Hi everyone, my name is Matt, and here is a summary of some of my experiences in Beijing interning for NBC Olympics.
What was your first impression when you got off the plane in China?
My first impression when we touched down in Beijing was that all of the talk about smog was true and that the preventative measures China had taken were not working. A heavy blanket of smoke enveloped the ground, in fact, I couldn't even see the terminal from the runway because it was so thick. The smog was really bad the first couple of weeks I was here. I've done sports my whole life and never had breathing problems, but after walking around the Olympic Green on a smoggy day, even I had some difficulty breathing. It was almost sickening. However, as the games got underway and now that they're starting to wrap up, we've had some beautiful, sunny days -- and you can actually see the blue skies and the city! It's been a welcome change.
How did you prepare for going to China, professionally and personally?
I was forunate that NBC handled a lot of the setup and logistics. For instance, when my plane got to the airport, there were guides holding signs with the NBC peacock symbol who directed us through the massive airport. NBC set up transportation and handled housing, so that part was easy for me. Obviously, I had to have the necessary shots and do all of the packing. It was a little hard to comprehend being at the Olympics and on the other side of the world for 5 weeks, it was something very foreign to me; I didn't know what to expect. I had to wrap everything up at home before I left, as I went on vacation just before my trip to China and will be going to school very quickly after I get home. But, I never had any doubt that I would be able to handle being in China for 5 weeks, even as intimidating as it may have seemed.
Heres an open ended question -- What are your impressions of Beijing, the people, the athletes, the city? What special places have you visited? What were the opening ceremonies like from your perspective?
I have been very impressed by the people of Beijing. They have been extremely welcoming and friendly. While the language barrier can be very difficult (I don't speak Chinese), the effort and enthusiasm of the workers and volunteers here at the Olympics has been incredible.
I didn't expect Beijing to be as sprawling as it is. It takes about a half hour cab ride to get almost anywhere from the media village located on the 5th ring of the city. I was expecting the city to be smaller than it actually is. There are towering buildings spread all over, not a central downtown area like you would see in a U.S. city like Cleveland. It's a city that's clearly gone through a lot of change -- there are few remnants of authentic, historical Beijing, which is kind of sad. New, huge glass buildings with huge LCD displays have taken over. Construction was stopped for the games but you can still see the giant cranes in the middle of construction projects all over.
As I mentioned, the smog was pretty bad for a while, but the weather has cleared recently, which has allowed for a better view of the city.
As for the athletes, I have only had limited contact with them... when they visit the studio. I did run into the silver medalist men's marathoner out one of our last nights in Beijing. It was really cool to speak with him and hear about his experiences, and he loved the attention!
So far, I've made it to the Great Wall -- a must while in China. It was incredibly majestic and beautiful as it winds through the mountains. I also visited Tiananmen Square and the Summer Palace. I visited the Forbidden City, the Hou Hai Lake bar/restaurant district, got a massage and had dumplings and duck. We squeezed a lot in the last couple of days we were there when we had some free time. We also made it to the Silk Market a couple of times. It's an indoor market with vendors selling everything from clothes to shoes to pearls.
Describe a typical day (if there is such a thing) on the job at the Olympics? Please be specific.
I typically wake up at 4:20 a.m. and catch the 5 a.m. bus that goes from the Media Village to the International Broadcast Center, where NBC's studios are located. It takes about 20 minutes to get there. I usually then grab breakfast at the NBC commissary. Depending on whether or not primetime is going live from a venue on a particular day, I might be responsible for transporting the crew to the venue and making sure everyone knows where they're going. Otherwise, we usually wait around in case we get any assignments from our supervisor. Throughout the morning, I check in on the crew and get food and coffee for them. I'm responsible for distributing the rundowns for the latenight show, which usually begins around 12:45pm or so our time. I'm in the control room during that show, helping run any errands needed. After that, I'm mostly done. We have to distribute a production schedule for the following day before we leave around 5 p.m. After work, even though I might be exhausted, I usually try to either go out to dinner, see a site, or do something to take advantage of being in Beijing. Time has been very limited, so there's not too much time to work out or do laundry at the media village, and sleep has been at a premium.
It appears from the perspective of watching the Olympics that the Chinese and Olympic committee are extremely well organized? Tell me about your impressions --
These games have been very well organized, with tons of volunteers. The transportation system from the media village to the IBC and other venues has been very good, and there is plenty of staff around to help. I got here early, and it seemed like there was almost too much staff, but now it's about right. The subway system that they implemented is easy to use... and taxis are very cheap, the most it's cost us to get anywhere in the city by cab is $6.
What have you enjoyed most about the job in Beijing?
Of course, it's been incredible to be at the center of the world's attention at the Olympic Games, this year especially. I've really enjoyed the access that I have through working for NBC. I've gotten to see a lot of athletes as they come and go for interviews, and I even got to meet President Bush when he came to our studios! Athletes stop by the studio all the time, but none with the amount of frenzy that preceded Michael Phelps' visit after his 8th gold medal win. I actually ended up getting McDonald's for Phelps... the only meal he wanted after his race! It's amazing to see how everyone at NBC comes together to create such a large-scale production. I've also really enjoyed meeting a lot of incredible people. I've been able to make it to a lot of events, as well. I was with the primetime crew when Phelps won his 8th gold medal, I got to go to Beach Volleyball, Basketball, Diving and Track and Field, also. I even got to see the amazing Closing Ceremony. What a spectacle!
What do you miss about home?
I've missed being able to share this experience with family and friends from home. But email has been great for communicating, especially with the 12 hour time difference. Also, I've missed some of the usual summertime activities that I haven't experienced, since I've been in China. Summer has flown by, and it's so hard to believe that I'll be heading back to college just two days after I get back. It'll be a whirlwind couple of days when I return.