The Winter Olympics
“As a filmmaker, getting the opportunity to work the Olympic games is a once in a lifetime experience. Not a single sporting event, no matter the size, compares to the Olympics. I can only describe it as the biggest sporting events in the United States all rolled into one giant event that lasts all day long for three weeks straight. Covered by every form of media you can think of. You better have your pocket snacks handy and be prepared for sleepless nights.”
– Jake Huber
The first Olympics I ever worked was in 2016 at the summer games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. I can say that was the single most life changing experience for me when it comes to growing as an individual. Living in a vastly different country for two months really puts a new perspective on the world at large. I never cared much to travel outside of the United States before venturing off to Brazil. In fact, when I first graduated from college my father offered me an opportunity to travel solo to Europe for one month, all expenses paid. I turned it down, mostly for the fear of traveling alone. I can only beg him now to put that offer back on the table (He won’t).
The places you see, the people you meet and the experiences you gain when traveling to different parts of the world is life changing. Especially when you get to do it for an extended period of time, during the Olympics, when people from all over the world converge. The hardest part was leaving—knowing that you may never go back and possibly never again see the people you met along the way.
Fast forward less than two years later and I would get yet another opportunity to experience the Olympics, this time in Pyeongchang, South Korea for the 2018 Winter games. Nobody could prepare me for the frigid cold weather, which tends to be the first thing that comes to mind when I think about my experience. I remember arriving in Incheon International Airport after a long 14-hour flight thinking to myself, it’s not that cold out here. It wasn’t until I took a four hour bus ride into the mountains that I realized what kind of temperatures I would be up against. I slept that entire bus ride, waking up to completely frosted windows. I remember getting off the bus and grabbing all of my gear, the whole time thinking how badly I wanted to be inside again. That was only the beginning.
The next few days we would spend at the Main Press Center (MPC) setting up the office where our team of editors would later spend countless hours processing thousands of photos. As a photo tech for USA Today Sports Images, my job was to help build the infrastructure for our on-site photographers and editors that would later arrive once the Olympics began.
My job required us to run thousands of feet of Cat6 cable at each venue. Just to give you an idea in numbers, here are the stats from USA Today Sports Images. The pre-olympic setup team ran 41,000 feet of Ethernet cable at 14 Venues, wiring over 150 photo positions both indoors and outdoors, often times in temperatures of less than 0F. With 21 photographers, our production team covered 366 scheduled events out of a possible 443 (82% coverage). From those 366 events a total of 185,355 images were submitted to 4 photo editors that worked feverishly to publish 26,319 edited and captioned images to the website for distribution. That equates to an average of 1,548 images published per day.
Before traveling to South Korea for the Olympics, I had already accepted a full time job with Vidzu Media as a Shooter/Editor. I was well aware that I would be giving up many of the opportunities that come with freelancing. But I also looked at Vidzu as a growing company that would have it’s own opportunities in the future. And most importantly, I would be able to work full time with video production, something I had been planning and seeking for quite some time. Knowing all of this, I wanted to leave a lasting mark and capture my experience while in Korea. Unlike Brazil, where I wanted to just take in the experience for what it was, in South Korea I took my camera with me everywhere I went. It was not easy, especially when I already had to carry a backpack that weighed 20 pounds at its lightest weight. Also of note, a 1,000 foot box of Cat6 cable weighs about 25lbs. And often times we would carry two boxes to run multiple cable lines at once. Did I mention it was FREEZING cold. My camera shut down one day because the temperature was to cold for the battery.
Since I wasn’t hired to shoot video, I could only grab shots when the time allowed itself. But I was there for almost two months so I was able to put enough film together to create a story taking you through my experience. If only I could go to the Olympics and solely focus on video, wouldn’t that be great. Hope you enjoyed my telling of the journey and got a small sample of South Korea during the Olympics.