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Olympics access row raised at Tory Party Conference

The row over local press access to the London 2012 Olympics this week reached the floor of the Conservative Party Conference – thanks to a weekly newspaper editor.

Only a handful of local and regional titles have so far succeeded in winning media accreditation for next year’s Games.

Ilkley MP Kris Hopkins raised the issue in a fringe meeting at this week’s Manchester conference following a plea from Ilkley Gazette editor Malcolm Hoddy, left.

Mr Hopkins challenged the London Olympic Games Organising Committee to do more to ensure non-national papers are allowed access to the events.

He said: “While I appreciate that demand for media accreditation for the London Olympics is inevitably bound to outstrip supply, I believe that every possible effort must be made to ensure that local newspapers can as far as possible cover the events from their own perspective.

“As one highly-respected and long-serving local editor recently said to me, the local press are often as interested in the competitor who finishes sixth as they are in the gold medallist if that person comes from their circulation areas.

“However, it will be virtually impossible for them to provide any meaningful coverage without adequate media accreditation. ”

He called on LOCOG chief executive Paul Deighton to raise the matter directly with the British Olympic Association and the International Olympic Committee.

Malcolm Hoddy added:  “We believe that the British Olympic Association can provide more media accreditations to the regional and local press.

“We have quite a number of medal prospects in our circulation area such as the Brownlee brothers and Lizzie Armistead.

“We appreciate that this is also a world event and that not all applications can expect to be successful, but feel that we have been virtually ignored. All we ask as the press representatives of the host country is that we get a fair allocation.

“Newsquest, our parent company, reaches 9.5 million readers a week with its newspapers, far outstripping the penetration of the national press. Our online audience is also in the millions.”

As revealed on HTFP last week, editors across Newsquest have penned an open letter to LOCOG chair Lord Coe in their bid to widen local press access to London 2012.

The Newspaper Society is continuing to hold talks with the BOA to try to put in place a press pool for the Games which will aim to enable regional and local newspapers to share material.