by Charles Hitchens
With the closing ceremonies on Sunday we have witnessed a full gamut of emotion. We watched the heartache of a young world champion gymnast miss the cut in all-around, only to come back and help lead the US to the team gold. We watched an Olympic hero swim into the record books with a record setting 22 all-around medals. We watched 2 women battle the sand to win the gold for the third straight time.
We’ve journeyed with them from making the team to standing on the podium. Our unseen guides on this Olympic journey are the men and women behind the cameras, in the control room and out in the field catching all of the emotion and action. Thousands of dedicated people work tirelessly for years to make sure the games go off without a hitch, at least on TV.
In 2002 I was lucky enough to be one of those people, My first job out of college was working for the NBC Sports Communications department during the Salt Lake City Winter Games. I arrived in Salt Lake only 2 weeks after I graduated from the University of Arizona, I literally packed my car and headed north. I spent all of January 2002 getting ready for what can only be described as a marathon. I copy edited our media guide and got to know all I could about the city and venues where the games would be played. Most of my time was spent in the International Broadcast Center, think the UN but with Media, dealing with broadcasters from other countries and outlets that wanted to know about NBC’s coverage of the games. And I got to know the people I was working with.
One guy’s job was literally to find locations to shoot from for each Olympic site and figure out the logistics of getting our equipment there. He told me that as soon as the Olympic flame went out he had two weeks off and then was off to Athens to start all over again for the 2004 games. For me, when February 8th 2002 and the Opening Ceremony got underway the real work began. I had 12 to 14 hour long days for the entire length of the Games. My job ranged from fielding phone calls, getting guest from one place to another, to helping a National Geographic crew do a shoot on new cameras for the games. I would like to say at some point I slept, but I don’t think I had time to. The entire atmosphere of the Games and broadcasts was electrifying.
But it wasn’t all work, I got to meet some of the athletes such as skaters Sarah Hughes and Apolo Anton Ohno. I also met Canadian Hockey player Theo Fluery. But the highlight for me was getting to see the USA versus Russia hockey game, the only event I got to enjoy strictly as a fan.
Back at the IBC we called our two control rooms JAWS 1 and 2. Putting on an Olympic event isn’t that easy for the host city or the broadcasters, it takes coffee, lots and lots of coffee, with a heavy dose of dedication from everyone to get through the long hours. But in the end it’s all worth it and I would not have changed a single moment of my Olympic experience. My hats off to all the everyone in London