We say it every year, almost like a mad lib. “Boy what a year (insert year here) was!”
But it’s true. 2012 was quite the year. For me personally, it was the year I graduated from college, had a brief career in directing newscasts, went to the Olympics and found my first on-air job.
The nation elected to keep its current president for another four years, while suffering through natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy and witnessing tragedies such as the mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown.
I decided to look back at all my videos/reels that I’ve made and managed to compile a “Best of” from the past 12 months. When looking back at 2012, here are my top 5 stories of the year that I either reported on or had a hand producing/helping with.
5. WLAX Final Four: A Comeback for the Ages
While the men’s lacrosse team couldn’t even make it out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Syracuse’s women’s team returned to the Final Four following a come-from-behind victory over North Carolina.
This time, it was a seven-goal deficit that the Orange came back from in Stony Brook, defeating Florida in a double-overtime thriller. It would fall short of its first National Championship, losing to Northwestern two days later.
4. Amherst wins first-ever State title
Amherst has usually been known as a powerhouse in basketball, but never football. This season, senior dual-threat QB Chris Zblewski had led the Falcons, including a come-from-behind victory over Stratford. But what made this story memorable was that the Falcons won its first-ever state title without Zblewski, who was out with a knee injury.
What a way to cover my first state football championship in Wisconsin.
3. Syracuse advances to Elite Eight
Who knew that covering this game would be a sign that I would end up in Wisconsin? Syracuse’s final victory of the 2011-2012 campaign came against the Badgers in a game that came down to the final possession as the Orange barely makes it to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2003.
2. Alvarez comes back to coach Badgers
So the first thing that any coach would do after winning its third-straight conference title is leave, right? Well that’s what Bret Bielema did. Days after winning the Big Ten championship, Bielema surprised everyone and headed to Arkansas.
What happened next is pretty special.
1. London 2012: Games of the XXX Olympiad
Well duh. Just read this if you need to be reminded why this was my top story of the year. Plus, my experience in London eventually led me to my job now.
While 2012 was a tough year for many, I consider myself incredibly lucky that I got to do so many great things. Cheers to 2012 and looking forward to an even better year in 2013.
I write this as the Paralympic Games come to a close in London, ending what has been a dramatic, eventful and exciting month and a half of sport during the London 2012 program.
In a matter of days, Olympic Park will close, only to reopen in about a year with a whole different look to East London. The banners with that familiar, yet still odd-looking logo will be taken down. The Games Makers who have spent countless hours helping athletes and spectators to make sure London 2012 ran smoothly, will go back to their ordinary lives.
And I will have stopped writing about London 2012 and move on with my life, just as other Londoners will be forced to do too.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost two months that I left for London, beginning a 27-day journey that much like it was for the athletes, was a life-changing experience. As this fantastic summer of sport known as London 2012 comes to a close and I’ve had more than enough time to reflect on the best month of my life, here are some final thoughts on the whole experience.
The British Love For Sport
With the exception of the whole ticketing and empty seats fiasco that angered fans who had been trying to get tickets for months, the British came out in full force to all the venues. I’ve never seen so much enthusiasm for sports like table tennis or field hockey. I’m not sure if you’d get the numbers of fans that London 2012 got in other potential host cities like Moscow, New York or Paris.
The demand for tickets, the enormous crowds at Olympic Park and the cheers for athletes these fans have never heard of illustrated that the British were more than enthusiastic for these Games. In each event that I went to, it was clear that the Brits welcomed these Games with open arms.
And it certainly helped that the British athletes were largely successful during these Games. They got a slow start, but once Team GB grabbed their first gold, they just kept coming. Everyone will remember that magical hour on Super Saturday when heptathlete Jessica Ennis, distance runner Mo Farah and long jumper Greg Rutherford each won gold.
I logged an interview with British comedian and actress Tracey Ullman, who explained it best when it came to British pride.
“What I love about these Olympic Games that seems to have happened in England is we’ve imported a ton of American self-esteem. We could never high-five,” Ullman said. “Now it’s like high-fiving, we’re winning gold medals. It’s astonishing what’s happened to Britain’s sporting achievements.
“We used to be down on ourselves…the British used to be like, even if we won a gold, we would say, ‘Oh it’s alright, I’d rather have the bronze.’
I’ll remember being in Hyde Park when a pair of brothers won both gold and bronze in the men’s triathlon. The performances of the likes of Sir Chris Hoy, Andy Murray and the bronze-medal winning men’s gymnastics team will live on in the minds of many Brits. And the flag-waving and numerous times we heard “God Save the Queen” will be the lingering memory for visitors like me.
Best Games Ever?
It feels like an eternity ago when there were worries about security. So much attention was paid on how organizers had to bring in military servicemen to make up for the shortage of trained security personnel.
But the military did their job and I honestly felt safer with members of the military checking my bags. They were friendly and they knew what they were doing. The men and women in green that were hired for security looked lost and confused each time they ran the scanners. It was a blessing in disguise that the military had to be brought in.
And remember all those nightmare scenarios that people predicted regarding transportation? While I was privileged enough to have a bus take me to and from the International Broadcast Centre, I did take the Tube several times during the Games to Olympic Park and some of the other venues.
Yes, there were crowds. Yes, there were lines. The worst experience for me was probably when I saw the triathlon at Hyde Park and it took forever for me to get back to work. But there wasn’t any chaos or incredible delays that were originally expected. People got to where they needed to be. Spectators got to their venues. I got to the IBC (on time on most days). The Games Makers did an incredible job directing spectators to the venues and to the Tube.
All in all, from an organizational perspective, the Games were a fantastic success that started with an Opening Ceremony that featured Britain at its best and that the Queen could make a grand entrance. The weather held up for the most part. There was less rain than expected following the largely wet summer. And everyone was happy. And in a world where all we hear about are protests, economic downturns and political controversies, the 17 days of the Games of the XXX Olympiad were certainly “Happy and Glorious”.
But were they the best ever? There’s a reason why London has hosted the Olympics three times. You only have to look at the success of these games to understand. But what will separate London 2012 from the rest will how its legacy will unfold. Promises of a new and revitalized East London won’t be fulfilled until at least next year. It’s not a transformation that can fully happen overnight. But if the motto of these Olympics was “Inspire a Generation,” then the success of London 2012 will never be forgotten.
“Inspire A Generation”
Speaking of the motto of London 2012, there were plenty of moments that were inspiring. Much of the media talked about the success of American women at these games, especially when it came to teamwork.
The women’s basketball team winning its fifth consecutive gold medal, a first for any women’s team at an Olympics. USA soccer winning arguably one of the best women’s soccer matches ever played in the semifinals against Canada, eventually beating Japan for gold in a rematch of last year’s world cup final. Women’s water polo winning its first gold by defeating Spain.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings’ three-peat in beach volleyball. The 4x100m relay team putting on a clinic on the track at Olympic Stadium by winning gold and smashing a record that hadn’t been broken since 1985. And the Fab Five, aka the American women’s gymnastics team, won gold for the first time since the Magnificent Seven in Atlanta 1996.
And when we’re asked what our favorite moments were from these Games, of course the performances of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt will come up. Somehow, both were able to put on amazing encore performances from their time in Beijing. Gabby Douglas and Missy Franklin stole our hearts with their gold medal performances and their smiles. The US men’s basketball team met expectations, while the entire Team GB Olympic Team exceeded them. Oscar Pistorius proved on the track what he can do rather than what he couldn’t do.
Indeed there’s a vast collection of moments to choose from. But for me personally, there’s a few that I would never would have even cared about had I not worked for SportsDesk as a logger at NBC Olympics.
The SportsDesk Stories
To me, sport was never about the X’s and O’s. It’s not about the box score and who scored the most points. World records come and go. The final score won’t last long in our memories.
When I read back these blog posts and reflect on this unforgettable summer of sport, I’ll remember most the stories of athletes and of London that I logged and got to help produce.
I’ll never forget the story of Kayla Harrison, who recovered from some of the darkest days of her life and, through judo, overcame those self-doubts to achieve one-goal: to win Olympic gold. I’ll always remember shaking the hand of the man responsible for her success: her coach Jimmy Pedro.
