Olympics: Qik! Get me my camera!

Despite all the security around the Games, two protesting groups did manage to get their messages out yesterday. Students for a Free Tibet managed to climb two light standards near the heavily guarded, iconic Bird’s Nest Stadium and display pro-Tibet banners for more than an hour. Later in the day, three Americans protesting China’s birth control policies tried to hold a press conference and unfurl a banner on Tiananmen Square before being hauled off and then released fairly soon after.

There was coverage of both events and, with the many foreign cameras around, the new guidelines for police behavior I mentioned a few days ago were clearly in effect. When things yesterday got up close and personal with the Americans on Tiananmen, rather than shove cameramen’s throats or block their lenses with their hands as they had with Hong Kong camera crews a week ago, the cops’ most effective tactic seemed to be the use of umbrellas to block the view.

First to yesterday’s story was not a well-known media outlet. The beat was scored by what I have to say was my favorite coverage–for its guerrilla approach if not its technical proficiency. (I was a TV cameraman for about 10 years, with Visnews–now Reuters TV–and then NBC.) Qik.com vlogger Noel Hidalgo (he works under the handle “noneck”) filed video of the Tibet event, with text updates via Twitter. Qik.com’s technology lets anyone with a video-capable mobile phone stream video directly to the Web. I went back to check today, and his file had fewer than 700 hits, but the promise of the technology is stunning. With the expected 25,000 or so foreign media in place in Beijing, Hidalgo got the story first.

I got my headsup about Hidalgo‘s feed from Global Voices  a site set up by Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman and hosted by The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

(Reporting from Hong Kong)