Sochi 2014 Look-Back: Those German Jackets

German ski slopestyle athlete Benedikt Mayr showing off Team Germany's Ceremonial Jackets.
German ski slopestyle athlete Benedikt Mayr and I were showing off Team Germany’s Ceremonial Jackets.

Each day during the Sochi Paralympics, I’ll look back at a favorite memory from my Olympic experience in Russia. 

If you looked back at either the Opening or Closing Ceremony of the Sochi Olympics (or Paralympics for that matter), one of the more notable outfits from the event were those colorful jackets from Team Germany. Fashion made such a headline from the Parade of Nations stood out so much that NBC wanted to do a story on it.

The focal point of the piece was actually on the Norwegian curling pants but producers wanted to touch upon as many “stand-out” pieces of clothing that athletes showed off that I was assigned to get the low-down on the German jackets. My task: talk to the designer, and most importantly, get the jacket. The latter seemed like a lofty goal considering these jackets weren’t readily available and they also cost over US$2000. But I had to get the jacket, no matter what.

The challenges at an Olympic Games with setting up a shoot, especially with individuals from another country, are usually the language barriers and that everyone is inevitably really busy. The language barrier wasn’t actually much of a problem with setting up this shoot, but waiting for e-mails to come back and forth between producers and PR reps from a major clothing company got a bit stressful. We had trouble getting a solid answer on whether or not we can borrow the jacket for the week. On top of that, the exact timing for when I’d do the interview with Willy Bogner, Jr, the designer of the jackets, kept changing. That gets annoying since it involves not only me but also a whole camera crew and those in charge of the German house itself. An interview might only take 10 minutes, but it takes at least an hour to scout a location for an interview, set up lighting and microphones and physically transport equipment. And when you’re at an Olympics, you can’t take any chances.

IMG_3084We eventually settled on doing the interview at 5pm at the German House. That means leaving the Mountain IBC at 3:30pm, getting to the location by 4pm (mind you that the German House was just up the road from where we were), and leaving a whole hour to set up. In addition, we needed to get B-Roll from the press event that was taking place at the house showcasing the Bogner jackets.

As far as the jacket itself, we got the promise that someone would be there to hand the jacket off to us to borrow. That sounds like a solid answer, but for a producer, nothing sounds good until the jacket was in my physical hands.

What’s great about working as a team is that everyone plays to their strengths. The camera operator knows where the best possible shot is, the audio mixer can pinpoint where potential problems might exist with nat sounds and the field producer knows, well, everything else. By the time we were set up, all I had to do was perform the tasks that I’ve been trained to do since I started taking journalism classes in high school — ask the questions and get the story.

So here’s what never actually made the final piece: the actual story of the Bogner Sochi 2014 jackets. On first glance, many thought that the jackets were a symbolic statement against Russia’s anti-gay laws. But ask Wily Bogner, Jr and he’ll tell you a different story. It has nothing to do with politics at all. Bogner wanted to take the colors that Sochi represented, the warm beach-like tones of the coast with the bright blue skies along with the black sea. Bogner has a special connection with Sochi. As a filmmaker, he helped the city with the final bid video that was presented to the IOC before Sochi won the rights to host the games. The company has outfitted the German team over the last 18 Winter Olympics.

And I guess 18 Winter Olympics gives you the right to also do the jackets for Team Tonga as well.

Wily Bogner, Jr presents the jackets he designed for Team Tonga.
Wily Bogner, Jr presents the jackets he designed for Team Tonga.

As far as the jacket, two thousand dollars never felt so good around my body. Of course, I tried on the jacket. When’s the next time I’ll get to wear such a high-profile article of clothing? Turns out nearly all of NBC felt the same way. By the time I returned the jacket to the German house, the jacket had been with more individuals than (insert joke here).

The experience stands as one of my favorites from these Games since it was one of my first field producing assignments, working on a story on the network level. And it shows how special the Olympics are. Where else will an American sports reporter have the task of talking with one of the biggest names in German fashion?

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