Then there’s Martine Wiltshire, who’s not even competing in the Olympics. The day after London won the bid to host these Games, she was a victim of the London bombings that rocked the city’s public transit system. She lost both of her legs. Today, she is a Paralympian after competing as a member of Team GB’s sitting volleyball team in the now completed Paralympic Games.
And I’ll never forget Jan Ebeling’s story. The 53-year-old went to his first ever Olympic Games and competed in equestrian dressage, an event I never understood until I went to London. He rode on Rafalca, a horse partially owned by Ann Romney.
While I worked on plenty of inspiring stories, I’ll also remember the fun ones. Michelle Tafoya explaining some British terms to Americans, like how a cupcake is known as a “fairy cake” or how a thumb drive is called a “dongle”. Marshall Harris learning how to be a proper English Gentleman by playing cricket and getting a wet shave. And Lester Holt jamming with Philip Sheppard, who was tasked with scoring and arranging all 205 national anthems for the Olympics, including that of Uganda, whose national anthem was originally eighteen seconds and had to be stretched. That anthem, by the way, was only heard once at London 2012. And that was during the victory ceremony of the men’s marathon, which took place at the Closing Ceremony.
The best part about the Olympics are the stories you would never otherwise hear about if the Games didn’t exist. For 17 days, we become fans of badminton and judo. We learn about athletes from countries we’ve never heard of. We witness achievements that show signs of progress, like the first female athletes from Saudi Arabia or the man from the Philippines who ran a personal best despite finishing dead last.
Sport seems to bring out the best out of people and it’s at the Olympics where we get to see it on the biggest stage.
The Most-Watched Television Event in History
London 2012 was the most-watched televised event in U.S. history, according to NBC, with 219.4 million viewers catching at least part of the event. The family of networks put on 5,534 hours of coverage over the 17-day period. In a statement, NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus said, “There are thousands of dedicated and talented people in London and New York who take great pride in being part of these historic games and this television milestone.”
I am so happy to say that I was one of those thousands of dedicated and talented individuals. It was amazing to have had the opportunity to work with people who were truly passionate about the Olympics and putting on a good product.
I can say that everyone that I met had very special and unique qualities that seemed to have made broadcasting these Games a success. Each of the producers I met were smart and creative and I’m happy to have served them. The on-air talent were just as smart and personable and just as charming off camera as they were in front of it.
My supervisors were incredibly hard-working individuals who just knew what to do and were inspiring leaders. The interns I worked with were very enthusiastic and it was fun experiencing the Games with them and learning with them. The production assistants became some of my best friends at SportsDesk and provided some great advice and insight about the business, especially from the perspective of those just getting into the industry. The cameramen and audio specialists, studio crew members and even some of the food servers and coffee baristas at the commissary had great personalities and were great to work with.
The SportsDesk team received an e-mail shortly after the Games ended from one of the senior producers at SportsDesk. I’d like to share part of it because it best describes how hard working our department was during the Games:
“Every day, I marveled at your collective professionalism, positive attitude and willingness to go beyond what was necessary to get the job done. And it showed in the work – the Olympic Zone shows were consistently outstanding and, to me, the pieces we did were a great reflection of the Olympic experience. We did fun stories, serious stories, weird stories, and everything in between, and that’s a testament to the group’s amazing range and versatility.”
From the day I arrived to the moment I finally rested my head on my pillow back in New York, every second was filled with something new and exciting, which can only happen at an Olympic Games. And there are few opportunities out there where you can say that you honestly had fun every moment you were working. While watching an Olympics is always something to look forward to, working to broadcast an Olympic is a whole new level and it’s something that I hope to get to do again in my career.
As far as what is to come next for me, who knows. I came into this summer thinking about whether or not I want to pursue a career behind the scenes or be a reporter/anchor in front of the camera. I was lucky enough to experience a taste of both during my time in London. After my time at NBC Olympics, I know one thing is for sure.
I want to go back.
So now I have a career goal, to go and work at an Olympic Games. Whether I’ll be a reporter, a host or a producer remains to be seen. But just like the athletes who’s goal is to make it to an Olympics, I hope to have just as interesting of a story as they do about getting there.
For now, I’m finally done writing about these Olympics and the unforgettable summer of sport that London gave us.
The last day of the Games always brings a mixed bag of emotions.
Sadness that after today, there won’t be random table tennis or badminton on MSNBC and that we’ll no longer hear that familiar Olympic music composed by John Williams. Pride in what our favorite athletes have achieved and how many medals our country has earned. Excitement because the end of the Summer Olympics means back to football.
But there’s one common emotion felt by everyone at the IBC, especially here at NBC. Relief. After a 17-day period that started with the Opening Ceremony (19 if you count the two days of preliminary soccer), we can see the finish line to this broadcasting marathon. Journalists are filing their final reports. Producers are tweaking their final rundowns. Only a few more events to log for the interns at Central Tape. And everyone is enjoying their last free meals at the Commissary before they realize they’re going to have to pay for Starbucks coffee again when they leave the IBC for the last time.
At SportsDesk, we’re watching the men’s marathon and the men’s gold medal game in basketball, among other final events. We just received some thank you gifts from our supervisors. I got a nice t-shirt that will be very valuable to me when I go on a run or go to the gym. Everyone received a DVD with all of the pieces that made air on Olympic O-Zone.
I spend my morning in the edit suite, actually editing after just watching editors magically put stories together for the last 16 days. I’m nowhere near as fast of an editor as the pros are, but my experience with Avid at Syracuse University is enough for me to put together my Olympic reporter reel that we shot yesterday.
I arrive back at SportsDesk to learn that one of the fellow SportsDesk interns received a ticket to the basketball game and was en route to North Greenwich Arena. I’m really happy for him because he loves basketball and hadn’t been to an event yet. Another intern went to the women’s soccer gold medal match on Thursday while someone else received a ticket to athletics that same night. I see others with tickets to tonight’s closing ceremony.
I’m lucky just to be here in London and I’m thankful that I did go to some events already, even if I had to pay out of pocket for it. But in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think about how great of a gift it would be if I had received a ticket like those around me. Or if I would have felt differently if my credential had access to all venues.
I don’t have a ticket to anything, except for my flight back home in less than 24 hours. I try to take my mind off of the golden tickets to the closing ceremony that everyone seems to be flashing by watching the men’s volleyball gold medal game, where Russia is coming back from two sets down against Brazil. I assume that just like the opening ceremony, I’ll be at the IBC or at the bar, or both, watching how these Games will end.
My supervisor calls me up to her desk and says that she has a job for me tonight. What job could there possibly be to do? The Games are finished and there aren’t any Olympic O-Zones left to air and no more stories or shoots to log. All the crews have packed up their stuff.
She hands me an envelope with my name on it. And I already knew. I opened up the envelope to see the ticket to the Closing Ceremony.
All I can say is thank you. I say it quietly, as if I didn’t want anyone else to know that I have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But little did my supervisors know that they just made my dreams come true.
The last day of the Games always brings a mixed bag of emotions. Right now, I feel endless amounts of bliss and gratitude.
A Symphony of British Music
Turns out a lot of NBC employees had tickets to tonight’s ceremony as if it was a big thank you from the company for all the hard work we’ve done over the last few weeks.
We left for the stadium at around 6pm, with the actual ceremony slated to begin at nine. It was weird to walk around a very empty Olympic Park. All the events were done. Before we left, we saw the final competition come to an end: the women’s modern pentathlon. There were a straggling few French fans just coming from the handball gold medal game.
I haven’t seen the Park so empty since before the Games started when we took a tour on our first day of work. It’s kinda full circle. And there was something nice about being able to walk around the park freely without strollers and groups of lost people in your way.
It finally gets crowded when you arrive at the walkways leading up to the stadium entrance. We get inside the concourse with ease, though I noticed some ticketholders having some trouble getting in. We think about getting beer before we head up but then opt not to.
