It usually takes years of hard work and dedication to reach the Olympic Games. Not for Geoff Edgar. All it took for the 37-year-old St. Albert resident to earn a free ticket to Vancouver was a couple of minutes of tapping on his computer keyboard.
Edgar recently won the Journalism Dream Contest promoted by The Globe and Mail, which drew 1,100 submissions from writers and photographers from across Canada. As the winner in the writing category, Edgar will cover the Vancouver Games from a fan perspective, with his stories appearing in the Globe’s print and online versions.
Edgar’s prize also includes a laptop computer, airfare, accommodation, tickets to Olympic events and $1,000 in spending money.
“I think a lot of people would have probably been attracted to the contest simply by the opportunity to go to the Olympics,” Edgar said. “For me the attraction was probably just as much the opportunity to write and be reviewed by and potentially published by The Globe and Mail.”
A lawyer, Edgar almost pursued a graduate degree in journalism as he was nearing the end of his undergraduate studies. But he was accepted into law school and chose this apparently safer route … with no regrets.
“Not until I won this contest,” he laughed.
Edgar’s 274-word submission, entitled No, actually he won’t play hockey, can be viewed at http://journalismdream.theglobeandmail.com/. The story is about watching hockey with his son Ben, who is affected by Leukodystrophy, a degenerative disease that has made Ben cognitively delayed, deaf and blind.
“He will certainly pass away in the next decade, but we don’t know when,” Edgar wrote. “We wrap ourselves tightly in a blanket. I turn on the TV and for half an hour I tell my son about the hockey game. He doesn’t understand the game, but I don’t care.”
“Anyone covering the games from the fan perspective needs to be able to paint that picture to the Globe readers. Geoff illustrated that above and beyond in his submission,” Humphrey said.
Edgar will get tickets to various Olympic events and will work with the on-site editor to decide the best way to report on the fan experience, Humphrey said.
While the Globe is sending about 40 seasoned reporters to the Games, the paper believes that Edgar, as a regular citizen, will be able to provide a fresh take.
“Being at these events, I think you lose a bit of sight, from a fan perspective, how once-in-a-lifetime some of them are and what it looks like that first time you’re there,” Humphrey said.
The Olympics run from Feb. 12 to Feb. 28, a 16-day-stretch that is an eternity for Edgar and his family. Besides Ben, who needs constant support from his parents and a live-in caregiver, the Edgars have a five-month-old baby, a two-year-old, two dogs and a cat. A running joke in the family is that Edgar is most excited about getting out of the house.
“I’m partly jealous that he gets to go somewhere where nobody’s going to interrupt him in the night,” joked wife Heather.
Because of his family commitments, Edgar told the contest organizers he couldn’t accept the prize if it meant covering the entire games. But the Globe accepted his suggestion that he split the prize with the second place finisher. This solution will see Edgar cover the Games’ final 10 days. Family and friends have offered to step in while he’s away.
“It won’t be very much fun at home but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Heather said. “I can handle anything for that short of time if I have help.”
Given his earlier interest in journalism, Edgar has wondered if this opportunity could be the start of a career change, but he doesn’t think it’s a realistic prospect given he’s the sole provider.
“Our family is a bit like a cruise ship in the sense that we don’t change directions quickly,” he said. “If I was to make a career change, boy it would have to be something really special.”
Edgar will have to submit about five articles about the Olympic experience but that’s about all he knows.
“What am I going to write about? I have no clue. I hope that inspiration will hit me at some point,” he said.
The Globe and Mail is owned by CTVglobemedia, which also owns the CTV television network. The network holds the broadcast rights for the games in alliance with Rogers Communications.
The Globe advertises that its paper reaches 2.8 million newspaper readers a week and its website gets 2.3 million page views a month. For Edgar, it’s daunting to be getting thrown into journalism at one of the highest profile media outlets in the country.
“Not only is it not the school newspaper but you’re sending your submissions right to the top guy. I don’t expect him to pull any punches either. If what I write isn’t very good I fully expect them to let me know,” Edgar said.
He said he derives no confidence from the fact that he’s already impressed the editors once.
“Writing about my family and an experience that I have on an almost daily basis is very easy to do. Going to the Olympics, experiencing something new for the first time, and trying to relate that event in a way that is meaningful to the reader is a daunting task,” he said.
“Frankly, I’m not at all confident that I can do a good job,” he said, laughing. “I’ll give it the old college try.”