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Olympic Mettle

IC students test their abilities and stamina in one of the most demanding internships ever  — working in media at the Torino Winter Games — and turn in championship performances.

Ten thousand members of the media covered the competition among 2,633 athletes from 84 countries during the 17 days of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy.
Thirteen of them were Ithaca College students. The lucky 13 were selected as NBC Sports interns—the largest contingent among the six colleges and universities at which NBC recruited (the others were Cornell, Syracuse, Iona, George Washington, and the University of North Carolina).

The interns worked in all sorts of jobs, including production assistant for primetime coverage host Bob Costas. “Our students were working alongside [some of] the nation’s most prominent journalists and television producers,” says Dianne Lynch, dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications, “covering the most important sporting event in the world. It’s been a transformative experience.”

In addition to working long hours for the network, the students posted messages to a blog to give their own “up close and personal” view of the Olympics. Here we present some edited excerpts from those blogs, as well as some diary entries that were written specifically for the ICQ. The student participants were seniors Annie Grappone, Matt Millson, and Jennifer Wojnar, juniors Jim Hawver, Dylan Luyt, and Amy Zeleznock, and sophomores Danielle Barnet, Tiffany Casale, Laura Henry, Sona Ram, Luke Uttaro, Carolyn Wiley, and Abby Wright. Read the entire blog and see more of the students’ photos at www.ithaca.edu/rhp/torino/.

Danielle and interns from other schools with the cast of Olympic Ice
Danielle and interns from other schools with the cast of Olympic Ice.

December 15, 9:57 p.m.

So this is it. I have been selected to work with NBC at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. I am flying out Jan. 28 to begin what I am continuously told will be a life-changing adventure.

I have been a fan of figure skating for as long as I can remember. [I was a dancer for] nearly 15 years, the closest thing I felt I had to an Olympic sport. The year Tara Lipinski won Olympic gold was the year I became addicted to the sport, and that love has continued ever since.

When I was in seventh grade I decided I was going to persue a career in journalism. It was that year that I also planned my lifetime goal: Along with meeting Tara Lipinski, I would one day report at the Olympics. I never imagined I would be traveling to the Olympics at 19! I still aspire to return to the Games one day as a reporter representing a network or publication. This is a pretty good start.

— Danielle

January 25, 3:36 a.m. [a few days before leaving for Torino]

I have been assigned to figure skating! If experiencing the Olympics weren’t exciting enough, I will now get to work for a full month with figure skaters, journalists, commentators, etc. Although it is still unclear what exactly I will be doing, anything skating-related is a dream job in my book.

— Danielle

February 12, 1:18 a.m.

Buon Giorno!

I am currently sitting in the production truck for Olympic Ice, the one-hour original skating programming that will be shown at 6 p.m. every night on USA back home. I am the show’s logger, which means I record all the tapes that we shoot or dub them into a listing to give to the media library.

At times I forget the games are going on, since I’m usually in the edit suite or in the production truck logging the show. ESPN.com or nbcolympics.com is usually my source for finding out what is happening. I normally work about 12 hours or so, attempt to socialize afterwards if I’m not tired, and then head home to get in at least four to five hours of sleep. Then the process repeats itself.


— Amy

Annie cheers with the dutch fans
Annie cheers with the dutch fans.

February 12, 8:48 a.m.

I finally have a free moment! We don’t have the Internet at our hotel so I only have the chance to log on at work, where I usually spend about 12 hours a day. I actually arrived up in the mountains long before the serious Olympic setup began, so I was lucky enough to get a taste of the towns in this area before some of their charm was stripped away by the masses of people and structures that the Olympics brought in. The view from my first hotel room was absolutely breathtaking. I literally had a balcony that stretched right out into the middle of the Alps.

— Luke

February 12, 3:00 a.m.

