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Back In Beijing - 2008 Olympics Blog Report #2

Aug. 5, 2008

Our Sport Presentation team just completed our first day of work yesterday (Sun.). We had a "walk through" rehearsal of pre-event, competition and victory ceremonies with many Chinese volunteers acting the part of esteemed presenters and athletes receiving medals in front of 20,000 mostly empty seats.

The stars of the rehearsal: "Fuwa," the five mascots of the Games who have claimed the colors of the Olympic rings. Their "handlers" are athletic college-aged kids that have set up HQ with us in the Sport Presentation office. To date, I have seen them in only two positions: stretched out asleep on the fold-up cots that clutter our Sport Presentation office at midday, or "working with" their mascots making those bubble heads look light and lithe while doing their acrobatic act. They're a hoot, and not quite as warm and fuzzy as past mascots. Their favorite past time is trying out new kung fu moves on each other - and that's when they're on live.

Our team of arena announcers at National Indoor Stadium (four of us in all) is starting to gel. Handling the announcing of Chinese are Tony (many of the Chinese students have taken on Western names to make it easier for us lazy Western types to remember them) and Gloria. These young soon-to-be college seniors on summer break (it's only from mid-July to the beginning of Sept.) attend an elite university in Beijing that focuses on the Chinese language and churns out the Chinese versions of Matt Lauers and Katie Courics of tomorrow. And today, in our case.

One of our challenges has been all of the behind-the-scenes toying with which particular individual lines are read in which language and in what order. This squall over protocol has been going on since long before I arrived, with many unseen in-charge people behind the scenes making multiple changes and trumping each other again and again with zest and vitality. It seems The Games have already begun.

The confusion at the announcing end reared its ugly head during the rehearsal yesterday with early, late and completely missed cues along with stepping on each other's announcements. At one point in the program I was visually cutting and pasting pieces from four separate scripts to fulfill what was being asked for on my headsets. On the positive side, man, that Riddel communications system (all intercom AND public address chatter on one headset) kicks butt! Our German friend Dirk, a returning veteran from the Good Luck Beijing '07 test event is back as the engineer of this impressive audio communications, and he's had a very unexciting few days so far.

My official role here is "Sports Presentation - Gymnastics - Announcer - English," or simply put, the English-speaking public address announcer for GA (artistic gymnastics - floor, beam, rings, etc.), GT (trampoline) and GR (rythmic gymnastics - with ribbon, hoop, clubs, ball).

We have arena work scheduled every full day that I'm here. Between the three disciplines, there will be gymnastics competition on each day of the Olympics. I'm hoping there will be a half-day sometime that will allow me to see the Great Wall, but it's doubtful.

I saw the USA Womens Team here for the first time yesterday. These bright young ladies seemed relaxed, refreshed and ready to compete. Team Director Marta Karoly stood guard while the girls stretched out on the only carpeted floor outside of the training gyms at National Indoor Stadium. Not sure why they weren't inside the training gym, although everyone is having trouble securing the proper credentials for the access that they need, myself included.

My badge gets me to the building and onto the "Field of Play." I currently have no access to any media information nor can I casually stroll into the training gyms to talk to trainers and coaches and work on pronunciations -- but if they can't gain access either... maybe I can work with this. Meet me in the hallway, but watch out for Chelsie. She's doing her first pass on floor from the third doorway.

I spoke briefly to the dad and coach of Chelsie Memmel, Andy. He said the team had arrived just a couple of days ago, and that everyone had traveled well.

Rather than rattle on, I'll wrap it up here. MicheI and I will explore the buffet style breakfast offerings here at the hotel shortly (I can only identify half of the items on a good day), and head over to the arena to see what the latest all-night, fatigue-factor-laced script revisions have us announcing today.

I almost hesitated turning my scripts back in yesterday, all marked up with the on-the-spot corrections we needed to make (as new errors were discovered during rehearsal). I just know that the result will be that some changes will be made properly, other changes will not, and that new errors will appear out of nowhere in the next revision. The only constant here is change. End result - it keeps us on our toes whenever the microphone is on.

By the way, the Chinese word for stress sounds like "Jing Jong."

-- Dan