We head up to our seats which is quite a climb up. After several dozen steps to our seats, we see the stage set up in front of us and I finally get a sense that I’m really here.
We do decide to get beer, in the celebratory spirit of the closing ceremony. Apparently, everyone else had the same idea as the queues were 10-12 rows deep at the bar. Lines would also form at several other smaller stands and I decide to walk around the concourse of the stadium looking for as short of a line as possible. I find a line relative short serving cider, but then I overhear that the vendor only has two more bottles and there were still four people ahead of me. So I leave the line and walk more than halfway around before settling on a line of 10-12 people waiting for Heineken. After a wait period of about 10 minutes, but felt like an eternity, I get four beers (two of them for myself) and make the long trek back. I’ve missed some of the pre-show but according to people I sat with, I didn’t miss much.
We practice some dance moves that we’re told we’ll need during the ceremony, everything from One Direction to how we’ll count down to the start of the ceremony. In between, the crowd starts doing the Mexican Wave, which Europeans are obsessed with.
They announce that over a billion people are expected to watch the ceremony live, and I make a joke that the number doesn’t include the millions watching on tape-delay on NBC. Though I was happy to learn that they will be streaming the ceremony live on its website, responding to criticisms regarding the Opening Ceremony, which was not streamed live in the United States.
The clock strikes nine. Each chime of Big Ben’s clock has the crowd counting up towards nine. And then at the ninth chime, the crowd screams “It’s nine o’clock!”
From where we are sitting, we’re behind the main stage. We’re unable to see the first performer, Emelie Sande, but all the performers look small from where we are sitting anyway that it doesn’t matter. As she performs, I can’t help but notice the lyrics that are coming out of her mouth.
“You’ve got the words to change a nation, but you’re biting your tongue…If no one ever hears it, how we gonna learn your song?…You’ve got the light to fight the shadows so stop hiding it away.
“Put it in all of the papers. I’m not afraid. They can read all about it. Read all about it.”
I’m a sucker for these kinds of songs with inspirational lyrics and corny music. But these are the Olympics and it’s an occasion for powerful moments like this.
After a glimpse of what a typical day is like in London, the man playing Winston Churchill yells out, “STOP!” and gestures toward the box. The official announcements, made in both French and English, introduces Jacques Rogge and Prince Harry. And then I hear one of the most rousing renditions of “God Save the Queen” as the volunteers on the stadium floor wave the Union Jack flag, bringing back memories of the rampant flag waving from weeks ago during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.
What follows is this amazing concert that only fans of British music can truly enjoy. Luckily, a lot of music that is popular in the United States originated from Britain. The SportsDesk producers sitting next to me were “slightly older” than us interns but they were enjoying The Pet Shop Boys perform “West End Girls,” one of them calling it their “F***ing Nirvana”.
On the other end of the spectrum, we all sang along to “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction and I think every female alive during the ’90s had flashbacks to that decade when the Spice Girls reunited and performed.
For me, my Nirvana moment was when Jessie J and Tinie Tempah performed. I was into Jessie J’s “Domino” because she sounded like Katy Perry and I enjoyed her performance of “Price Tag”. But when the music changed to “Written In the Stars,” I reached a whole new high. I first heard of Tinie Tempah when I studied abroad in London two years ago and his hit song is the one rap song that I know all the words to.
So here I was at the Olympics’ Closing Ceremony, rapping my head off while one of the producers asked me who was performing. It was another full circle moment for me. My favorite British artist, performing one of my favorite songs at the Closing Ceremony of an event that I am obsessed with.
“I used to be the kid that no one cares about. It’s like you have to keep screaming till they hear you out.”
I have so many memories from this night. From chanting the lyrics of “Wonderwall” to seeing the extinguishing of the flame, from IOC President Jacques Rogge proclaiming that these were “happy and glorious” games to the fireworks at the end as The Who performed, it was the perfect ending to an unbelievable experience.
There’s A Party on the Roof
The final hours of my trip was eventful to say the least. When the closing ceremony ended, we took what ended up being my last ever walk through Olympic Park. As we walked toward the IBC, we found ourselves in the same lane as the Olympic athletes who were making the trek back to the Athletes’ Village for what I’m sure will be an epic after party in those buildings.
I spotted two athletes from the Philippines and walked up and congratulated them. They seemed tired but I did get a “Salamat” out of them (the word for thank you). It was a surreal experience walking with all of these athletes. It was overwhelming because there were so many. And as soon as you realized what was happening, they made the turn to the right over the bridge and towards the village.
When we got back to the IBC, all the staff members from the European networks already broke out the alcohol and started a dance party. At NBC, we got back just in time for me to say goodbye to my supervisors. As much as I wanted to say, “Thank you so much for changing my life and giving me the opportunity of a lifetime,” all I did was give a hug and said “Thanks for everything.”
I walked through the NBC compound for the last time, not knowing when I’ll get an opportunity like this again. I passed the tape library, now empty. I passed the edit suites and was able to catch a glimpse of the editors working on the final block of primetime, when Bob Costas would give his closing thoughts before the epic montage with the credits. I passed by the Studios where I found the Primetime interns and a cart full of alcoholic beverages waiting to be opened. Signs were being taken down and some of them were kept as souvenirs.
I grabbed one last meal at the Commissary and then made my way, with all the souvenirs that I had bought from two days ago, towards the bus. I originally planned to leave at 12:30, but that soon turned to 1am.
I stopped at the bar, where all the journalists were celebrating the end of the games. The Primetime interns joined and in the brief time we were drinking, we all reflected on what we had just done. But then there were rumors of some epic party on the roof. So went in search of it. It wasn’t on the roof of the MPC. And we had no way of finding the roof to the IBC.
I went to the second floor of the IBC and overheard some of the Canadian broadcasters talking about this supposed rooftop party. But I had a lot of bags with me and a plane to catch. My flight for NYC was scheduled to leave at 9:30 and I was advised to get there five hours before, anticipating the number of people leaving the country with the Games now over.
My 1am departure would never happen. And I failed to catch the 1:30am. I’d finally leave the IBC for the last time at 2am.
I made it back with just enough time to pack. I had a lot to pack and luckily a lot of bags to put them in. There was no way that I could stick with the limit of one checked-in bag. I would eventually pay another 40 quid to check in a second bag.
I did see my roommate, who claimed he was busy hooking up with some girl in another room. I’ll likely never see him again so I wished him best of luck to whatever he plans to do.
A car was scheduled to pick me up at 4:30am. That car never showed up. I’ve been awake since 8am Sunday morning and I was approaching the 24-hour mark with no sleep, lugging around suitcases and backpacks. An NBC employee stationed at the hotel to assist with departures found me a car, but only after walking back to the bus stop where they had cars on standby. What was normally a five minute walk from the hotel felt like the longest walk of my life.
The car brought me to Paddington Station, where I had to take a train to the airport. At this point, I was falling asleep wherever I could, as long as I didn’t miss my stop. I was probably delirious by the time I checked in.
Once I got through security, I found a spot in the terminal where I could kill time. I still had about three hours until departure. I fell in and out of deep sleep, panicking whenever I woke up to make sure I still had all my stuff and to figure out where I was.
I managed to get enough sleep just to get by the next few hours. I even remembered to buy a newspaper and some Cadbury chocolates from the duty free shop.
Finally, as tired as I was, I get the strength to make it on the plane. I left at 9:30AM and got to New York at 12:30PM, jokingly the longest three hours of my life.
Less than 24 hours ago, I received a ticket to the closing ceremony, with feelings of bliss and gratitude.
And while the last day of the games brings a mixed bag of emotions, the day after only means one thing.
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.
Here’s a tip if you ever decide to travel to a big event or vacation in an exotic country, don’t ask your family what souvenirs they want. Especially if you’re like me, who just graduated from college and has no source of income yet.
I rarely do get enthusiastic about souvenirs or even the thought of giving. How many times have you actually worn that souvenir shirt from NYC? But the excuse that I keep going back to came back again: “It’s the Olympics.”
I was so happy to be at London 2012 and wanted to share that happiness with everyone back home so I posted on my family’s Facebook group, “Let me know if you want souvenirs!” I even said that each family member can have one item on me.