It’s 2:46 a.m. Torino time. I’ve been at work since 3:30 p.m., and there’s no end in sight. But trust me, I’m not complaining! I am loving everything about this internship. It is definitely one of the best experiences of my life. My role here is as the script production assistant for prime-time Olympic coverage with Bob Costas. When the writers finalize the scripts for the segments of the show, I distribute them to members of the production team. Everyone here is so dedicated to their jobs that it inspires me to give this internship my all.

Although my work schedule prevents me from going to any actual events, I have gotten to meet USA gold medalists Chad Hedrick and Shaun White, as well as silver medalist Danny Kass.

Well, I should get back to work. But remember: When you watch Primetime Olympics and see white papers on Mr. Costas’s desk, it was probably me who put them there!


Amy in front of Palavela, home to figure and short-track speed skating.

February 17, 6:54 a.m.

I’ve been working at the Hockey 1 venue as a runner doing everything from assisting the talent to making photocopies to garbage detail and unloading trucks. Hockey 1 is located at Palasport Olimpico, right next to Stadio Olimpico (the site of the opening and closing ceremonies). We usually arrive to work around 8:30 a.m. and leave around midnight.

During the hockey games, three other runners and I rotate positions. One day someone will be helping out in the commentators’ booth. The next day someone will be stationed in the studio. We also help out in both of the control rooms: One is for the pregame, postgame, and intermission reports; the other is for the actual game. We get so wrapped up in hockey that we often forget that other events are going on each day.

We were asked to help out with the opening ceremonies. I helped out the cameramen and reporters in the staging area where the athletes were stationed before they walked in the Parade of Nations. Spectators were given little flashlights and white ponchos so the arena could appear to change colors. One of my favorite parts was when the people formed an eagle while scaling the giant wall. Seeing the torch ignite gave me goose bumps.

The people we are working with come from all over the world. This experience is definitely once in a lifetime, but I hope these Olympics will not be my last!

— Matt

February 18, 4:39 a.m.

Right now I’m taking shelter in the production truck because it’s pouring rain. Up in the mountains, competitions are being postponed or canceled due to the amount of snow.

The show is going very well and apparently it has been getting amazing reviews. There’s a piece that’s airing today that has Jamie Salé and David Pelletier driving a zamboni. Should be a hoot to watch. Yesterday I got to meet Evan Lysacek when he came to visit the show. He is such a down-to-earth, fun guy. I managed to get a photo with him and speak to him a little as well. On my way to the IBC to pick up tapes, I saw Apolo Ohno heading into practice so I said “hello” to him. As I was waiting to head back home, Chris Carter (Minnesota Vikings receiver), his wife, and friend got out and said “hello.” So, pretty cool day.

Wednesday, I got out of work early so I headed downtown to explore. I was lucky enough to see the German pairs skaters Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy and get a picture with them.

I can't believe it’s day 7 of the Olympics. Where has the time gone? But never fear, I’m going to make the best out of the last week or so that I’m here.

— Amy

Annie with U.S. speed-skaing gold and bronze medalist Apolo Anton Ohno.
Annie with U.S. speed-skaing gold and bronze medalist Apolo Anton Ohno.

February 20, 2:00 p.m.

Working at the international broadcast center (IBC) has been incredible. Coming into the Olympics, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect in terms of the size and scope of this entire production; however, arriving here on the first day of work I was amazed by how well prepared NBC is, and how intricate the setup actually is. Soon we were meeting everyone involved, and I found myself playing a name game to remember the dozens of new faces. This was the greatest challenge during the first week, but thankfully everyone is friendly.

I am still meeting many new people each day, and often I will bump into someone and find that they have a connection to IC, whether they are alumni themselves or have family enrolled there. I have also met many other interns. There are so many well-rounded people here from other colleges, and it has been a pleasure to get to know them and their different walks of life.

I am working for the primetime segments, so we go to air much later in the day. My shift is from 6:00 p.m. to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. to correspond with the time difference in the US. I have managed to do a lot of fun things during the day and attend midday competitions. I almost prefer it this way. The last competition I went to was the men’s snowboard cross. It was the debut for this sport in the winter Olympics so it was great to witness the first competition and to see all the athletes.

