My Olympic spectator experience came to an end on the pentultimate day of competition at the London 2012 Games with a visit to Earl’s Court for some indoor volleyball. The women’s match between South Korea and Japan would be the first and only time I witnessed a competition with a medal at stake. In this case, these two countries were competing for bronze.
Volleyball is one of my favorite Olympic sports because it’s a game of runs and momentum. You might be down significantly, but all it takes is a missed hit or a huge block and things can swing your way. I like the hard hitting and dives for the ball. But I especially admire the teamwork involved. Sports like basketball and American football take a lot of pride in the performance of the individual even though they are team sports. Volleyball requires a lot more teamwork and it’s hard to win solely based on the outstanding performance on just one individual.
The atmosphere at Earl’s Court was great. The rallies were long and momentum was definitely a factor as each set was competitive until the end. Watch as South Korea tries to keep the match alive with Japan at its first opportunity to claim the bronze.
But I think there were more cheers for the chubby Asian baby that they kept cutting away to on the video board than the points on the court itself. I’ve never seen a baby get so much time on the big screen during a volleyball game but I guess it helps to have the baby dressed in a traditional silk robe.
I didn’t know this at the time but this was a very historic match-up between two unexpected teams. Japan was searching for its first medal in women’s volleyball since the 1984 Games in Los Angeles while South Korea was looking for its first medal in the sport since 1976
The bronze medal was part of 35 sets of medals being awarded today, the busiest day of the Games. And seeing the Japanese cry after the game just showed how important just winning any medal was to these athletes. The Olympics are the only event I know where it’s okay not to finish first (but it really stinks to finish fourth).
Other highlights of Day 15:
– Sanya Richards-Ross added to her medal collection by successfully anchoring the 4x400m relay team to its second consecutive gold medal. And unlike in Beijing, when Richards-Ross was “digging deep, straining with every ounce of her fiber” to pass Russia to win gold, the London 2012 400m champion had a huge lead when she received the baton.
– The intrigue to watching diving at these Games is to see who can upset the Chinese, who have finished first in all but one event prior to tonight’s men’s 10m platform. The marquee event was the most anticipated of these games, with the home crowd cheering on local favorite Tom Daley, who had yet to medal in London. His main rival was China’s Qiu Bo, the defending world champion.
But tonight in a stunning upset, American David Boudia pulled off one of the most memorable moments of these Games by winning gold, beating out both Qiu Bo and Tom Daley, who placed second and third, respectively. It’s the first diving gold medal for the United States since Laura Wilkinson won the 10m platform in Sydney. And Boudia becomes the first male platform Olympic champion since Greg Louganis in 1988.
– The US women’s basketball team became the first ever to win five consecutive gold medals after it beat France, 86-50. Now that’s dominance.
In Front of the Camera
I’ll remember today as the day that reaffirmed my desire to be a sports reporter. (If you didn’t know that I wanted to be one, go ahead and take a look at the rest of this website.)
Coming to London, I wasn’t 100 percent sure of what I career I wanted to pursue. I knew for sure that I wanted to work in sports television, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in front of or behind the camera. I’ve done a lot of both in my last four years at Syracuse but in terms of career paths, the two have very different roads.
While I’ve seen a lot of the behind the scenes work here at the IBC, I wanted to get a taste of what it would be like in front of the camera. When I helped out with Jim Cantore’s live shot last Saturday, the audio guy had me hold the mic and do a sound check to see how far the wireless signal could reach. I started out just counting to ten and then I remembered back to practicing live shots at Newhouse and just said what I saw and what I knew.
“Lots of people out here taking in the atmosphere of these Olympic Games…and many of these visitors didn’t have a ticket to a venue. So they paid ten pounds just to get inside the park,” I said (or something along those lines).
In my mind I was hoping that someone was recording this sound check back at the IBC. It felt great to hold the microphone again and “walk and talk”. Of course, it was just a sound check. Cantore was able to do the real thing.
