Before I showed up at the airport, I knew exactly who my points of contact were. Every other tournament with media access has been a complete crap shoot when I arrived at my hotel and the venue. I would show up and kind of be forced to wander around and ask volunteer staff until I could find the appropriate person to get a badge from and pick their brain about what media would have access to. Not the case for WESG.
Weeks before the trip, they had already set up a Skype group for the international media and we knew exactly who we could contact if we ran into trouble from the moment that we walked off of the plane in Shanghai. When that time did come, there was someone waiting for me with a gigantic, impossible to miss sign for me so that I would be able to get back to the hotel safely. While it was a long journey and I did have to wait for people to show up before I could find a bed, he directed me to where I could find snacks and use the bathroom and whatnot so I didn’t have to wander. Upon getting to the hotel, we were immediately handed our badges and a little goodie bag. The goodie bag was filled with a couple of trinkets, but they included a pretty sizeable portable battery for our phones which would be pretty clutch for me since my VPN drained the hell outta my phone.
Treating us right
The hotel that we stayed in was extremely nice and we were offered a complimentary breakfast every morning that we were there. We were also given a shuttle bus to and from the venue with someone taking a headcount just to make sure that we weren’t stranded in China without any possible way to get to the arena since we don’t speak the language.
At the venue, we were given the ability to go pretty much wherever we wanted as long as we didn’t interfere with the production or the games. I’m certain I probably could have gotten back stage, but I didn’t want to push any buttons since I was given full stage access. That, by itself, was pretty awesome. It allowed me to capture the winning moment for TNC which I thought was pretty special. Seeing how emotional they were up close and personal was entirely different from sitting off stage or being in the crowd/at home. While I was still behind my camera, looking back at the pictures and seeing the expressions of the players was quite moving – I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t get a little emotional myself as I was going back through the pictures. It was an experience I hopefully get to remember and capture in the future.
Apart from what I was able to accomplish with my media access, another thing that WESG did really well was making sure that we were comfortable. I believe that this comes from their experience working with traditional sports because media rooms will often have food and drinks for those working at the event. We were treated to a buffet which catered to a variety of palates, but I do think that vegetarian options were slightly sparse. Additionally, because it was for the players as well, you would sometimes show up and there would be nothing left for you to eat. While I didn’t mind going out into the surrounding area in search of food (which, btw, was AMAZING and extremely cheap) a bit of planning can prevent that from happening in the future.
Making Us Feel Welcome
Finally, the best thing that they did was take us out for a night on the town. This is not something that I would expect every organization to do, but Alibaba has a lot of money to throw around and boy did they throw it at us. I’ve literally never seen so much food being served at a restaurant. Our meal must have consisted of at least 8 different courses of traditional Chinese food (fishes, meats, noodles, rice, you name it, we probably had it) and our glasses were always full. We bought a gigantic bottle of Glenlivet and polished that off (along with several beers) before heading back to the hotel where we continued to drink on the house. They wanted us to have a good time and get to know us better and we certainly achieved that.
Ultimately, WESG took care of every aspect of my trip and made a journey halfway across the world without knowledge of the language extremely easy. They made sure that we were comfortable, fed, hydrated, caffeinated, and that we had everything available for us to do our jobs properly. Stage access was especially important for me, but for others, securing interviews was an extremely easy process and we didn’t have to jump through hoops. They also made it so that I met some amazing friends while I was abroad and I of course look forward to meeting up with them again in the near future at events. We’re an international bunch, but I have no doubt that our paths will cross at the various events again!
Special thanks to WESG for having me and doing a stellar job of making us feel at home in a place that was extremely far from it – I can’t wait to go back to China!