For its 86-page preview of the 2004 Athens Olympics, which ran in the Aug. 2, 2004, issue, SI last week received a National Magazine Award, the highest honor the industry gives. It was the ninth Ellie that SI has won.
Looking back on the assignment, assistant managing editor Craig Neff, who has overseen coverage of the last three Olympics for SI, said, "Athens was a compelling preview subject because half the world expected the Games to be a disaster." But while security and construction worries dominated pre-Olympics headlines, Neff said, "there was also a great mix of stories and characters--the sort of material that journalists love to work with. Our staff earned its gold medal."
One key player, director of photography Steve Fine, was already celebrating when the Ellie news arrived. In a first for SI, the photo department won for Best Use of Photography at the National Press Photographers Association and the Missouri School of Journalism's Pictures of the Year Awards. And Bob Martin, a 10-year veteran of SI, won three first-place awards--at NPPA, World Press Photo, and National Headliners--for his shot of Spanish swimmer Xavier Torres diving into a pool at the Paralympics Games.
To get the picture, Martin climbed to a catwalk 100 feet above the Olympic Aquatic Centre wearing a safety harness. "As the only photographer at the Paralympics for SI, I decided to apply myself to that one overhead shot, and whatever happened, I would go with that," he says. The result is startling. "Your first reaction is, 'What the hell is this?'" says SI photography editor James Colton. "On one half of the frame you've got a pair of prosthetics in a basket used to hold the swimmer's clothes. On the other half the rest of the athlete's body. It's a bit disturbing, but it's also an image that signifies hope and faith."
April 24, 2005
Those virtues were also on display in SI's Sistine Chapel of Sports, a highlight of the 50th Anniversary Issue (Sept. 27, 2004), executed by illustrator Jeff Wong. The Michelangelo-inspired gatefold, which depicts such scenes as Lyle Alzado and Ben Johnson eating of the forbidden fruit and Pete Rose being banished from Eden, won a gold medal for SI's creative director, Steve Hoffman, from the Society of Publication Designers.