Big mistake. By the time I got around to actually buying London 2012 merchandise, I had spent much of my money on tickets, newspapers and alcohol (quite a combination). And everyone and their mother (literally) wanted a T-Shirt.
This morning, I made the trek to the London 2012 Megastore, right by the “mega” McDonalds and Olympic Stadium. I’ve heard horror stories about the Megastore. Long queues, merchandise all over the place, or just the opposite: sold out.
But by going in the morning, I avoided all of that. All the shirts were where they were supposed to be, relatively light foot traffic and no lines. Time to get to work on my list.
The main goal was to find the cheapest shirt in the right size. The difficulty was that there were so many shirts that I had to buy that I often lost track of who has what. I find myself walking through the store several times. Some gifts were easy to find, like men’s shirts. Women’s shirts were a different story. I ended up just buying smaller sizes of men’s shirts for some of them.
Amid all the searching, I wanted to get something for myself. But not a shirt. I have enough of those, including some of the swag that I get from NBC. Next thing I know, I find this awesome shoulder bag.
I rarely shop, let alone brag about the stuff I buy, especially clothes and accessories. But as a young-looking guy in New York City, every time I wear my backpack in the city, I get the sense that people think I’m playing hookey and should be in school. That’s why you’ll usually find me wearing clothes that a teenager wouldn’t wear to school in the city, like a pair of khaki pants with a shirt and tie.
Why I think that this shoulder bag will solve this problem, I don’t know. But it looks sleek, cool, and I can show off to everyone that I’ve been to the Olympics (as if I couldn’t do that with the two backpacks I already received from NBC and OBS).
It felt good to treat myself, almost like a reward for all the work I’ve done here in London. What didn’t feel as good: opening my wallet. Each scan of the barcode felt like someone was stabbing me in my pocket, letting any loose change and bills out. The swipe of my ATM card felt like a death sentence.
The cashier chuckled and said, “This is a lot of shirts.”
I could not agree more. I think I counted 13 shirts (and if I missed a family member, I could always go to the NBC store at 30 Rock in New York City).
But I left the store and I now owned all the stuff that I purchased, most to be given to family. But after a shopping spree like that, I told my sisters that if you ordered more than one item for yourself, you’re going to have to pay for that. I’m not Santa Claus and as much as I may love you, I can’t afford all this free-giving. Not yet at least.
It felt like I fulfilled my duty of visiting the Olympics. Buying expensive London 2012 merchandise to show off where I’ve been. It’s kind of like when you give gifts for Christmas. Do you want to spend the money? No. But you have to get them something? And in the end, it’s nice to see a happy face after you give them that gift.
Hope they like what I got them.
Beginning of the End
It’s the final weekend of the Games. You can get the sense that things are ending. The TODAY show, our neighbors next door to SportsDesk, started packing up today since they just completed their final show from London today.
Conversations arise of “What are you planning to do next?” and “Can you believe school starts next week?”. Obviously the latter question doesn’t apply to me since I have already graduated. But I have been thinking about what I plan to do after. As I hear of friends of mine back home getting jobs and starting new adventures, there’s a lot of uncertainty ahead. I put off a lot of the panicking that my friends had last May because I knew I had this Olympic experience to look forward to. Now that it’s almost over, I’m not panicked but there’s a lot of soul-searching ahead.
Soul-searching that I’ll leave for the plane ride home. Meanwhile, the final shoots and edits were being done today. But as far as loggers were concerned, we’re practically done. Shoots that we’ve logged were already being used for producers’ final stories of the Olympics.
Taking the lead
One of the producers was working on a profile story of the American BMX riders competing here in London. BMX is a popular sport to watch at SportsDesk, mainly because it’s very visual, especially when there are big leaps in the air or major crashes.
Yesterday, the producer walked by and asked “What is that?”, pointing at one of the monitors showing the BMX competition. Of course, I knew that he knew what was going on but I responded, “The men’s quarterfinals of BMX.”
He was more interested in the awesome-looking replays that the feed was showing, so he asked, “Are we rolling on that?”
I said that we could roll on it. But he declined, saying that he didn’t want to touch the piece since it was almost done. But from the look in his eyes, I figured that he wanted the footage. And as a former producer, I know that if there’s a way that I can make a product better, I’ll find one.
I decide to roll on the BMX competition, even noting down the timecode of the recording whenever an American was competing since that’s the footage he would be looking for. I took the disc, brought it into the edit suite and started digitizing it so that he can access the footage in his editing project. If I needed any confirmation that what I was doing was the right thing, it was when he said, “Is that footage being digitized?” I was already taking the lead.
I wasn’t sure if that footage would be used at all, until I saw the final product. Turns out it was.
There was a lot of buzz among the NBC interns this afternoon. Word got around that the Primetime Show was taping a segment between Bob Costas and Late Night host Jimmy Fallon and the producers wanted interns to act as the studio audience for it.
I wasn’t planning on even taking part as I had just sat down with my lunch at the SportsDesk office but the room was getting a bit empty and all the other interns from SportsDesk had left so I figured I’d take a walk across to outside Studio A to see what’s up. Turns out every intern, as well as a few PAs, were waiting around to be a part of the taping. So for the sole reason of peer pressure and that I didn’t want to be the one intern that wasn’t taking part (“taking part” is what the Olympics are about after all), I decided to let my lunch get cold and be a part of this mock studio audience.
So we lined up in the studio, about three rows deep of interns, right in front of the desk. I didn’t feel the need to be on TV at the moment so I stood in the back row. Somehow when my roommate watched the segment back in the States, he found me and was able to take a screengrab.
And just like that, we’re down to our final four days of competition. For me, just four more days of this London experience. Five days from now, I’ll be on a plane going back to New York.
All of a sudden, you feel the end is coming and you want to live every second like it’s your last. Make the most of what’s left, don’t waste it.
I spend my morning crossing more activities off my bucket list. Throughout the Olympics, many TV networks have used the iconic Tower Bridge in the backgrounds of their standup locations or as a nice beauty shot. The well-recognized Olympic Rings hang in the middle, providing the perfect backdrop for any tourist picture or televised bump shot.
I have yet to see Tower Bridge in person during my time here and it wouldn’t be a trip to the London Olympics without a picture of the bridge with the Olympic Rings. So I made the long walk from my hotel down to the River Thames, enjoying the sun as I trekked east.
Along the way, I stumbled upon the Swiss House, which had an outdoor area setup with a stage, a concession stand, picnic tables and a big screen which at the time was showing the women’s open water swim competition from Hyde Park.
I decide that this is the perfect opportunity to take lunch after such a long walk. I settle for a bratwurst and a beer. It was a bit odd that the sausage came separate from the bread and inside its own wrapper. I ended up dipping the bratwurst into the mustard and taking a nice juicy bite from it. Then I take a bite from the bread and finish it with beer. It got the job done.
I finally make it to Tower Bridge, which is right by City Hall. I find lots of tourists with the same intentions that I had, getting that shot of the Olympic Rings. I snap a few pics of the bridge before exploring the rest of the area. I find a row of four separate areas with television cameras set up, pointing towards the bridge. This is where reporters from around the world can do their live shots and standups from.
A little further east is a small park with a big TV screen set up. A lot of office workers from nearby are enjoying the weather and their lunch while watching the Olympics.
I stop at a map to figure out where I am and where I can take a train to Olympic Park. Another one of the nice volunteers that this city has provided for the Olympics comes up to help me. After a few questions about where this place is and where this other place is, I ask him for one more favor: to take my picture with the bridge. He was happy to oblige.
Just another historic day for Team USA
After being at not one, but two Olympic events yesterday, I was glad to be at my desk today because there was a lot of action happening in a lot of different places.
During the day, women were making history at ExCel with the first-ever medals being handed out to females in the sport of boxing. And one of them was American Claressa Shields, who defeated Russian Nadzeda Torlopova to claim USA’s first women’s boxing gold.
