Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Alas, the end is here, my last day on the job. It began by showing up to the Nest at 10 a.m. to cover the football final. (I'm not in the U.S. It's football.) As it turns out, the football staff didn't need me or any of the other athletics volunteers to help. Our head supervisor, Emily, told me and whoever wanted to stay to find seats and just enjoy the game. That's exactly what I did. A few of us went to the ONS seats in the press tribune only to get kicked out. So we went to the stands up top behind one of the goals and the view was still pretty good. The gold medal match between Argentina and Nigeria kicked off and we sat back and enjoyed. 

The scene wasn't overly exciting, but there were pockets of hardcore fans. There was a Nigerian section of musicians who played drums and trumpets for seemingly the entire match. Fenn, Jamie and I are all well-established trombonists of course, so we were feeling the groove. I even thought about going over there to join in the fun. None of us went over there, yet we still found a way to upgrade at half time. 

Justin and Jamie found some empty seats in the upper section of the press tribune. It was certainly closer to the action and meant not having to get up every 10 minutes for a new fan to sit down. We all sat there the rest of the match and watched Argentina score a great breakaway goal. It was one-on-one and that never spells good news for the goalie. Nigeria had its fair share of chances in the second half but couldn't get the ball in the net. The game ended 1-0 and Argentina took home the gold. 

There were seven medal events tonight. That's a lot for a video FQR to handle. I didn't have that job so I was able to breathe easier, though it would have been cool. Sandie had the microphone for the session and handled herself like a champ. Nicely done. I, on the other hand, was assigned to cover the Men's 800m and Women's 4 x 400m Final in the regular mixed zone. It went smoothly. I got my quotes and frankly now I'm tired. So that'll be all. It was a good run. I had a blast and am honored to have been a part of it. Maybe I'll post one more time with a wrap up of some sort. Thanks for reading. Feel free to contact me about anything. Saijian.


It was my last day as video FQR and I had six medal events to work with. There were the Women's Long Jump, Men's Pole Vault, Women's 5000m, Women's 4 x 100m Relay, Men's 4 x 100m Relay, and Men's Decathlon Finals. It's not like they finish one after another with time in between events. No, remember a track event can happen at the same time as a field event and more than one track event usually takes place before a field event wraps up. Also with finals, there can be medal ceremonies and hordes of broadcast media that interfere with timing. 

Before the first medal event--Women's Long Jump--was even done, I saw Carolina Kluft coming through the mixed zone. She did not jump far enough in her first three attempts to continue. This was a big deal because Kluft was the reigning Olympic heptathlon gold medalist. She decided to skip that event this Olympics to focus specifically on events like the long jump. I knew she was bummed, but I had to interview her because she's still a popular name. 

First, I asked her if she was still satisfied with her event decision. Her answer, "Yes." I asked why, she said, "Why not?" I returned with, "Well, because you had more success last time with the heptathlon. What was the difference?" Then she gave the detailed response I needed. I had to push for the answer not once, but twice. Kluft probably would have dumbfounded me if it was my first time dealing with that. Sometimes athletes just don't want to tell you why they failed to reach their goals. Can you blame them?

Maureen Higa Maggi ended up winning the gold with her first jump of 7.04m. Tatyana Lebedeva had one last chance with her final jump, but came just a centimeter short. Maggi was excited afterward, but her reaction couldn't compare to the story of bronze medalist Blessing Okagbare. Initially, Okagbare had only the 13th longest jump of the semi-finals, 6.59m, leaving her just short of advancing. But the next day she had a second chance when Liudmila Blonska tested positive for drugs. 

Okagbare's first jump of the finals took her an amazing 6.91m, blowing away her high from the semis and topping her career personal best of 6.70m. That jump carried her through the rest of the final round, securing Nigeria's first medal of Beijing 2008. She kept calling it a miracle and thanking God. It was beautiful. That was one of the best feel-good stories of the Olympics for me. 

Some of the other athletes came and went in a messy scrambled heap. It was crazy for the relays because the start lists didn't come out until about a half hour before the races, so I needed someone to bring me them while I was stuck at my position. People were nice about it, though, and it helped a lot. 