My favorite perk of getting to work for the primetime segments is meeting all the athletes who come in to do interviews. The second perk is probably the food—I have yet to have a bad meal in Italy.

The motto for these Olympics can be seen on flags on almost all the street corners in downtown Torino: “Passion Lives Here.” Each night the medals are given to athletes at the Medal Plaza. This past weekend the plaza drew thousands of people to watch fireworks and wave the Italian flag. It was officially declared a “Notte Bianco,” a big celebration where bars, restaurants, and clubs stay open until sunrise. The following day, Sunday, Italy won the cross country relay, and it was again declared a Notte Bianco. I later saw on TV a man on stage at the medals ceremony yelling, “What is passion?” A man yelled back: “Standing outside in the freezing cold, and still having so much fun!”

I’d say passion truly does live here.

— Dylan

February 21, 11:00 p.m.

Today I went to see the men’s 1,500-meter speed skating event, a fantastic race, with Americans Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick claiming silver and bronze. The atmosphere inside the oval was buzzing with excitement, as well as the color orange. I’d say almost 75 percent of the fans were from Holland, adorned in orange and green regalia to celebrate their speed skaters. They even had a Dutch pep band made up of drummers, tuba players, and trumpet players who walked around the stands playing fan favorites such as “We Are the Champions.” The Dutch fans were supportive of the other athletes, and gave the American skaters a warm Dutch welcome as they stepped onto the ice.

Watching speed skating on TV is one thing, but watching these athletes in person fly around the rink with grace and speed was breathtaking, and I have a new appreciation for the sport.

Chad Hedrick’s family was seated near my section, and I was able to meet Chad before his race. The whole family was very friendly, and Chad willingly signed autographs for fans and posed for numerous pictures. Throughout these games, I have noticed how gracious and friendly the athletes have been towards their fans.

Most nights at Primetime we have the American medal winners from the day come in to the studio to talk with Mr. Costas. The athletes are happy to talk with members of the crew, and seem truly appreciative when congratulated. These medal winners truly embody the Olympic spirit, and are role models for many young athletes everywhere.

With only a few more days to go, I am still having the time of my life, and I will be sad to see the flame extinguished on Sunday night.


Annie on set with NBC Sports commentator Bob Costas.
Annie on set with NBC Sports commentator Bob Costas.

February 25, 10:21 p.m.

Time to go home. This trip has been an amazing experience. Since our crew is not large I was able to step into roles that I never imagined. Our crew has no technical director, so our technical manager had been filling the role. Since I directed shows at Ithaca and knew how to use a switcher, I filled in a few times. After our events are over for the day, I have also started to assist an editor put together the segments, loading tapes and feeds into our system, organizing our tape library, and keeping track of edit points.

Being at the cross country venue has also revived my love for the sport. In the span of two weeks I have seen a banned Austrian coach end up in a mental hospital after he was spotted and caught making a run for the border. I also saw the Italian relay team win an event they had placed second in at the previous two Olympics by a combined total of less than one tenth of a second, as well as an incredible comeback from a Norwegian who tripped and fell at the starting line but came back to pass nearly 80 people over the course of the race to win a silver medal.

— Luke

February 26, 1:11 p.m.

The torch has been extinguished, the flag has been lowered. The twentieth Winter Olympic games are officially over.

Aside from the sheer thrill of being at the games, these two weeks have been educational, exciting, tiring, hectic, and 100 percent worthwhile! Working on Primetime I have met many great people, both crew and staff, who have each taught me something about this crazy business I will be entering into. I am grateful to the staff here at NBC for providing me and my fellow interns with the opportunity to be part of something so magical and important. As a self-proclaimed Olympic geek, I experienced the games in a totally different way.

I am sad to see the torch go dark, and I would have loved to see the Olympics stretch on. But all good things must end. I hope that in 893 days I am watching the opening ceremonies of the Beijing summer Olympics, whether as a spectator or a member of the media.


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