For the past few months, it has seemed as if everyone I know in television was booked to work on the Olympics – except me!
I have to admit I was a tad jealous. Not very reasonably since I had not applied to work for OBS (the Olympic Broadcasting Service), or LOCOG, as many of them had, and having never worked on BBC Sport, they were unlikely to give me a call, even given my experience at live events.
Even so, last week I got a call from BBC Sports’ manager of production talent, who I know as we were both alumni of BBC Events.
They were a bit short, could I help out?
A flurry of emails followed, sorting out my accreditation, my contract and little details such as where to go. So I found myself on a train to Hackney Wick with instructions to ‘follow the pink signs to the Media Accrediation Centre’.
Eventually I found it: a white tent which wouldn’t have looked out of place at a jousting tournament. I presented my passport as ‘collateral’ and of course they didn’t have the right form to let me in, so someone had to come and prove I was who I said I was.
Then across a very unglamorous car park, full of cars which clearly did have the right accreditation, up some industrial looking staircases into airport security – manned by smiling soldiers – over a wooden bridge and we were there.
The International Broadcasting Centre – IBC. Outside, I spotted a dry cleaners, a massage parlour, a bank and a tourist office before being whisked inside the biggest building I have ever seen in my life.
This huge hangar is home to about 20,000 broadcasters, sending news of the athletes exploits home to their own country. Down a long thoroughfare, on each side, doors displaying logos from different countries. Inside each were temporary production offices, edit suites and studios where producers, presenters and VT editors were working all the hours that god sends to cover the Games.
Then you get to a cross-roads and on the right is NBC, with it’s own security (the British army aren’t quite secure enough, apparently), and a bigger production team than anyone, even the host nation.
And on the right, the BBC. There’s a small reception area. I saw someone I recognised sitting there, then realised it was Chris Boardman.
On into the BBC Sport office with its banks of desks and computers, all occupied by the producers, directors, editors and presenters responsible for hundreds of hours of coverage over BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, all of BBC Radio and online. A huge undertaking.
I spotted the main anchors, Gary Lineker, Gabby Logan and Sue Barker at their desks, along with various pundits including Ian Thorpe.
I met one of the engineering managers, Jon Mason, who I know from BBC Events, who has been responsible for the technical aspects of BBC’s coverage at each of the venues. He’s been working 18 hour days for at least the past six months, with just four days off in the last four months. Now, he said, things had eased up, he was only working 14-16 hour days:
‘I can survive on 6 hours sleep’ he said. He was certainly looking forward to the closing ceremony.
The hub of the operation, which makes sure all the key moments make it onto screen, is VT, where I was headed. Here, every moment of the action is watched, recorded and logged so that when there’s a goal, an incident or a medal (especially one for Team GB) the producers know exactly where to find it.
And that’s why I now know far more about taekwondo, water polo and handball than I did at the start of the day.
My over-riding impression of my first foray into BBC Sport was that it was extremely well organised, creative and calm, and when it comes down to it, simply very very good at what it does. It was a privilege to be a tiny tiny cog in the machine – I hope they ask me back!