In the team sports, the US Women’s Basketball team defeated Australia in a rematch of the 2008 final to advance to the gold medal game while the US women’s volleyball team swept South Korea to make the final, where they’ll face Brazil.
I secretly wanted the USA to lose because my ticket-buying addiction led me to a ticket to the bronze medal game on Saturday morning. So instead of USA vs. Brazil for the bronze medal (which would have been insane), I’ll be seeing South Korea vs. Japan. The Olympic gods must think that just because I’m Asian, I should be watching Asian nations compete.
The evening was every Olympic nerd’s dream come true. Finals were happening everywhere. Of interest to most of us at SportsDesk was the gold medal game in women’s soccer between USA and Japan. At the same time, the women’s water polo team was going for its first-ever gold medal against Spain at the Water Polo Arena. There were also gold medals being handed in women’s 10m platform diving, men’s beach volleyball, wrestling and taekwondo, and of course, at Olympic Stadium in track and field.
Every monitor that I could access at SportsDesk was being used.
Much like how March Madness in college basketball can bring great finishes just minutes apart from each other, Night 13 of competition saw great performances happen, and six medals awarded to the United States within an hour. Here’s how the night played out:
7:45PM – The gold medal final in women’s soccer begins at Wembley between USA and Japan.
7:56PM – Carli Lloyd scores the first goal of the women’s soccer game, giving USA a 1-0 lead.
8:01PM – David Rudisha of Kenya wins the 800m race in world record time of 1:40.91 at Olympic Stadium. It’s the first WR to be recorded on the track at these Olympics.
8:35PM – American Christian Taylor jumps a season’s best 17.81 meters on his fourth attempt in the triple jump competition to take the lead at Olympic Stadium.
After being able to attend women’s basketball and table tennis during these Olympics, this morning shaped up to be the busiest (and albeit most expensive) yet in my role as Olympic Spectator. I crossed two more venues off my bucket list with a visit to Riverbank Arena, home of the field hockey competition, and the centerpiece of these Games, Olympic Stadium.
I’m not sure what has been more enjoyable: being able to buy tickets or actually going to the event. But being able to do both earlier this week only wet my appetite. Yesterday, I was at it again on the London 2012 Ticketing Website. I’ve even started following @2012TicketAlert on Twitter, which provided automatic updates whenever tickets became available on the website.
I’ve noticed a pattern in how tickets become available throughout the day. Usually, the tickets that were available at any given moment are those that have been returned to LOCOG and are being resold. That explains how some events look like they are still available even though the few tickets that were have already been sold.
But twice a day, once in the morning and again in the evening, LOCOG releases a mass quantity of tickets, and it’s during this time that you have your best chance to get tickets. So when the number of events available skyrocketed from eight to 135, it’s time to begin clicking. A colleague of mine equated it to how Wall Street brokers try and buy stock.
You can reserve up to four events at one time. But in the time that you go searching for four events, you’re already missing out on tickets. So I decide to just request a ticket for a morning field hockey game. While the system was actually finding a ticket to request, I browse other events. I’ve yet to go to Olympic Stadium and see the Cauldron, so when I see that the Wednesday morning session had tickets available, I had to go for it.
When I pressed “Request Tickets”, it resent the request for the field hockey ticket as well. After ten agonizing minutes watching the spinning wheel of death as the system searched for tickets, the next page appeared and there were tickets available for both field hockey and athletics.
I felt like I had won the lottery but then I realized that the two events overlapped each other. The field hockey match began at 8:30am and the morning session started at 10am. I couldn’t simply just delete an event since I requested tickets for both. The only way I could get rid of an event is if I went back to my shopping cart. But that would release both the field hockey and athletics tickets, and I wasn’t about to let go of the opportunity to finally enter Olympic Stadium.
So I buy both. £35 for field hockey and £95 for athletics. Definitely not the cheapest morning I’ve had here in London.
A Walk to the Land of Purple and Blue
Considering the price of the tickets, I certainly wasn’t going to pay for much else. When I get to the IBC to drop off my stuff, I grab some breakfast at the NBC Commissary. A coffee, a croissant and a fruit and yogurt parfait. Luckily, Riverbank Arena is literally steps away from the IBC.
It’s a temporary structure that will be taken down after the Paralympics, when the Football 7-a-side and 5-a-side competitions take place there. What’s unique about it? Well, take a look for yourself.
It’s the first time that Olympic Field Hockey will be contested on a blue field. Many sports fans can compare this to the blue courts used at the US Open and the blue field use in college football at Boise State.
The stands were relatively empty when I arrived. I guess we can’t expect the sport-crazed nation of Britain to get up this early for an 8:30 start. A steady stream of spectators continued to enter the arena throughout the morning. But I’ll bet many of them didn’t have a ticket to athletics at 10am like I did. So I had to get as much of my £35 ticket to field hockey as possible.
The match itself was a women’s game between Japan and South Africa, a classification match to determine who finishes in ninth and tenth place in the standings. It wasn’t exactly a compelling matchup, nor were any medals at stake, but it’s the Olympics and as evidenced by the demand for tickets, any event is a hot ticket.
I enjoy watching field hockey. It’s one of those sports that you never see on TV but is very physical and competitive. I’ve had the pleasure of covering Syracuse field hockey, one of the best programs in the nation. Thus, I’ve already had an appreciation and decent understanding of the sport.
There’s definitely something different about watching sports in the morning. Instead of a beer, you have a coffee. You’re applauding and clapping instead of obnoxiously cheering. I would say that it was a pleasant experience. Sport in the morning definitely fills a void in the day, when most would be watching last night’s highlights on Sportscenter.
London 2012 organizers have also done a great job with the spectator experience. From the music to the volunteers, spectators like me have been treated to good vibes at every venue. At this game, whenever a team wanted to challenge a call and use the video referee, they’d play the Beatles’ classic song, “Help!”, a perfect choice for the situation.
And the PA announcers have been fantastic in explaining the rules of each sport, especially with those that spectators might not be so familiar with.
Listen as the PA announcer at Riverbank Arena explains how a penalty corner works in field hockey.
I did get to see one goal before the first half ended. But with the decathlon set to get underway at 10am with the 100m heats (which would be the only sprint event on the schedule in the morning session), I left my seat at Riverbank Arena shortly after 9:30AM, with the second half barely underway.
Turns out I missed a good game, with Japan coming back in the second half to tie the game and then winning off a penalty stroke in the second overtime period.
Citius, Altius, Fortius
I don’t remember the last time I was so happy to enter a stadium. I was so eager to get to my seat that what was supposed to be a 20-30 minute walk from Riverbank Arena to Olympic Stadium was done in 15 minutes.
I got to my seat with plenty of time. Enough time in fact that I wondered how much more of that field hockey game I could have watched. Well, hindsight is 20/20 and if I stayed, I probably would have stressed out about getting to Olympic Stadium on time.
The first thing I did was take in the fact that I was there. And I surely wasn’t the only one. For a morning session, this place was packed.
The sprint track was on the far end, where Usain Bolt sprinted to Olympic glory once again earlier in these games. It’s where the Ashton Eaton and other decathletes start their grueling 10-event journey. The backstretch was on my near end, and even closer to me were the straightaways for the long jumps, which will be the second event of the decathlon, held today and tomorrow. Right in front of me was the qualifying competition in the men’s pole vault and on the other end, qualifying took place in the women’s hammer throw.
What’s great about watching an athletics event is that there is so much going on at once, perfect for the guy like me who has a severe case of sports attention deficit disorder. When there’s no race happening on the track, there’s always something going on in the field. So many stories of Olympic dreams ending and continuing. Athletes who have come to London for gold, while others who were just happy to compete.
Even in the stands, there’s no shortage of stories. For some, they have traveled thousands of miles to see the Olympics. Others are from somewhere in the UK, or live in London. Some have been to numerous Olympics before while others like me are attending their first. Moms, dads, their kids. Young professionals. Military servicemen. Former coaches and athletes. Interns. You don’t realize it until it’s right in front of you. Everyone has a story.
