World Press Photo: Should Olympic Games photos dominate the sports categories?

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“People are asking us, ‘Where are the Olympics photos?’ Well there are 11 of them in the competition. It wasn’t ignored,” says Sports Illustrated photographer Bill Frakes. The question was one of the first asked at this morning’s press conference in Amsterdam when the full list of winning images was unveiled in front of a group of Dutch and international journalists.


“There were probably about a thousand photographers at the Olympics, including myself. In fact, all three of the specialist jury members for the Sports categories were at the Olympics. There were [a lot of] good Olympics images and they were represented [in the final selection],” Frakes tells BJP. “The first prize picture [pictured above] in the Sports Action Singles category is a non-traditional sport in the Western world, but at the same time, it’s a high-impact picture. As a 25-year veteran sports photographer, I’d be delighted to make that picture. It was sensational.”

For Frakes, the jury had to put the focus on the essence of sport, and not necessarily on the Olympics. “I thought that this picture [shot by Wei Seng Chen] captured the essence really well.”

The jury also looked for diversity. “Jan Grarup’s Somali basketball story is amazing. I think it will be a surprise to many people. It’s about culture and sports. I also like the intensity in the Burmese kick-boxing story shot by Vittore Buzzi.”

21 February 2012, Mogadishu, Somalia. The Somali basketball association pays armed guards to watch over and protect Suweys and her team when they play. In Mogadishu, the war-torn capital of Somalia, young women risk their lives to play basketball. Suweys, the 19-year-old captain of a women’s basketball team, and her friends defy radical Islamist views on women’s rights. They have received many death threats from not only al-Shabaab militias and radical Islamists, but some male members of their own families. “I just want to dunk,” said Suweys. It is on the basketball court she feels happiest. “Basketball makes me forget all my problems.” Image © Jan Grarup, Denmark, Laif, 1st Prize Sports – Sports Features Stories. World Press Photo.

He adds: “A really good friend of mine, Bob Martin, ran the Olympics [taking care of photographers’ accreditations and access]. I thought that he and his staff did an amazing job. But you have to remember that there are all kinds of demands – space consideration, television rights, athletes security. Bob and his group did a really fine job of making photo positions available.

“That being said, there are space limitations in any competition, so you’re going to end up with photographers standing shoulder to shoulder because they are not allowed to move.” And that might lead to a uniformity in the images coming out of the Olympics, he admits, but adds, “They are working really long hours. I was at the stadium almost 18 hours a day. If you look at the wide range of images that were created at the finish line, there’s a lot of diversity. I thought that the photographers there did a good job.”