London 2012 (07.19.2012) – First Day of Work

Note: Due to NBC’s and the IOC’s social media/blogging policy, I am not able to release these posts until after the Olympic Games end. But these posts were written during my time in London and all thoughts are my own and do not reflect those of neither NBC nor the International Olympic Committee. 

Work starts at 9am and even though I had gone out the night before and had a few drinks, somehow I get enough energy to wake up at 6am. Our hotel is about a 40-minute bus ride away and the IOC provides a media shuttle that, for the first week or so, runs every hour on the hour. It’s a convenient alternative to the London Underground system, known as the Tube, because it requires not much thinking and it’s a direct route to the International Broadcast Centre (IBC).

It also lets me either take a nap or read a book. But not today. Excited, I take it all in. Listening to “Olympic Spirit”, a song you’ll hear often during the NBC Olympic broadcasts, we travel through London. Those who haven’t been here before take in the sights, especially as we ride along the River Thames and see famous sites like the London Eye and Tower Bridge.

The city has designated Olympic lanes for official “Games vehicles” which restricts main traffic to just one lane. That’s been a hot topic among Londoners, but the city has warned its residents to stay home during the Games and if possible, work from home. We’ll see if that actually works.

Security is tight. They added lots of military personnel since the private company that LOCOG hired realized that they weren’t going to be able to train as many people as it expected to. I feel safer with having military troops frankly. When the bus arrives, it goes through a white tent and a military guard goes in and walks through the bus, checking for explosives. Then we go through airport-style security, with bags checked through X-Rays and each individual walking through metal detectors. But the officers are more laid back that the TSA and actually engage in friendly conversation with you.

The IBC is massive and operates like a small town. It has its own gymnasium, post office, bank, pharmacy, bar and of course, a McDonalds. The catering services, however, aren’t available until July 25th.

NBC has paid a lot of money and its shown by the huge footprint that it has at the IBC. It takes up almost a third of the first floor and is divided into two sections. The first place we go to is the Commissary, aka the dining area. Little did I know that while the IBC catering doesn’t start for another week, NBC feeds you for free and also provides free snacks and Starbucks service. And we would need the fuel.

We sit for almost an hour and its amazing to see how many staff members go in and out of this one room. Producers, cameramen, technicians, editors, talent, interns and managers, all co-mingling together, united by food. It shows how much television truly is a team effort.

After a brief tour of the NBC compound, where we get to see various rooms and learn the names of some other interns, we’re sent to our department, the Sports Desk. And ironically, Sports Desk doesn’t have that much to do with sports.

I knew coming into this assignment that I would be a logger, but I wasn’t sure what exactly I would be logging. I thought it would be a variety of sports, or one sport, or even some archive footage. But I learned that I actually would be logging a lot of press conferences and interviews. At first, I was like, “Oh, that’s kind of boring.” But then I realized the importance of the footage I’d be logging and eventually understood what the role of SportsDesk was in the NBC Olympics operation.

As it was told to me by my supervisors, SportsDesk is the bridge between the operations of NBC News and NBC Sports at the Olympics. Its main focus is to be able to provide breaking news if it should occur. The division was set up by Dick Ebersol after the Atlanta 1996 Games, when the Centennial Olympic Park bombing forced NBC Sports to go into news mode. SportsDesk provides the resources to NBC Sports for being able to cover a news event.

I get trained on how to use iNews, which looks like a much simpler version of ENPS, but with an uglier user interface. Many will recognize the use of iNews from the HBO series “The Newsroom”. Just like how the producers of News Night with Will McAvoy watch the wires, seeing a story’s alert code change from Yellow to Orange to Red, part of our job is to alert our supervisors if anything important in relation to the Olympics comes through on the wires.

Not much to do on the first day. No big breaking news stories. No press conferences or interviews to log. But I was okay with that. I was enjoying the calm before the storm, taking it all in. The first day of work. I’m enjoying the free food, meeting new people and learning new things. And it’s only Day 1 of this unique experience.

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