-mail to Calgary's Cheryl Bernard.

It was Dec. 14, just 48 hours after Bernard had defeated Shannon Kleibrink to qualify to represent Canada in Vancouver.

"I got an automated reply," said Harris, who now commentates on CBC's curling broadcasts.

"It thanked me for the message and mentioned how she won't be checking this account regularly, and then it asked media to contact someone named Karen at this number, and so on.

"Looked like the CCA got to her. That was fast."

The CCA is the Canadian Curling Association, and Karen is Karen McDonald, the media attache for Canada's curling teams headed to Vancouver.

Prior to last weekend McDonald had been working in communications for 2010 LegaciesNow, which develops community legacies through and following the 2010 Games. She also had been consulting for CCA teams as a media relations resource since 2007 and is now working full-time with the Olympians through February, in the volunteer role.

"I understand for previous Games that the media attache role was planned later, once the teams had been declared," MacDonald said.

"This time the CCA wanted someone in place much earlier, to develop a media plan and help manage the distractions for the teams and their coaches."

Hence the automated e-reply to Harris, and other well-wishers who tried to contact Bernard and the other victorious curlers in the days following the Olympic Trials.

"We handled the media ourselves back in 1998," Harris said. "And we had tons of requests. We enjoyed it because nobody really knew who these guys from Toronto were."

MacDonald acknowledges the plan to help the athletes manage their communications, beginning with simple e-mails, from the moment they became Team Canada.

"John Morris (of Kevin Martin's men's team) changed his answering machine to direct media to my attention," MacDonald said.

"It's tough for some of the regular curling beat writers, because they're used to unlimited, direct access to these curlers and now these curlers are swamped. I'm here to help the media with that access."

Four years ago, Canadian media produced 1,006 hours of coverage from the 2006 Games in Italy. This month, Canada's Olympic Broadcast Consortium alone is projected to produce 4,400 hours of coverage.

The media glare is glowing hotter by the day, but the plans appear to be sound.

The Bernard and Martin teams dropped into the Olympic fishbowl on Saturday, stepping onto the ice in Richmond, B.C., in a carefully co-ordinated series of media interviews and photo ops. Canadian media were there, as well as some foreign outlets, including a TV crew from Japan.

"That was for the Vancouver market and visiting media," McDonald said. "There were quite a few in town for the flag bearer announcement."

MacDonald hinted that there is more to come.

"Cheryl's team did something for Calgary recently, and the Martin team will be doing something for Edmonton in a few days."

GK@THECURLINGNEWS.COM


Videos

Photos