But the stories that people care about are those of the competitors. I got the chance to see Ashton Eaton compete in the decathlon, and home crowd favorite Mo Farah run in the heats of the 5000m. I saw a pole break during an attempt of the pole vault. But while broadcasters will show highlights like those, I’ll remember my time at Olympic Stadium for seeing two athletes that won’t win a medal or make the Not Top 10 of Sportscenter.
First was Saudi Arabia’s Sarah Attar, the first female runner from that country to compete in the Olympics. It was the first Olympic Games in which Saudi Arabia allowed women to compete, a late but certainly welcome development from the conservative kingdom in an Olympics where women outnumbered men on Team USA. Attar won long pants, a head scarf and a long-sleeved shirt and get a roar of approval from the crowd as she was introduced before her women’s 800m heat.
She finished last, but that wasn’t the point. The fans cheered louder for her than the woman who actually won the heat. The motto of these games was to “Inspire A Generation”. Attar surely inspired a new generation of women in Saudi Arabia.
The other athlete I’ll remember is Rene Herrera, a 5000m runner from the Philippines. I’m a Filipino-American so to be able to witness a runner from the country where the rest of my family grew up is pretty special. Herrera has won competitions at the Southeast Asian Games and was the oldest competitor from the Philippines competing here in London. There were only 11 Filipino athletes at these Olympics, the smallest Filipino delegation since the 1996 Olympics.
Herrera was in the same heat as American Lopez Lamong and British athlete and 10000m champion Mo Farah. He received cheers and applause when he finished the race with a time of 14:44:11, a personal best for Herrera. Though he was lapped by his other competitors and finished dead last in his heat, I can tell my family that I got to watch an Olympian from the Philippines compete.
The highlight of my visit to Olympic Stadium was finally seeing the flame in person. Said to be the source of inspiration for all athletes, for some, it’s just really pretty to look at. For me, to see it with my own eyes meant a lot, especially considering that the flame cannot be seen outside of the stadium unlike in previous Olympics.
There are plenty of songs, poems, and euphemisms about what the flame means to the Olympic movement and to an Olympic Games itself. Other multi-sport events have also made lighting a cauldron a part of their tradition. The flame is lit by the sun’s rays in Olympia and travels thousands of miles to the host city. Needless to say, the flame isn’t just like lighting a candle or starting a grill. There’s a reason why the last torch bearer is a closely-guarded secret and why the lighting of the cauldron is always the climax of the closing ceremony.
So yeah. It’s a big deal to be able to see the Olympic Flame. After most of the morning competition ended, I left my seat and made my way down. I wasn’t the only one that wanted to take a picture of the flame.
I rarely ask for pictures to be taken of me. I don’t really like being in pictures for the sake of being in a picture. But this was one of those times where I myself needed proof that I was there to see the flame.
The Long Walk Back
I had a tough time leaving Olympic Stadium. I took way more pictures than I normally would at a sporting event, with plenty of photos of the flame. I stayed for most of the decathlon shot put competition, even though most of the spectators left. Each time I got up to leave the stadium, I would end up sitting a new seat, not wanting to leave this magical arena.
Insert every cliche you know about dreams coming true, but my dreams did. And I knew it wouldn’t be something that I’d repeat. Who knows when the Olympics will return to London for a fourth time or if this stadium will even be standing. This was thus-far the highlight of my Olympic experience.
After taking a few more pictures, I somehow left the stadium, with the biggest smile on my face. I walked back to the IBC so happy with what I was able to witness this morning.
And I wasn’t alone. As I continued walking, I was amazed with how many people were here, with just about the same intentions as mine: to watch the best athletes in the world compete. It’s a magical atmosphere really. Someone compared it to going to Disney World, where you pay just to get inside and are surrounded by visitors from all over the world. Instead of rides, you pay and wait in line to see sport and spectacle.
There were people hoping to swap tickets to see their country in this afternoon’s handball semifinals. Families walking around with their strollers. Young people walking with their flags.
I’ve never been to Disney World. And now I never want to. Because I don’t think I’ll be any happier there than I was in Olympic Park today.
This morning, the men’s triathlon took place in Hyde Park. With today being the first day of my late shift (from 2pm-2am), I decided to take advantage of the time off that I had in the morning and take a walk in Hyde Park and catch some of the triathlon.
As expected, getting out of the nearby Tube stop was tricky since the London Underground system’s workflow was built to have only one way in and one way out. With everyone getting out, it took more than a few minutes to get out of the station.
Once in the park, I walked about 10 minutes south until it was obvious that a triathlon was happening. There were people lining up along the course route and there was still about an hour until the athletes would even jump into the water, which mean at least an hour and a half until the athletes would pass by these spectators on their bikes.
I had two choices. I could either wait where there were fewer crowds and be able to have a clear view of the triathletes when they are on their bike. Or I could keep walking towards larger crowds and have a chance at seeing more of the action.
You know how they say be a leader, not a follower? Yeah, this wasn’t one of those times. I decide to follow others and walk west towards the lake, where the triathlon would begin. It got increasingly crowded as I kept walking. Eventually, I got to the lake and with the competition starting soon, I settled into a spot that was six or eight deep. But I had a view of the Serpentine Lake.
After a bit of a wait, with more people gathering for just a glimpse of the competition, we finally saw the competitors come into view. From my right, you could start to see some boats coming towards us as they followed the athletes in the water. And then you could see the white foam of the water, as little bright green swim caps, which looked like dots from our vantage point, and black arms became visible.
You could hear the crowds start to make noise as the swimmers past by. Of course, I had no idea who these competitors were or who was even in the lead. But we just all stood there and applauded as they came closer, just appreciating the athleticism that was occurring in front of us.
After the competitors swam past where I stood and disappeared from sight, I decided to quickly walk back east so that I could get a decent view of the cycling portion. It wasn’t long until swimmers became cyclists and I was still walking east towards the corner of Hyde Park when the competitors past by on their bikes. Luckily, there were seven laps to the bike portion so they would pass by six more times.
I found a spot by one of the crossing points and this time I had a pretty good view of the competitors to the point where I could see their faces for the split second that they biked past.
After a few more laps, I decide to leave the Park in the hopes of maybe catch the end of the race at a pub. The novelty of seeing an Olympic triathlon in the park wore off a bit considering I didn’t know who the competitors were and how little of the competition I actually got to see. I venture back west, walking along the perimeter of the park.
I was actually looking for the USA House because a lot of my friends were talking about the cool apparel that they had for sale in the gift shop and I still needed to pick up souvenirs for my family. I just happened to stumble upon a large grassy area where they had two big screens set up and a lot of people gathered to watch the race. I decide to give up my search for the USA House and join the mass gathering.
I was impressed by how many people there were looking at this one big screen. It reminded me of the crowds at a free concert in Central Park. But instead of holding up posters and signs, they were waving flags. And instead of screaming and shouting, they simply just stood there in silence as the drama unfolded on the screen in front of them.
I didn’t plan to stay long but when I finally found out who was leading, I knew I couldn’t leave. Two British athletes, Alistair Brownlee and his brother Jonathan, were among the leaders as the final leg of the triathlon got closer to the finish. If I left, I’d miss out on another unique moment of British pride, regardless of who won.
Unlike the women’s race which featured a tight finish, it became clear who would take a gold. No contest. Watch and listen to the massive Hyde Park crowd as they applaud Alistair Brownlee’s gold medal-winning performance.
Not a bad morning to be in Hyde Park, especially considering that I didn’t have to pay to see any of that Olympic competition.
Getting to the IBC was a triathlon in itself, which involved the disciplines of walking, taking the tube and then taking the shuttle. Each leg had some sort of obstacle that made getting to work tougher and tougher.
I thought I could beat out all the crowds by leaving Hyde Park right after the race finished and people were still watching the other competitors cross the finish line. The problem was that the nearest Tube station was quite a walk away. I decide to walk back east and get the Picadilly Line train from Knightsbridge and then transfer to the Central Line, which can take me to Stratford and the Olympic Park.
Well, I didn’t beat the crowds and the Knightsbridge station was closed due to overcrowding. So this first leg of my triathlon got extended a little longer. Actually a lot longer. At that point, I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the IBC by 2PM so I text my colleagues to let them know. Meanwhile, I still had to find a way of getting there.
