August 22, 2012

Experiencing the 2012 Olympics Inside NBC

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When U.S. women’s soccer player Alex Morgan scored in the final 30 seconds of overtime against Canada in the semifinals of the London 2012 Olympics, I threw my hands up and yelped as if the American team could hear my exuberance at its making the finals.

Needless to say, I was not sitting on a couch in the comfort of my own home, or in an English pub, or in any other place that might be deemed appropriate to cheer like a crazed, maniacal fan. Instead, I was sitting at my desk in the middle of the Stamford office where my summer internship was located.

Indeed, one might argue that appropriate office behavior does not include yelling out loud in your cubicle, nor does it normally involve watching television — unless, of course, one was fortunate enough to land a summer internship with So in the moment that Alex Morgan scored her glorious header, my enthusiasm was in no way out of place. Instead, my excitement was matched by the entirety of the office around me, where the cheers and obvious pride for our American team equaled my own sentiments.

The office was not always as exhilarating as that particular moment — perhaps no Olympic soccer match will ever be as thrilling as that one — but it was certainly busy. I came to Stamford at the end of May and immediately was assigned numerous projects that needed to be completed before the Games. All the individual sports producers were deep into preparations for London, constantly writing articles, updating the website’s pages and ultimately staying on top of the news in their specific sport.

I was nervous that as an intern there wouldn’t be much I could personally do to help the process, but only a few days were needed to assuage me of that opinion. I learned to use the online publishing site, how to make and caption photo galleries, create athlete biographies and research prior Olympics.

When the U.S. Olympic Trials rolled around, I arrived at the office for the five p.m. to 12 a.m. night shift, where I mastered the art of cutting live feeds for highlight videos, a task that I, as a technologically-challenged person, found incredibly daunting. (Really, I almost cried when they told me I’d be cutting highlight film.) Yet after some practice, the cutting became routine and I could actually enjoy watching the gymnasts and swimmers without worrying about missing a record swim, perfect routine, or a fall on beam.

About a week before Queen Elizabeth “jumped out of a helicopter” to declare the official start to the Games of the XXX Olympiad, the pace in the office really took off. As my boss and some sports producers headed down to London, their desks were filled with other producers brought in specifically for the Olympics. The room was crowded and there was a noticeable buzz in the air as the Games neared.

And then they began, and the office environment was electrifying. Employees worked crazy hours on London time, with NBC supplying meals and snacks for everyone who didn’t see the light of day for two and a half weeks — as an intern, I was spared the crazy hours. Yet even with the lack of sleep and constant action, I never heard a complaint. It seemed there was an unspoken consensus among those working for the Games: without question, the effort was worth the final outcome. If you tuned in to the Olympics at all this summer, you’d know how impressive and mesmerizing the coverage was.

I also found that despite being under pressure and having obvious deadlines, the office was remarkably relaxed. My absolute favorite moments occurred during big Olympic events, like Usain Bolt’s 100-meter sprint final or Michael Phelps’s race for a record 19th medal. For those few minutes, everyone would stop what they were working on and gather around one computer, waiting in excited anticipation for what was to come. The gun sounded, the Olympians took off and the office started cheering. My heart raced during these short episodes of history that I shared with my co-workers, as we were all blown away by the sheer athleticism of those superhuman competitors.

There is so much pride that stems from watching the Olympics, but I think behind the scenes there is a different kind of gratification. Everyone worked tirelessly to make sure the rest of the world could experience those same heart-stopping seconds, a kind of magic that only happens every four summers. It was truly emotional; my eyes welled up watching Phelps on the podium after his final career race and I so often gasped at the talent of the gymnasts who seemingly defied gravity.

It was also amazing to watch sports all day—I always had at least four live streams going on my computer, plus the televisions on the office walls; sometimes, I found myself turning my head rapidly because I simply didn’t know where to look. What was especially enjoyable was being able to talk about the events and the athletes with the other incredibly dedicated sports fans around me — everyone who worked there was in one way or another emotionally invested in the Games. I often turned to my neighbors, asking if they saw that shot/dive/save because I knew they’d be watching too. And best of all, no one judged me for wearing my Roger Federer t-shirt to work for his tennis matches; my borderline abnormal infatuation with him was actually appropriate in this office.

As a sports writer for the Daily Sun, I have an obvious passion for athletics. After interning at NBC, I have an Olympic obsession. This summer was one I will never forget — the Games were literally all I could talk about all summer — and I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity. The only consolation I found at the end of the 2012 Games is that the winter Olympics are only two years away…Sochi 2014, anyone?

Original Author: Olivia Wittels