Thursday, January 16, 2014

See you in Sochi!

It is that time again! I am heading off to Sochi on February 1st, and once again, I will be keeping a blog of my time at the Olympics.

You can visit my new blog at Sean's Sochi Olympic Blog. I hope you'll come follow me around for my first time in Russia, it should be an interesting experience!

Cheers - Sean

Monday, August 13, 2012

Saying Goodbye!

Well, it's time to say goodbye to London!  I got home after they wrapped up post-work on closing ceremonies at about 5am, and got up at noon.  I have today off, and had hoped to get up and go visit Stonehenge, but I just don't have the energy.  Instead, I'm going to pack, and maybe do a little walking on the south shore of the Thames. Then I am meeting the rest of the Comms team for dinner at our favourite Italian restaurant Zizzi's.

(Me in one of the studios, leaning on a camera...)

I get picked up for the airport at 4:30am on Tuesday morning, and have an 8:30am flight (which because of the time zone change actually lands in Toronto at 11:30am on Tuesday morning - and yes, I plan to be at Synchro practice on Tuesday night to see Caitie's team).

(My "credit" ran on the primetime show... "David" again as usual...)

People always ask what my favourite Olympics has been, and it is so hard to answer because they are all unique.  I certainly enjoyed London very much, even though, working nights, I didn't see a lot of the Olympics live.  For me, the best part about being here has been being able to see and learn about some of the history of London.  There are so many things to see and do, and I didn't get to everything that I wanted to.

(One last look at the Olympic Stadium from last night)

And while (the modern) parts of London are kind of ugly, as were many of the Olympic venues (with all the chainlink and scaffolding), the older architecture is amazingly beautiful (and plentiful).  I also have to say thank you to the people of London, and of England, who wholeheartedly embraced everything about the Olympics.  Ticket sales were strong, and the crowds were enthusiastic (even for the "lesser" sports).  The volunteers (and there were thousands of them) were fantastic, cheeful, and helpful.

And so now the torch has been passed (literally?) to Rio, Brazil, for the next Summer Games in 2016.  But before then, we have the next Winter games in Sochi, Russia.  Both of those should be interesting cultural experiences, and I hope I get the opporutinity to work both of them (as NBC has won the rights for both).

Looking farther down the line, the following Winter Olympics will be in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018.  There is a campaign growing to have Synchronized Skating included in these games, and Caitie will be just 22 years of age by then.  Wouldn't that be great!

I want to thank all of you for following me on my journey in London.  There have been nearly 2000 of you who have dropped by to view some part of my blog!  I hope you have enjoyed my adventures, and my Olympic reports (there were some great stories to follow this year).

As always, I can't wait to get home and see Susan, Connor, and Caitie, I miss them a lot, and wish that it were possible for them to be here with me.  Love you guys, see you tomorrow!

Closing Ceremonies

Hope you enjoyed the show!  Here are some of my favourite moments from the closing ceremonies...

First there were a few opening musical numbers, then the parade of flags...

Followed by the athletes...

Nice arial shot from the blimp...

I really liked the tribute to John Lennon with Imagine...

And the image of him that they created on the floor using human puzzle pieces...

Annie Lennox was great...

But I really enjoyed this bizarre bit with Russell Brand and "I am the Walrus"...

The Spice Girls rocked it...

And then it just got weird with Eric Idle (what was with that Bollywood bit?)...

This part of the Brazlian show reminded me of the Matrix...

Then it was time for the flame to go out...

And a phoenix to rise...

After the Who played My Generation, we had the final firework sequence...

Now we're here till morning as they record athlete interviews from the stadium, and then cut together how the show will air tonight (I don't think NBC showed this live this afternoon).

Overall, I thought it was pretty entertaining, though it got off to a slow start.  I'll have one more post tomorrow to wrap things up.  Thanks for sticking with me!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Almost done...

Well, here we are, only a few hours away from the Closing Ceremonies.  In some ways, the past three weeks have gone by very quickly, and yet at the same time, I am ready to come home. 

Today was the first day since before the games began that the entire Comms team was in the IBC at the same time, so we gathered this afternoon to take our traditional team photo.