I walk further east and after about a half hour, I find Victoria Station. At least it was open. From there, I took the Circle Line train to Liverpool Street, finally starting the second leg of my journey. At Liverpool Street, I was able to transfer to one of the National Rail trains (the London equivalent to MetroNorth) and take it directly to Stratford.
At Stratford, I had to walk again. This time through the busy Westfield shopping centre, where there were tourists and lost visitors everywhere, not to mention tons of security officers trying to direct foot traffic. Once I survive that, I’ve never been so happy to show my credential and get through security, accessing an area that none of the general public had access to. This must be how athletes felt about the media once they got into the Athletes’ Village.
After a short shuttle bus ride, I finally stumble into the IBC and SportsDesk, over an hour late. I may not get a medal for this effort, but at least I made it. And isn’t that what the Olympics are about? Taking part, even though I was late.
Finally Australia’s Night
It’s been a long fortnight for Australia. They fell well short of expectations in the pool. James Magnussen, who was expected to be the big star for Australia, could only come up with a silver individual performance, losing to Nathan Adrian in the 100m freestyle final. The Aussies only garnered one gold medal of the ten they had collected and no Aussie individual claimed the top spot on the podium in the Aquatics Centre for the first time since 1976.
Australia, usually a powerhouse in women’s basketball, was upset by France in overtime, despite this thrilling, buzzer-beating three made by Team Oz in the final seconds from half-court. By the end of Day 9, Australia was behind neighboring rivals New Zealand in the medal tally.
In the final of the women’s 100m hurdles at Olympic Stadium, it would be up to Sally Pearson to finally deliver for the land down under. The Beijing silver medalist came into the final as the fastest qualifier from the semifinal heats. She would face American and reigning Olympic champion Dawn Harper and fellow American Lolo Jones who crashed into the final hurdle in Beijing, falling from first to fourth, just short of the podium.
If you watch the world feed and the NBC broadcast, you’ll notice that when the results were posted, viewers saw the reaction of Sally Pearson first. However, when we watched the NBC feed live at SportsDesk, we initially saw the reaction of Dawn Harper, who screamed out “No!” when she first found out about the result before conceding and clapping her hands in the air. It’s a shot that many didn’t get to see and the director immediately cut to Pearson’s reaction.
Australians had woken up early to watch the race and finally during these Games, an Australian athlete met the expectations of an entire nation and didn’t disappoint.
Elsewhere on Day 11
– SportsDesk has seen plenty of moments together, from the Phelps-Lochte duels to last night’s thrilling US Women’s Soccer semifinal victory over Canada. The SportsDesk staff gathered again to witness moments of greatness, this time in beach volleyball as the semifinal round occurred this evening. While we were treated to another straight set performance by Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings, the entire room got boisterous as we cheered for the other American pair, Jen Kessy and April Ross to upset the reigning world champions from Brazil.
– Gold for Aly Raisman, as she followed up the bronze that she won in the balance beam final earlier in the afternoon by claiming victory in the floor exercise.
– And finally another Olympic O-Zone piece that I logged and will remain in my memory for quite sometime. This one was produced by Stephanie Himango, who I admire for all her “outside-the-box” pieces. She’s done stories on Harrod’s and the Street Markets and this time she tells the story of the London Philharmonic, responsible for recording all 204 anthems that may play during the medal ceremonies here at the Games. My favorite part of this piece: when Lester Holt jams with composer Philip Sheppard.
Last night, I wrote about the tedious process of being able to buy tickets. And after spending hours pressing the refresh button, I finally found and bought tickets to something.
So this morning, I attended the semifinals of the women’s team event of Table Tennis at ExCel. Now I’ve been to plenty of sporting events in the past, including a squash tournament at Grand Central Terminal, a collegiate rowing regatta on Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, and cross-country skiing on the streets of Dusseldorf, Germany. I’m not sure if I would have gone to a Table Tennis event if it wasn’t the Olympics, especially at a ticket price of £35.
But I was happy to attend a full-session of an event and also venture out of Olympic Park. And I’m sure it will be different than my first Olympic experience watching women’s basketball last week.
I had work at noon and the session started at 10am, so I was definitely not going to be at the IBC on time. I asked my supervisors last night if it was okay that I would be late and they were thrilled that I was going to attend an event. I guess they still felt bad that I hadn’t been to a venue yet.
I wanted to get to ExCel early so that I can explore the venue and take in the experience. Since I wasn’t going to the IBC or had a credential to enter ExCel, I had to take public transportation to get to the venue. After almost an hour on the Tube and the DLR, which was easy to navigate thanks to the pink signs that Transport for London have put up around the city, I arrived at ExCel.
Anticipating long lines and a lot of visitors, it’s quite a walk from the DLR station to the entrance. And like every other Olympic venue, there’s airport style security. I had my ticket in one hand, but I was also wearing my credential that gets me into the IBC because I didn’t want to risk losing it if it wasn’t worn around my neck. That confused some of the volunteers and security guards because they asked if I was coming as a member of the media and if I had the proper credentials.
I said no, I’m here as a spectator. And I didn’t mind. I was still getting the experience that many back at home weren’t getting. But I will admit that every time I saw a passageway or door that only allowed credentialed media to enter, I glanced with envy.
A Mini-Olympic Park
What I liked about ExCel is how it is home to so many different sports. In one convention hall, you can find boxing and then down the hall is wrestling. And unlike Olympic Park, where getting from one venue to another takes 15-20 minutes, spectators are minutes away. If only the Olympics offered an ExCel day pass (the Paralympics will have such tickets available).
The table tennis venue is the first hall on the left when you enter ExCel. Inside, you’ll find a big and relatively wide area with concession stands, merchandise stands and little exhibits that tell the history of table tennis at the Olympics. It’s definitely a sport that grabs the attention of viewers solely for its novelty and uniqueness.
I highly doubt most spectators are avid table tennis players themselves. Most ping pong tables in the United States are used to play another type of pong that is popular among college students. But I was intrigued about seeing the top players in the sport.
The team format is relatively new and premiered during the Beijing Olympics four years ago. If you’re familiar with the Davis or Fed Cup competitions in regular tennis, the team format is similar. Countries put out a team of about 3-4 members and participate in a best-of-five series, which includes at least two singles matches and one doubles match. Matches four and five are reverse singles matches and played if necessary.
Since we get at least three matches played, only one semifinal is being contested during this session. Each match is a best of five games. The player who gets to 11 points first, leading by at least two points, wins the game. If a player does not have a two-point cushion but reaches 11 points, the match continues until someone does lead by two.
China vs. South Korea
If there’s one thing to know about Table Tennis, it’s that China is really, really good at it. China won in both the men’s and women’s singles events and are on track to sweep the team events as well.
I get to my seat and you can tell that each arena is a room of a convention hall that has been turned into a mini-stadium. The seats are temporary and right in the middle is a single table. Trust me, you get a better view of the action on television.
I look around and I still see some empty seats. If there’s such a battle for tickets, I was wondering why the stands weren’t filled. Either buyers didn’t want to go see table tennis, or they were late, or they were late because they didn’t want to go see table tennis.
Not a surprise that there were many Asian fans around, but there were also many local Brits who came with their families and had bought tickets months in advance.
As far as the match itself, it really was no contest. The first match easily went to China. In the second singles match, there was much more of a battle as the South Korean competitor played very defensively, standing feet away from the table and still able to make returns. That led to many long rallies, much to the delight of the crowd.
Unfortunately, the second singles match also went to China and South Korea couldn’t extend the match, losing in doubles as well. Here was match point:
China. Really good at table tennis.
Elsewhere on Day 10…
While I’ll remember Day 10 for my morning watching table tennis, for many Americans, this day will be remembered by the epic performance staged by the Women’s Soccer team against Canada at Old Trafford. It was a back and forth game, with the U.S. not taking the lead until the last minute.
