A front row seat at the Olympics

By Carly Maile

‘And you must be Carly? Your manager said his only girl in the team was turning up today.’

My first day of working at the Olympics had finally come as I was hired by the Olympic Broadcasting Services through the Broadcasting Training Programme.  OBS selected a handful of Universities and offered around 1100 students a range of areas for employment at the Olympics.  Selected as a Commentary Systems Operator my role was fairly technical, assisting on the operational side with both the hard and software.

During the training there was a whole alphabet of acronyms to learn and understanding the signal flow, but once this became a tangible form it all made sense.  When the training had finished the first gold I struck was being placed at the Velodrome.  I was unaware before applying for the BTP that OBS is responsible for providing all the pictures and images of each sport to the broadcasting companies that have purchased the rights to transmit the Games.

Could you imagine if over a hundred countries were elbowing their way against each other trying the get the best camera angles of their athletes?  It would be organised chaos.

We were a team of seven in charge of making sure everything on the 40 commentary units were to the commentators and studios preference. If something went wrong it was up to us to trouble shoot the problem.  There is no doubt that women are not as often in this technical role, hence being the only one on the team, and a couple of times my knowledge was possibly underestimated by a few commentators either ignoring my advice or hailing over one of the men from the opposite direction when I was standing right next to them.  But I can only assume, as this most definitely may not have been the case.  However they didn’t hesitate to ask me for stat sheets when needed. Beyond these few minor encounters I had the privilege to work alongside professionals that had been involved with the Olympics for over 16 years and their expertise provided a faultless operation.  And it needs to be, just picture watching Jessica Ennis with the television on mute, it doesn’t have the same impact. The noise from the spectators and the exasperation from the commentators it’s all part and parcel that fuels the anticipation and sheer excitement for the audience at home.

That hysteria from the crowd in the Velodrome may not quite have been relayed over transmission but with the intimacy of the venue and intense roar from the fans for Team GB it was close to deafening.  5 Live were spot on to describe it as the ‘bellow from the velo’.  Mixed with temperatures of over 28 degrees the atmosphere was absolutely electric.  The workspace in the Velodrome where media and press gathered their information filled over 80 bodies at a time and on more than one occasion only 10 of those were women.  But as we see the cycling this year equal the number of events for men and women and the inclusion of female boxing this hopefully will bring more women behind the microphone to illustrate their expertise about the sports and add to these special moments of history.

Finally having a moment to step back and reflect on the Games, the enormity of the occasion is immense.  There is none other quite like it and to be part of the biggest broadcasting event in the world was a once in a life time experience.  And just like Mo Farah’s second gold medal you can’t quite put it into words but the whole experience was incredible.  As like most of us I was engrossed with the Games.  The BBC’s coverage on all three mediums was phenomenal, and as this post-Olympic withdrawal sets in it won’t take complete hold as the Paralympics are just over two weeks away.