(From left: Rickey, Patrick, Kevin, John, Bob, Sean, and Tony)

This is a great bunch of guys, and I am so proud to be a part of this team.  Thanks to John, and NBC, for continuing to invite me to participate at the Olympics, and to Bosch for allowing me to come.

(Great photo from John from inside the stadium!)

Canada's final medal of the games was won by Marc de Jonge, another bronze, in the men's K1 200m.  Our goal had been to place in the top 12 for medal count, with an estimated 22 medals.  We ended up in 13th spot, with 18 medals, and "only" one gold, but I hope that nobody is too disappointed.

Adam Van Koeverden talks about some of the Canadian Olympic veterans: Simon Whitfield, Clara Hughes, and Alexandre Despatie, and what they've meant to him and to Canada in this article.

In another article from CTV, we hear the story of Damian Warner and how he achieved 5 personal bests in 10 events, finishing 5th in the decathlon, after coming in ranked 24th in the world, and the story of Paula Findlay, who's heartfelt (and unnecessary) apology to Canada, after finishing last in the Triathlon (because of a nagging hip injury that has lasted more than a year), touched us all.

The same article talks about Grenadian sprinter Kirani James trading bibs with South African "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius after their 400m semi-final (an event in which James won the gold, while Oscar failed to qualify for the final).  Oscar has been selected to carry to flag in the closing ceremonies for South Africa.

Meanwhile, as I had hoped, Christine Sinclair has been chosen to carry the flag for Canada.  She led Canada to their first team sport medal since 1936, was the tournaments highest scorer, nearly single-handedly beat the US (gold medal winners) in the semi-final when she scored three times, is tied for second all-time with most career goals internationaly, and has been the face of Canadian women's soccer for as long as I can remember. I think she deserves it.

Our job here in Comms is pretty much done, we've just checked in the communications for the Olympic Stadium, the Blimp, and the two SNG trucks, now we just sit back and watch (and listen) for any problems.

I'll be posting live on Facebook during the closing ceremonies (spoiler alert if you are taping them to watch later), and will have another post with some photos from closing after it's done.

NBC at the IBC

So, as usual, I wanted to give you a glimpse inside the IBC to see what we do here.  I always think this will be boring, but there are some of you who always like this post.  I've done a post like this in all my blogs, and the details remain mostly the same, so I'll avoid too much repetition and just show you how we are setup here in London.

(Studio set "B", daytime show)
These are two of the sets you see on air.  Above is Studio B, which is used for the daytime show, and below is Studio A (the interview area, not the desk where Bob Costas sits).  I didn't show the Costas desk because I haven't been able to get in there yet when the lights are on.

(Studio set "A", interview nook, primetime, latenight shows)

Both Studios are associated with one of two Control Rooms (that look essentially the same, so I've only shown Control A).  This is where the director, producer, tech manager, and other production people sit.  The director has access to all the cameras (for a live event), or all the playback devices (for recorded events), and calls which source he wants on screen to the technical director, who does the actual switching.

(Control room "A")

The audio portion of the show is mixed in a separate Audio room (there is one for each studio, and Audio B is shown below).  The A1 (audio mixer) is the person responsible for what you hear on air.  This includes mixing the announcer and studio host voices, "nat sound" which is the natural sound captured by microphones at the venue, and music.

(Audio room "B")

The programs from the Control rooms are managed by Transmission (for playback to the US).  Transmission also deals with all the VANDA's (Video and Audio) from each venue.


The Broadcast Operations Center (BOC) is the traffic management center of the whole operation.  They co-ordinate all the venue check-ins (with Comms for communication, and with Transmission for VANDA's) as well as all the playback to New York.

(Broadcast Operations Centre, BOC)

Of course, in order for all of this to work, the people in every part of the IBC, and at every venue, need to be able to talk to each other, which is done using the ADAM broadcast intercom system that James and I write the software for, and which I help operate here in Comms.

(Comms - this is where I work!)

While I'm here, I'm not writing any code, but simply helping to run the communication system.  This means checking each communication path to every venue daily (there are multiple paths in use, both copper and VOIP, for point-to-point, party-line, and interrupt circuits). 