We were watching the game at SportsDesk and one of the production associates was live-logging the game. The problem was that the feed she was watching was the one airing on NBC Sports Network, which was seven seconds behind the world feed that everyone else was watching. So for awhile, I’d know that a goal was scored before she did. It was beneficial in some ways. When a goal was scored, I’d say aloud, “Take a look!” It gave everyone advance warning that something big was coming.
But by the later stages of the game, it was rather disadvantageous to be watching the network feed than the world feed. Eventually, everyone tuned into the world feed so that we could all be on the same page. And what an ending it was.
The game brought back memories of watching Team USA last summer in the World Cup. I was a photographer and covering a game on Roosevelt Island in NYC, but following the updates on Twitter of the USA vs. Brazil game where the Americans staged an epic comeback. I was glad to at least be watching the game live on TV this time.
And here’s the look-back that one of the Olympic O-Zone editors put together, thanks in part to the live-log that the PA did of the game.
– While the soccer match was happening, we also kept an eye on what was going on at Olympic Stadium. In fact, when one of the goals was scored, I had the audio up for the men’s 400m final, so I had to quickly lower Tom Hammond’s voice and bring up the sound from Manchester to quickly alert people what had happened. It’s what I love about the Olympics–things happening at the same time. I got the audio back up for the final which featured Kirani James of Grenada, winning the country’s first ever Olympic medal.
We had a live shot up from Grenada House and if you were watching NBC’s Primetime Coverage of Day 10, you knew how crazy fans got there.
– Team GB’s Beth Tweddle won her first Olympic medal in uneven bars. This is her third Olympics and her bronze medal is the first ever won by a British female gymnast. And in the men’s rings final, Brazil found the star that will be the face for the upcoming Rio Olympics in 2016 as Arthur Nabrrette Zanetti upset the defending Olympic champion from China, Chen Yibing, to win gold.
– And finally, here’s another one of my favorite stories that I had the pleasure of logging and learning about. Michelle Tafoya talks with a few Brits and Americans in London on some of the differences between British and American languages. You’d think they both speak English, right? Just wait til you hear what the British term is for a USB drive.
Two events stick out to me from Day 9 of London 2012. One was the men’s 100m final, which is always an event to look forward to at an Olympic Games. More on that later.
But earlier today was the men’s singles final in tennis. NBC was heavily promoting this weekend’s tennis finals and it brought back memories of Breakfast at Wimbledon, which had been a staple of NBC Sports programming until this year.
I was heartbroken when I learned that the broadcast network had lost Wimbledon rights to the Worldwide Leader. NBC and Wimbledon had been a relationship longer than most Hollywood couples. I understood why, as I was like many viewers who were frustrated with tape-delayed coverage over the years. But when it came to the championship matches, it was a great tradition to have it on NBC.
The fact that the tennis competition was taking place at Wimbledon meant that NBC could bring that same kind of coverage again for the Olympic finals. And that’s exactly what they did.
First, they brought in Ted Robinson to call both final matches, along with Mary Carillo to color commentate the women’s final and John McEnroe for the men’s final, Al Michaels hosted coverage for the All-England Club.
It helped that the finals were scheduled for 2PM local time, 9AM Eastern Time, which was exactly when Breakfast at Wimbledon would start during championship weekend. And the matchups were mouth-watering (on paper at least). Yesterday, Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova handily.
And this afternoon was a rematch of this year’s Wimbledon final, with Andy Murray given a second chance to win at Wimbledon, taking on the man that won the fortnight four weeks prior, Roger Federer. Get the strawberries and cream ready.
“Every man has his moment. Andy Murray has finally found his,” Robinson said as Murray climbed his way to give his family a hug.
It may not have been Wimbledon or a grand slam. But it was Olympic gold, and on one of the most hallowed grounds in tennis, not to mention on home soil.
I’m glad that NBC dedicated network coverage to this. I don’t recall the last time NBC put Olympic tennis on the broadcast network (it was on USA Network for both Beijing and Athens). I don’t think the sport would have gotten as much attention as it did if it were held somewhere other than Wimbledon, which makes me hold my breath for the same kind of coverage for the finals in Rio four years from now.
But for now, I cherished the brief return of Breakfast at Wimbledon.
Hard to believe but the games were halfway over. Swimming has concluded at the Aquatics Centre and we’re down to the event finals in artistic gymnastics. Some sports were completely done, like tennis, judo and badminton. But others were just getting started (wrestling, synchronized swimming) or have yet to begin (BMX cycling, rhythmic gymnastics).
It was Day 3 at the track and it was time to find out who is the world’s fastest man. The men’s 100m final had many intriguing storylines. My favorite was that of Justin Gatlin, who won back in Athens eight years ago. He was then found guilty of doping later in his career, but he did his time and is now back in the final here in London.
There’s the story of Yohan Blake, the defending world champion who won in Daegu, Korea after Usain Bolt was disqualified following a false start. Blake defeated Bolt in the Jamaican Trials earlier this year.
The question on many minds was can Bolt overcome all the doubters and prove he can again be the fastest man in the world?
I wrote earlier during the games about how difficult (and frustrating) it is to get tickets. That hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s gotten more frustrating.
It’s one thing not to have received any tickets yet. While some interns have from their supervisors, it’s something that we’re not supposed to expect. And that’s fine. I don’t expect to just receive tickets out of the blue from anyone. I didn’t expect it before the games started and I don’t expect it now. I’d be happy to work for NBC Olympics regardless.
It’s another thing when everyone around you brags about visiting venues with their credential because they have a small, black rectangular box that says ALL on it. But over the last few days, almost every PA, driver and intern has bragged about where they’ve been. I saw two interns who just came back from Wimbledon watching the men’s tennis semifinals. A few drivers went inside Olympic Stadium to take a picture of the cauldron. Others brag about being front row at beach volleyball.
At times, I loathe them. There were few people working for NBC that didn’t have this kind of access and loggers just happened to be in this minority. We worked just as hard, at times harder, than some of the people that got to go into venues and it was annoying to be in an Olympic City and not be able to go to an event.
And boy did I try to get my credential changed. I went to the USOC office, then to the credential office itself. I was told to speak with NBC since they arranged the credentials. I went to the accreditation office and they said to talk to the department supervisors. Sounds easy, but I was simply terrified of the prospect of getting rejected.
Eventually, I figured it’s better to ask than to never do so at all. I did, and while the looks on my supervisors said that they really wanted to get me access to venues, the answer wasn’t what I wanted.
“We can’t. There’d be no way to justify getting you the credential.”
Once I heard that, I simply gave up, put on the best smile I could and said, “That’s okay. I’ll stick with the seven TVs that I have.”
Feeling defeated, I decided that the best thing to do was buy tickets. I realized that I am in London and if I’m not going to be given tickets or the credentials to access venues, you might as well just pay out of your pocket.
I had set up an account a week before. Normally, non-UK residents can’t set up accounts, but I used the address of the hotel that I was staying at to make it look like I was a UK resident.
Finding tickets turned out to be a chore in itself. Tickets were so hard to come by because the only way you could get them was online and that meant there were thousands of visitors logging onto the site at one time.
First you had to log on to tickets.london2012.com, then you log in and search for events. I always searched by date, looking for any tickets that were available from now until the end of the games. With the games halfway over and tickets limited, I would go to anything at this point.
The search results would usually give a short list of events. Even when you click select, sometimes tickets would go so quickly that by the time that you got to the next page, there would actually be no tickets available. Then there’d be times when you do see tickets available, at a price range that you could afford. But after you click on reserve, no tickets would be available.
Basically, you had to check every 10 minutes, which is what I did all day today. The frustration of not finding tickets got to a point that I needed a break. I went to the quiet room at the MPC, took a short nap and came back.
I pressed refresh and instead of the usual eight to ten events that were available, there were over 60! I didn’t know where all these tickets came from, but I didn’t have time to care. I started looking.
After about 10-15 minutes of furious clicking, I finally got to the page where I can actually buy the tickets. I entered my credit card information and hit buy. I get the confirmation email and then pick up the physical ticket at a box office inside Olympic park.
Tomorrow morning, I was going to ExCel to watch Table Tennis.