It wasn’t until yesterday when I was talking about my unknown future with a PA in an edit suite that the idea of asking to shoot some stand-ups in Olympic Park came about. The crews had little to nothing to do with the majority of the shoots already wrapped up for the Games so I figured that it was possible. I asked my supervisors and they easily said yes so I was pumped. How many interns could say they got to shoot stand-ups at the Olympics?
I spent the bus ride from Earl’s Court thinking about what I wanted to say and where I wanted to shoot my standups. Based on the critiques and advice I got from others, I had to make sure that wherever I did them, I was doing something visual and not just standing there.
The other SportsDesk interns and I headed out with a crew in the middle of the afternoon, right when there was peak traffic around Olympic Park. Our first stop was at one of the Ticket Box Offices, where I did my stand-up about how hard it is to get tickets, which was a major news storyline among the local agencies in London.
What’s awesome (or frightening) about doing stand-ups at Olympic Park is that everyone thinks you’re a real reporter when in reality, you’re just an intern. When the cameras started rolling and I began talking, all of a sudden a large crowd started forming. People were fascinated by seeing the media at work, even if it’s just an intern trying to record something for their resume tape. But they didn’t know that. A lot of them don’t even live in the U.S. or even know what NBC is. All they see is a reporter doing his job in front of the camera.
I do a couple of takes before I’m happy with what I did and then I move on. I stand to the side and watch the other interns do their stand-ups, blocking pedestrian traffic from walking in front of the shot. A lady came up to me and asked if I get nervous when I’m up there. I said that I do at first but that’s only because I’m trying to make sure that what I’m saying makes sense.
Meanwhile, my fellow intern is having a bit of trouble and has done more than a few takes. He keeps tripping up on the same line but I just tell him to lock in on the camera and just keep going. Once he finally gets a decent take, the crowd around him cheers wildly as if he’s won the gold medal.
I have that same type of moment when I do my mock live shot. Everything sounds fine until the end when I have to tag out. Seeing as though I’ve never tagged out for NBC Olympics, finding a way to end my mock live shot was a bit awkward.
When I’m happy with what I did, I say, “That’s a wrap.” One guy screams out, “That’s a wrap! Alright!” and the crowd that has gathered cheers me to my own personal victory.
Here’s how I would look as an Olympic correspondent:
Saying Goodbye and Partying It Up
With nothing left to edit, the editors left today so we paid our farewells to some of the hardest working guys in our department. Without them, all those shoot tapes that I logged would go nowhere and producers wouldn’t have magically turned what could easily be a documentary into a two-minute piece.
It felt like the last days of school at the IBC, when you went to class but had nothing to do. All you did was reminisce and reflect and talk about where you’re going next. While most were saying, “See you in Sochi 2014” the interns were saying, “See you back at school.” Neither of those statements applied to me, especially not the latter.
Every department took their group photo inside Studio A today. When the interns took their photo, some of us hung around to take individual pics and smaller group ones. After getting my pic last week at the Daytime set, it was nice to sit in the Primetime chair, a seat normally occupied by Bob Costas.
And with our time in London running out, we’ve also spent our nights more at bars and clubs than in our beds resting. Last night, I made a trip to Canary Wharf with some of the PAs and made up our own dances based on Olympic sports. My top three favorite Olympic dance moves were 1) Rowing 2) Swimming 3) Boxing. Some sports were harder to make dance moves out of, like Olympic hurdling or wrestling. Some were creative, like the throw-down move inspired by judo. And if you found a partner, you can show off your synchronized swimming moves.
Getting home was another feat, similar to the one I made on the night of our intern dinner before the Games started. Except this time, we didn’t have the luxury of using the Tube. So after taking the DLR, we had to figure out the night buses. I was close to ruining my diet and getting drunk food at McDonalds but I settled for a bag of crisps and a Cadbury Flake bar.
A Cadbury Flake chocolate bar might be the one thing I’ll miss most about London.