Toward the end of the night, there were only two events left. There was the decathlon, which Brian Clay had in the bag from the start, and there was the Men's Pole Vault, which had an awesome finish. First, let me give you my favorite line Clay said when I interviewed him. "Michael Phelps has got nothing on me." (pause) "Just kidding!" Not only was that hilarious, but the quote sparked debates in the Boston Globe, the Houston Chronicle and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Back to the pole vault, it was between Evgeny Lukyanenko and Steve Hooker for the gold. The real action started when they separated themselves from the pack as the only two to clear 5.80m. Then both guys missed their first two attempts at 5.85m. Lukyanenko cleared the bar on his third try, leaving it up to Hooker to equal the task. He went up with the pole, and he did it. Time for 5.90m. Again, both missed their first two tries, but this time Lukyanenko failed to clear it on his final attempt. Hooker needed this to secure the gold. Otherwise it would go to the Russian because he cleared 5.80m on one try while Hooker did it in three. Coming through in the clutch, Hooker was able to clear 5.90. He celebrated for a while before realizing he had the chance to break the Olympic record, which was 5.95m. Sure enough, he set the bar for 5.96m. He didn't clear the first try, went over the time limit on the second and built up enough energy to clear it on try number three and set the record. That was a good win for the Australians, including most of the paid staff in the ONS office.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Remember that time I mentioned there were three types of Flash Quote Reporting? Probably not if you didn't read that post, which I don't blame you for. But if you did, you know I was broadcast FQR my first day at Athletics and video FQR each day since. Well I finally got thrown into the print mixed zone this time. It's the section after the broadcast and video area with more journalists and less athletes wanting to talk by that point. Depending on the importance of the athlete and event, I had to either squeeze in to hear athletes answer other journalists' questions or find the athletes and interview them myself while taking the quotes down. That's pretty much what I did the first week at basketball anyway. 

There were a good amount of events today. I started with the Women's 1500m Round 1. That was easy enough. The real fun started when I had to get quotes from the Women's Javelin Gold Medalist Barbora Spotakova. I found the Czech reporters and introduced myself, asking if one of them could translate what Spotakova said for me. The guy was fine with it. Sure enough after the interview, my new professional acquaintance told me Spotakova's quotes in English as I wrote them down. 

It turns out that some other papers were interested in what the Gold medalist had to say. I found 21 results on google of news sites using one of the lines I gathered, "I usually win with my first throw. I've never won with my last attempt; this is the first time." This site used the quote as it's headline. Yahoo! Sports used some of the quotes here

Next I had to follow the Men's Decathalon. They were the last to finish, so I had some time to hang around the ONS office. After sitting around for a little bit, I went to help out in the broadcast mixed zone before I had to go back inside. The main man I had to follow for quotes was Jeremy Wariner, who just finished with the silver medal in the Men's 400m after running out of gas in the final stretch. No one could get him to talk because he stormed past the reporters. When the BBC Radio reporter persisted, Wariner told her that NBC had asked a question that pissed him off. (I didn't see this happen, so I'm not sure if what he claimed was true.) He even temporarily escaped the final half of the mixed zone by stepping out the wrong way to talk to his manager. The poor volunteer working the area had to show this angry athlete back to correct pathway. 

At this point, I couldn't get anything from Wariner, so I went back to the print mixed zone and waited for the decathletes to finish for the night. I talked with the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan for a short bit. Apparently he already knew about the group of Emersonians at the Bird's Nest. I talked to a few other journalists too. Suddenly we saw Wariner coming back through the mixed zone with his manager. I was still waiting for some decathletes to come by, but it wasn't the final event and I knew we didn't have Wariner yet. So I decided to get in the crowd who would ask him a few questions. I was able to get some good stuff, but not a whole lot. 

One of my supervisors, Michelle aka Cookie, came right over to me after the scrum and literally pulled me toward the back of the mixed zone where there was no one else. She called out for Wariner and his manager to hold for moment. He actually stopped and let me ask a couple of follow-up questions. Later Cookie told me she's met Wariner a few times. (He remembered her well enough to friend her on facebook.) India's national newspaper picked up some of the quotes here. And yes, I still managed to interview a decathlete. I don't know why, but I like that word. Decathlete. Okay, Saijian..

Thursday, August 21, 2008


There was something different about my camera setup today. No one was there, at least when I got there at the start of the events. Not to worry, though. A new trusty camera op rolled in just in time, a young Chinese camera op. Her English name was Rae. She was a little nervous at first, but I assured her that she'd be great. I helped keep the excitement level up. It wasn't too hard with the Men's 200m Final, Women's 400m Hurdles Final and Women's Hammer Throw Final on schedule, plus a couple of other first rounders. 

Let's get to the race Usain Bolt is actually known for, shall we? I don't think the swagger has slipped off Bolt since the 100m Final. He walked onto the track acting all cool and showing off for the camera. He just knew he had it. And sure enough he did have it, in record time. Bolt took the 200m Gold in 19.30 seconds. Churandy Martina finshed second and Wallace Spearmon was third. The three of them embraced and danced around each other with their respective flags on their backs. Little did two of them know that they would never receive the medals they thought they earned. 

The 200m turned out to be the most controversial race at National Stadium. The medal ceremony was supposed to happen right after the race, but there were some details to sort out first. Spearmon was immediately disqualified for taking at least three steps outside of his lane. He rushed through the mixed zone right after finding out. Unfortunately for Martina, he went through the entire mixed zone still thinking he had the silver. All the reporters did too, including me. He was so happy when I interviewed him, showing that distinct gold-toothed smile. We just had no idea. That's because his ultimate fate hadn't been determined yet. 