We also assist all of the keypanel users with the programming and use of their panels, and we eavesdrop on the director in each control room and try to anticpate what he will need, or to quickly start investigating any problems he might have.

Even though I am working midnights, Control A is still busy creating the US primetime show, followed by their latenight show.  They finish up around 4am, and then check-ins usually begin at around 6:30am at the venues for the next day's competitions.

Our Comms team photo will be taken Sunday afternoon before the closing ceremonies, so I'll post that later.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Olympic News

In what I think is probably the most impressive performance of the Olympics, the US women's 4x100m team smashed a 27 year old world record by more than half a second (in a sport where times are usually lowered by a few one-hundredths of a second at a time).  To me, this is more amazing than anything Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps have done here.

Tonight we have the men's 4x100m final, where the US, Jamaica, and Canada have the fastest three qualifying times - it should be a good race, and another chance for a Canadian medal.

Speaking of which, Cananda earned yet another bronze medal when Richard Weinberger took third in the 10km open water swimming marathon event in the 21C waters of Serpentine Lake at Hyde Park.

As we near the end of the games, every one is wondering who will carry their nations flag in the closing ceremonies.  In my mind, there should be no doubt for Canada that it should be soccer star Christine Sinclair, with a tournament high 6 goals, including 3 in their heartbreaking extra time loss to the US.   However, Rosie MacLennan, is also a contender after her gold medal performance on the trampoline (Canada's only gold medal of the games so far).

After the conclusion of the men's Marathon tomorrow, ending in the Olympic Stadium, the closing ceremonies will get under way.  We are promised that it will be a "Symphony of British Music", with as many as 20 "household name" artists performing 30 tracks.  The list of performers is said to include...


...a one-night-only reuniting of the Spice Girls, as well as The Who, members of Queen, Oasis, and maybe even David Bowie.   No mention was made of Elton John or the Rolling Stones, but it wouldn't surprise me if they were there too.  Other artists could include Adele, and 80's ska sensation Madness.

Brick Lane Street Art

Preamble:  This post contains photos of graffitti and street art from the Brick Lane area in east London.  Since I don't actually start talking about that till half way through the post, I thought I'd put this preamble in to let you know what you were looking at...

(I was impressed by the detail and emotion captured...)

Hard to believe, but the Olympics are almost over, and I will be heading home next Tuesday. Friday afternoon was my last chance for a new adventure before the Closing Ceremonies, as I plan to go shopping (back to the Portobello Market) on Saturday afternoon.

(The size of some of these is incredible...)

I first went shopping at the Old Spitalfields Market in London's east end (north of my hotel).  Friday is Fashion day, so there were lots of clothing and jewellry stalls.  I have to say that there was some really interesting stuff here.

Unlike Camden Town, where there seemed to be a lot of cheap, mass produced, merchandise, many of the vendors at Old Spitalfields were selling custom made clothing and jewellry that was very cool.

I didn't take any photos at the market (I was too busy shopping), but the market is very close to an area called Brick Lane, which is also known as Banglatown for its large Bangladeshi population.

(Street sign with Bangladeshi sub-title...)

The Brick Lane area contains lots of graffitti and street art, especially on some of the side streets, so I spent a fair bit of time just ambling along looking for interesting works to photograph.

(Street view of Brick Lane...)

The artwork is diverse, from black and white to colour, and from small to very very large.  Some of these must have taken days or weeks to complete.

Some are very obviously meant to have a message, while others are just doodles, and other are tributes, or memorials to specific people.

(A peace message in the Cyanide and Happiness style?)

I did actually come across one artist who was in the middle of creating a new piece, though it looked like this might be part of a commerical street art campaign advertisement.

The Brick Lane area was also the scene of the crime for the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888.

I ended up spending a long time walking through Brick Lane, and got a little lost, but ended up finding a Overground tube station at Shoreditch High Street that took me back towards the hotel, and I ended up getting to bed at about 5pm.

