Olympic Size Memories
With the Winter Olympics in full swing, it got me thinking back to some of my production experiences around past Olympic games. Also, they say blogging is a good thing to do, so what the hell. Back before the '96 games in Atlanta, I was tasked to produce an "Insider's Guide" to the Atlanta Olympics. Our host was the ageless Olympic swimming great Dara Torres. We hired a local Atlanta cabbie to take us around town, shooting venue to venue, stopping at all the "hidden" Atlanta gems along the way. I'm not sure the world famous hamburger joint The Varsity really qualified as a "secret spot" but whatever, you get the point.
We shot it all on Betacam in glorious 480i resolution. Today if your phone camera shot in 480i, you'd throw it in the garbage. It was edited on an Avid and we finished it in AVR77, which was a breakthrough "near broadcast" ready resolution at the time. Reebok spent 5 figures on that nonlinear editing system, which today would be blown away by your free iMovie app. Also, I think it was one of the last consumer videos Reebok put out on VHS. I never actually went to the '96 games, but four years later, I was lucky enough to go to Sydney, Australia. Since Reebok had a number of countries (including the entire Russian team) under apparel contract, they opened a large Athlete Service Center/Hospitality area. Everyday, we'd tape all the events featuring Reebok athletes and then at night we'd edit all of the Reebok connected athletes into a highlight reel. Reebok had moved on to Final Cut by that time, and we were shooting most everything on MiniDV, including all the press conferences held for Reebok medal winners. One of them was Stacey Dragila, who won the first gold medal ever awarded in Olympic women's pole vault. I asked her after her press conference if I could try on her medal and was shocked when she said "sure!". She took it off her neck and handed it to me. I know the medal doesn't actually give you superpowers, but for those 30 seconds I wore it, I felt invincible. So invincible that I ever so briefly contemplated running out the door with it, but since Australia is surrounded by sea, I felt I had no real chance to make it back to the states. Plus, Stacey (besides being one of the nicest people I ever met) was a badass athlete who would have dropped me in about 2 seconds. I did manage to make it to a few events, including swimming, which was being dominated by the Aussie team featuring the "Thorpedo" Ian Thorpe. Thorpe won a few golds in front of his hometown crowd. Good timing on his part, since Sydney 2000 was also the Olympic debut of a 15 year old upstart swimmer from the USA named Phelps- No medals, 1 Final, 5th place. I don't follow swimming, but they tell me he did manage to bounce back from that disappointment to have a decent career.
My last Olympic experience was in 2002 at the Salt Lake City Winter Games. Reebok held their annual Human Rights Awards before the games, and we went out to film the proceedings. At one point Mitt Romney said a few words and then handed the microphone over to actress/presenter Katie Holmes, who said something I'll never forget. She said, "I don't want to wait for my life to be over, I want to know right now what will it be?" (this quote did not happen but Dawson’s Creek fans, stand up!) A day or two later, it was opening ceremony time. I had no ticket, and had no business reason to attend. Having always been graciously included in so many great Reebok experiences I had no reason attending, this was more than fine by me. I was walking alone down a Salt Lake street, about to go to a bar to grab a bite (and 30 near beers) and watch it, when out of nowhere a car carrying some of my fellow Reebok comrades came around the corner. They pulled over and yelled out that they did indeed have an extra ticket.
The next thing you know I'm in a luxury suite high above Rice Eccles stadium enjoying a mixed drink, yummy finger foods, and all the opening fanfare. In between messy chicken wings and probably with sauce on my face, I introduced myself to the nice lady sitting next to me. "Hi I'm Kevin". "Hi Kevin, I'm Madeline Albright."
To paraphrase the words of the great Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop, walk down the street, squeeze into a packed car, go to a luxury box, watch the opening ceremonies and eat chicken wings with the former secretary of state, you could miss it." KP