Frank Deford on Bloggers, the Olympics and 51 years of Sportswriting

The legendary writer for Sports Illustrated dishes on, among other things, the changing relationship between athletes and the journalists who cover them

Frank Deford of Real Sports for HBO. (2010 Monte Isom/Sportschrome)

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The only problem with London is always the weather. You can get three, four or five rainy days in a row—I’ve been at Wimbledon when that’s the case. So I worry more about the weather than anything else. Otherwise, it’s a magnificent city, and it’s used to hosting big events, so it should be a wonderful Olympics.

Do you have any predictions or athletes to watch in this summer’s games?

The one thing I’m fascinated to see is how Michael Phelps, the great swimmer, will do. He will never repeat what he did in Beijing, winning eight gold medals. But how many more medals can he win? This is sort of his swan song—swimmers peak pretty early—so he probably won’t be around for the Rio Olympics in 2016. And so whenever Phelps swims, I’ll be watching to see how he does. This is his last chance at glory.

I would also love to see Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter, break the 100-meter world record at the Olympics. That’s the other classic event. He already holds the world record, but if he could break it at the Olympics, with the whole world watching, that would be very special. Usually, those kinds of records don’t come with the brightest spotlight on them. They come at a secondary meet, when nobody’s quite expecting it.

What’s it like to cover the Olympics as a journalist?

From a journalistic point of view, the Olympics are the most difficult event to cover. They’re so spread out, and you have so little access to the athletes. It has to be that way—it would be chaos if everything wasn’t very carefully ordered, and this has been all the more the case since terrorism reared its ugly head back in Munich. It’s a very difficult event to cover, and you don’t get close to people, and that’s part of the problem. It’s basically a great television show, but not so good for print.


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