I know how Bob Costas is feeling today…

He’s exhausted. And relieved. And probably at least a bit sad.

I know this (or I have a pretty good idea, at least) because in 1996 I worked at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

How I (and many other college students) got the opportunity is a bit of a long story. The short version is my college was part of the Host Broadcast Training Program, which trained hundreds of college students to work at the Games. There is a similar program in Beijing (which my college professor is heading up, if I recall correctly). You can learn more about the program here. (A college friend of mine is photographed here under “audio assistant.”) [Hyperlinks removed 7/22/12 to remove dead links.]

I was hired as an archivist/librarian, and on July 1, 1996, as a rising college senior, I reported to the International Broadcast Center in downtown Atlanta for my first day of work.

For the next 35 days, I worked for Atlanta Olympic Broadcasting, which was responsible for providing feeds of every Olympic event to rights-holding broadcasters. (In the United States, the rights-holding broadcaster was NBC. CBC was the rights-holding broadcaster in Canada.) I know NBC and other rights-holding broadcasters bring their own cameras/personnel, etc., but a lot of what you see on NBC (in 1996 and in Beijing) comes from the official broadcasting outfit (aptly called Beijing Olympic Broadcasting in 2008).

One of the first things I did was put the finishing touches on a manual. (I’ve been an editing nerd forever. The book was “done” when we started work, but after I saw a few typos, my boss said I could clean it up a bit.)

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We had to label I-don’t-know-how-many-but-I-may-be-repressing-the-number of videotapes before the Games started. (A small portion is pictured below.) Unfortunately, I also had to remove those labels and apply new labels after the Games started, if an event went too long, etc. I still can’t stand the sound of fingernails on the plastic of videotape boxes. ::: shudder :::

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It was a pretty cool thing. Perhaps the best part was getting to watch the Olympics without any commentary. Of course, this was also the worst part. I didn’t realize I was watching the women’s team gymnastics final until they were handing out gold medals to Kerri Strug and Company. At that point, I vowed to pay more attention to the events, even in the midst of my 12-hour shifts. πŸ™‚

I remember watching the men’s marathon. We cheered as each person crossed the finish line. Earlier in the Games I was brought to tears while watching the medal ceremony for the men’s discus. I never knew the German national anthem was so beautiful.

The last day of the Games, our boss said the day-shifters could stay and watch the Closing Ceremony before heading for home. So I was there until about midnight, after getting to work at 7 a.m. It was grand to visit with the people I’d worked with for the previous 35 days. I’ve lost touch with everyone, pretty much. But it was an AMAZING time. I wouldn’t have missed those 5 weeks for anything.

I believe this photo of me and the rest of the archive/logger staff in 1996 was taken the last day of the Olympics. We were BUSHED. But happy. The exhaustion, the stress, the “everything” was all worth it.

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There are about 50 students from my alma mater who worked in Beijing at these Olympics. If their experiences were even a fraction as good as mine, they had a mighty fine Olympics indeed.

3 thoughts on “I know how Bob Costas is feeling today…

  1. Heather J.

    That sounds like so much fun! How lucky you were to be involved!

    Heather J.’s last blog post..The Zookeeper’s Wife

    EXTREMELY. That job is how I got my first post-college job. (My boss at the Olympics hired me out of college.) If that one thing had changed, my life would be so different. For one, I wouldn’t have met Ed. πŸ™‚

    Reply

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