The officials didn't notice anything wrong with Martina's run at first. It took a USA team protest for a review to change the results. The U.S. guys knew what they were doing. Not only did a successful knock out of Martina push Shawn Crawford from initially fourth place to a silver medal, but it also pushed Walter Dix from fifth to a bronze. I interviewed Crawford when he unofficially had third place after Spearmon's DQ. He said he wasn't happy because he wished he simply ran fast enough to get a medal on his own. (Much later after hearing of Martina's DQ, he joked,"I hope Usain stepped out, too. That would mean I'll go home with the gold.")

Finally Bolt came through with his world record performance not needing any medal placement shuffling. I made sure to get more than one stupid question in this time. So I secured my positioning and cleared my throat. When he got to my area of swarming journalists, I got the first question out. I asked him which world record he was more proud of, the 100m or 200m. His response, "I've been saying all season that the 200 means a lot more to me than the 100 meters," said Bolt. "This world record means a lot to me because I've been dreaming of this since I was yea high. Here's where the Boston Globe put it. 

Next I asked him about how he made it look so easy. His response, "Did that look easy?" I said, "Yeah." He asked again, "That looked easy?" I fired right back with a smile, "Yeah, you sure made it look easy." He said, "No, that wasn't easy. I felt like I was swimming, and I just kept telling myself 'don't die, don't die'. That wasn't easy. I left everything on the track." Here's where Reuters India put it. I let another reporter ask the next question and then got one more in before he moved on to the next crowd. (I plan to go back and put links to more published quotes I've gathered when I have time.)
Bolt passing through the mixed zone

As a side note for the Women's Hammer Throw Final, the bronze medalist, Zhang Wenxiu, was Chinese. So when she came through and didn't speak English, I happened to have a Chinese camera woman on hand to translate for me. The one time I get a Chinese medalist, I had Rae right there to help me get the quotes we needed. One of my supervisors afterward looked at me weird because he just heard the Chinese from the video feed. I told him where the credit was due. Good teamwork, Rae. 


It was a chill shift. There were no medal events, just two track qualifiers and two field qualifiers. I got to hang out at the video FQR station again. It's cool my supervisors feel comfortable putting me there consistently at least. I got to just hang out and watch the events on the screen. There were only a few athletes to talk to because most of them don't stop for me until the later rounds. Tomorrow definitely will be a memorable one. I've got three medal events at the video FQR spot, including Usain Bolt's attempt at another gold medal and world record.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I got back home around 4:30 a.m. after the Club Bud party. Guess what time I had to leave for work. The shuttle bus was scheduled for 6:10 a.m. I was the only champ who had the morning shift and went out. It's fine though. I can sleep on the plane ride home. The best part was that I wasn't on the schedule for video FQR, but sure enough I was on the white board for it when I got to work. It turned out to be well worth it. 

On tap for the morning was the Men's 110m Hurdles Round 1, Liu Xiang's first race of the Olympics. His quest for glory began here, in the final heat of the morning. At least it was supposed to. As the hurdlers got ready on their blocks, my cameraman, Lee, noticed that Liu didn't look too comfortable. Sure enough, the false start by Marcel Van Der Westen was all it took for Liu to walk away from 91,000+ open-jawed spectators. I was one of them. Liu was the face of the Olympics for China. It didn't matter that it already had the most gold medals. China was counting on him more than anyone. 

This was truly the biggest collapse of a national hero the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games could have experienced. Honestly, I don't even think a Michael Phelps downfall could compare from  where I was standing. The Bird's Nest was drowning in China's tears. Suddenly, BOOM! The gun went off again. The race had to happen, even without Liu, and it did.

All 7 athletes who raced in the heat qualified for the next round, either based on place or time. I spoke with Van Der Westen after the race and asked him what the atmosphere in the crowd was like before the second gun went off. I don't have the quote in front of me, though he pretty much said, "I've never been on drugs before, but it must have felt like a trip to experience that." That quote sums it up.

Monday, August 18, 2008


There was no work today. So I'll just move straight to the fun part. Some of my friends and I got into an exclusive party at Club Bud. It felt like a red carpet event without much of the media because some were inside. Certain accreditation passes meant a ticket for the "Water Party." Otherwise your name had to be on the list. That list included most notably the athletes who were done competing and wanted to celebrate. It was a water party, therefore most of the athletes there were the swimmers and rowers who have already finished their events, along with a few others who are done. (No, I didn't see Phelps.) 

One guy my friends and I spoke with for a while was Christian Cantwell, the men's shot put silver medalist. He talked with the girls while I mostly chatted with his agent, who also happens to represent Joey Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He said he once went to a Steelers black and gold bar in Boston but couldn't remember where exactly. I'd like to find out about that. (I'm a Pats fan first, but also like the Steelers.) Michael Johnson's former agent was around there too. Another random notable I spotted at the party was Evander Holyfield. So that was cool. We'll definitely try to go back there again.