Q&A: Marietta native will cover Olympics in S. Korea
After a 14-hour flight from JFK to Seoul on Feb. 3, Marietta native Ben Fischer will board a bus for a two-hour ride to the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It will be the second trip to the games for the SportsBusiness Journal reporter, who covered the summer Olympics in 2016 in Rio De Janeiro. Rather than reporting on the athletic events themselves, Fischer is tasked with exploring the business angle, meeting with marketing specialists, sponsors and corporations.
Question: Rio was your first Olympics, right? What was your overall experience there?
Answer: It’s changed a lot since I first got back. In real time, it was really frustrating. It’s hard to do your job in Rio. I joke that it would be great to go back for a vacation but it’s hard to work there…the traffic, the general disorder. In hindsight, I’ve grown to appreciate the experience more. I have more remarkable moments that stick in my mind.
Q: What are some of those moments?
A: When Usain Bolt had his 100 meter victory which was the last in his career. Everyone in the stadium was rooting for the same guy so that was neat to see. Simone Biles on the women’s gymnastics team winning…That was a big day for Americans. I was there when the swimmer from Singapore (Schooling Joseph) beat Michael Phelps. It’s one of the only times he’s gotten a silver medal so that sticks out in my mind.
Also, just being in the city and being immersed in Rio. I went through some really downtrodden areas–there’s a lot of poverty there-and then there are the extremely fancy shopping malls that would rival anything in the United States. It was amazing to see the diversity.
Q: Do you have essentially the same assignment going into the winter Olympics?
A: It will be different just because it’s a smaller event. The winter games aren’t at the same scale. But I’ll be doing something similar, covering corporate sponsorships. The idea is to give readers a sense of who’s trying to make money on the Olympics, why, how and if it’s working.
Q: Are you personally more or less interested in the winter games versus the summer events?
A: It’s interesting on one level because the winter games are more intriguing since they’re unfamiliar sports. No one really watches bobsledding, the luge or curling. On the other hand, for me there’s no cultural relevance like there is for the summer games. Swimming, track and field, you can find those in any part of the U.S. With the exception of ice hockey and downhill skiing, that’s not true of the winter sports. You’re not going to run into them growing up in Marietta. I can’t claim the same emotional connection to them. And from the business perspective and explaining the business side of this, it’s different, too. I first have to explain what curling is to make a point about it. But Michael Phelps is the fastest getting from one end of the pool to the other. A 5-year-old can understand that.
Q: Are you worried about security issues at all, given that the location is South Korea?
A: I’m more excited to go to a hot spot in the world than nervous. I expect the games to be one of the safest places to be in the world. I’m not sure I would want to move to South Korea but to be there for three weeks during the Olympics I think will be very safe. I was more likely to be hurt by random street crime in Rio than I am to be hurt by North Korean warfare. Nuclear war is scary but if you put it in a practical perspective, Rio was more dangerous.
Q: How do you think you’ll do adjusting to the time change? Do you travel often enough that you’re used to dealing with that?
A: I do travel a lot but I’ve never done this level of time change. It’s 14 hours so it will be totally different. All I can do is sleep a lot on the plane and try to have good habits like not drinking too much. Otherwise, I think I’ll just have to suck it up and deal with it.
Kate York conducted this interview.
About Ben Fischer
¯ Age: 35.
¯ Hometown: Marietta.
¯ Current residence: Queens, N.Y.
¯ Occupation: Staff writer for Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal.
¯ Education: 2000 Marietta High School graduate; bachelors degree in newspaper journalism from Kent State University; masters degree in public affairs reporting from University of Illinois.
¯ Family: Wife, Mandy Jenkins; Parents Sue and Orvie, of Devola; Brother, Will, of Bowie, Md.
Source: Ben Fischer.