London 2012 (07.25.2012) – The Intern Pentathlon

The venue for the first event of “The Intern Pentathlon”

The modern pentathlon is a multi-sport event where competitors fence, swim, ride on horseback, run and shoot in one day.

The intern pentahlon is just one really long day where a lot happens just two days before the Opening Ceremony. Today, I will participate in the following five events:

1. Run to the Westfield Stratford City mall.

2. Log a press conference

3. Escort NBC talent and producers to Studios A & B for their respective seminars.

4. Dine and socialize with other interns and guests at the NBC Intern Dinner

5. Find our way home from Canary Wharf.

Not all of these events are necessarily as intense or stressful as the Olympic modern pentathlon, but there is a certain degree of difficulty involved with each one.

Today was the first day of our 12-hour shifts, and mine started at 8AM. I’m not usually a morning person, but it’s the Olympics. I’ll work all 24 hours in a day if I have to. Unfortunately, the 8AM call time meant no time in the morning for me to go to the gym at the IBC (yes, the IBC has its own gym).

At around 9AM, I’m sent on my first event of the Intern Pentathlon. Usually a job for a runner, not a logger, I’m sent to the Westfield Shopping Centre to buy the cheapest tennis racquet I can find, a set of tennis balls, and a 2TB hard drive with Firewire 800 port.

I was happy to go out on this run as it provided an excuse to get out of the Sports Desk, where I’ve already spent most of my hours (loggers don’t get out that much during their shifts). I take the media shuttle bus and take a 10-15 minute ride. Along the way, I get another glimpse of Olympic Park and some of the exteriors of the venues. Spectators still aren’t allowed in yet, so most of the park remains empty.

Entrance to Water Polo venue.
Olympic Stadium from a distance.

Westfield Stratford City is the de-facto entrance to Olympic Park. For spectators who take public transportation to Stratfield, it’s impossible not to go through Westfield. The shopping centre was actually already being built before London even won the bid to host the Olympics and its timetable was accelerated so that it could be open in time for the games. All the storefronts have been outfitted for the Games, with signs like “Support Team GB’ and posters of athletes seen all throughout.

After some quick walking through the three huge levels of Westfield, including a trip to the Apple Store and Sports Direct, I get my three items, hop back on the shuttle bus and get back to the IBC. I only took an hour, which was apparently very quick according to my supervisors. By the way, the hard drive was for one of the editors and the tennis racquet and tennis balls were for a story that Apolo Ohno is doing about playing at Wimbledon.

Pressing times to log a press conference

At 11am, it’s time for the daily IOC/LOCOG press briefing. I’ve logged three press conferences since I started working here. Yesterday was one of the more interesting pressers as Games organizers discussed security and transport.

The “Games Lane” dedicated to Olympics-only traffic.

As far as transport goes, I’m grateful that we have a media shuttle that takes us from our hotel to the IBC. Today was the first day that the “Games Lanes” went into effect and judging from how bad the traffic was in the non-“Games Lanes” lane, it’s much nicer to have a lane dedicated to Olympic traffic.

I took the Tube on Sunday, and while things went smoothly. It’s quite a walk from the where you get off of the train to the security entrance that lets you into Olympic Park, and you have to go through the aforementioned Westfield mall. Since the games haven’t started yet, I’m not sure of how crowded public transportation will be but all the skeptics are saying that it’ll be a nightmare.

Security-wise, there’s been a lot of talk and articles published in the media about how LOCOG had to hire military officers to act as security. In fact during Tuesday’s presser I learned that they are deploying an additional 1200 troops that were previously on stand-by, news that gave skeptics more fodder to expect the games to fail. Personally, I feel much more secure having the military serve as security. I think it’s better than the alternative of having fewer security personnel that haven’t been trained yet. The security issue is definitely an unfortunate one, but I think it’s a hurdle that LOCOG successfully went over.

Today’s presser talks about doping, which is always an important issue going into any Olympics. But short of any big-name athlete testng positive for doping, there wasn’t any big news that came out of this press conference. Logging it however took up quite a bit of time and it wasn’t until later that they came up with a full transcript. As much as discussing what measures were being taken in the fight against doping was important, it didn’t have the same amount of entertainment as a Jim Boeheim post-game presser. Nonetheless, I got it done and was two-fifths of the way through with the Intern Pentathlon.

Directing Traffic, er, I mean Talent

The commissary was quite busy today. And while I am not phased at all by seeing commentators and reporters like Michelle Beadle, Tom Hammond, Ted Robinson and Andrea Mitchell, seeing a lot of them all at once was a bit unusual. I learned that the pre-Games seminar was taking place this afternoon in Studio A and all talent had to go. Hence you saw numbers of them trying to get food before they spent a few hours learning what to do and what not to do on-air.

Apparently, many of them did not know where Studio A was. I had to help Andrea Mitchell and Michelle Tafoya get from one side of the NBC compound to another. Next thing I knew, I was making multiple trips back and forth helping them get to where they needed to be. Along the way, one reporter would run into someone they knew and have a conversation, slowing down the pace. It was like seeing college students come back from summer vacation. Once I saw other NBC personalities, I figured my job was done and I’d say, “Okay, I think you’re not lost anymore. There’s Dan Hicks, I’m sure you know him.” I was more than halfway done with my day.

The seminar was interesting to watch. We were able to look at a live feed of the activities and TV executives spent quite a bit of time during the “What Not to Do” section poking fun at ESPN’s mistakes. NBC continued hammering the message that the network is all about story-telling and to always tie up all the storylines that they introduce. It’s a concept that I’m a big believer in and shouldn’t be rocket science to anyone in the industry, but you’d be surprised by how some can forget these basics.

At the end, they showed this really powerful montage with clips from the past decade, showcasing the best of NBC’s coverage of the Olympics. I learned that this was the same montage that they showed the IOC when the network was bidding for the rights to show the games until 2020. The piece was definitely a tear-jerker so after watching it, I wasn’t surprised that the network had won those coveted rights.

Networking and Socializing, and some dinner too

Tonight was our Intern Dinner, a time to dress up nicely and schmooze with some big names in the network. This was a big opportunity to network and at each table, there was a chair that said “Reserved for: _____” and each blank had someone that played an important role in NBC Olympics. They ranged from Bela Karolyi, the famous gymnastics coach contributing to the gymnastics coverage here in London, to Sam Flood, Executive Producer of NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network.

I ended up sitting with the person who interviewed me for this internship, Elyse McDonough, who is one of the tape producers for gymnastics. And while there weren’t as many people sitting at my table as those sitting with Dan Hicks or Jimmy Roberts, I still enjoyed learning about her insight into the business. And dinner was good too. I usually go with the safe choice of chicken, but I took a risk with the steak and the risk paid off.

A drink and a ride home

Since we’re never usually in the Canary Wharf area (and we couldn’t have any alcohol at the intern dinner), we decided to go out afterwards for a drink. It took awhile to find it but it was in a nice, secluded spot by the water.

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