So tomorrow afternoon, I'll be back out to the Portobello Market for another day of shopping, and then on Saturday night (Sunday morning) when I come in, I'll only have to work a half-day.  I'll get to go home around 6am, so that I can get some sleep and come back in for the closing ceremonies at 6pm, and my last overnight shift will be from then until 5am on Monday morning.

Not sure if I'll get out on Monday, but I'll need to make sure I am packed and ready to go for my flight home on Tuesday morning.

Even though I'm probably not going to get to do much more touristy stuff, I'll still have some posts about the Olympics, and some photos of the NBC setup here in the IBC.  Stay tuned!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bronze Lining

Well, it's not quite a Silver lining, but the women's soccer team pulled off an upset yesterday when they defeated France 1-0 with a goal in injury time to take the bronze medal.  In a game in which they were largely outplayed (outshot 25-4), Canada hung in, played good defence, and were rewarded against a team that had beat them 4-0 at the last World Cup.  Congratulations girls!  Canadian soccer is on the map!

Tonya Verbeek did win a Silver in the women's 55kg wrestling event.  This was Tonya's third career Olympic medal (a silver in Athens and a bronze in Beijing).  She has been beaten by the same woman in all three Olympics (the three-time gold medal winner Saori Yoshida of Japan).

(Call me maybe?)

As expected, Usain Bolt defended his title in the men's 200m final, and declared himself to be the best ever.  The guy is an unbelievable sprinter, but I hate his cocky attitude, and the fact that here and in Beijing he seemed to slow down near the finish line.  How fast could he have run if he'd gone all out, all the way?  On the other hand, here's someone who makes a case for Bolt as more than what I could see.

(Cool looking dragon on Fleet St. near the Temple Church)

In contrast to the cockiness and bravado on display from Bolt, Manteo Mitchell of the US displays the kind of spirit that makes me love the Olympics, as he completed the last 200m of his leg in the 4x400m relay after hearing a pop that was later revealed to be a broken left fibula.  By continuing to race, he helped his teammates qualify for the next round, even though he probably will be unable to compete.

(Curious military personnel check out one of our keypanels at a "Mag 'n Bag" security checkpoint)

It also appeared to be the end of the line for South Africa's Oscar Pistorius (the Blade Runner) after a collision with a Kenyan runner knocked his teammate out of the 4x400m heats before Oscar had had a chance to run his leg of the race.  Fortunately, South Africa was successful with their appeal and will advance to the final.

Temple Church (Magna Carta)

The Temple Church also has a connection to the Magna Carta (perhaps one of the most important legal documents in history).  During King John's reign, from 1199-1216AD, he used his power to extort higher and arbitrary taxes from his Barons in order to finance his wars in France.

(Replica of the Magna Carta)

By 1214AD, many of the Barons were ready to revolt.  In January of 1215, the King and the Barons met in the Temple Church to negoiate, with the Barons demanding a Charter of Rights, and the King demanding allegiance.

(Chancel of the Temple Church)

Negotiations continued through the spring of 1215 with the Knight William Marshall (whose effigy lies in the floor of the Dome here) at the center of the discussion.  In June of 1215, King John signed the Magna Carta to avoid a civil war.

(Another view of the Chancel)

The Magna Carta established that the King was not above the law, and that "free men" had rights under the law, such as: 

(Sculpture within the Church)

"No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or dispossessed or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined nor will we go or send aginst him except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land."  - Clause 39

(The Church suffered extensive damage due to bombing during WWII)

And, "To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice." - Clause 40.

(The Dome was collapsed and burned)

Though King John signed the Magna Carta, it was nullified just 10 weeks later by Pope Innocent III, and England was plunged into war anyay.  However, the Magna Carta was reissued several times after his death, and continued to be an important legal document.

(A WWII memorial in the floor of the Dome)

It was an inspiration to the American colonists who later included similar clauses into their Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

(The Royal Courts of Justice, across the street)

The Temple Church is the Church of the Inner and Middle Temple, two of Englands four ancient societies of lawyers. These two Inns of the Court managed and built around the Temple for years, and in 1608, King James I granted them a Charter giving them use of the Temple in perpetuity, with the condition that they must always maintain the Temple, which they have always done.