Melanie’s #OlympicBlog – Behind the Scenes

Every two years, when I watch the Olympic Games from home, the Opening Ceremony is one of my favourite parts. I’m always so excited to see the Parade of Nations. I love hearing the countries announced in different languages and seeing what everyone is wearing. So it’s not a surprise that when attending my first Olympic Opening Ceremony, I returned with over a thousand photos of just the Parade of Nations, most of which will never see the light of day. Ah well. Overshooting again. I will remember those moments forever, though.

The Opening and Closing Ceremonies are high-demand events, which means that journalists and photographers need a ticket to enter (instead of just a credential). Fortunately for me, these Games are a bit sparsely attended, so it was easy to get tickets. A bunch of friends and colleagues all ended up in Photographer Section A, which was high up, but centre, with a great vantage point for all of the athletes entering.

I was surprised that the “program” part of the ceremony (before the Parade of Nations) seemed a bit short, and I was also very surprised that the flame in the snowflake/cauldron was so small, but the Opening Ceremony was memorable and full of all the feels that I expected. I am truly so lucky to be here.

Even before the Opening Ceremony, competition began for figure skating! I had my first 5:30am wakeup of the week (first of many!) and arrived early for Day 1 of the Team Event. I was able to secure a spot in the photo area that I wanted most. It was a standing spot (no chairs), so I also spent hours sitting on the ground, editing and organizing photos, between skaters and events.

In order to get a spot and arrive at the morning events in time for the draw for Field of Play spots, Danielle and I have to leave our hotel on the 6am or 6:20am bus. We have to get a PCR test done in the morning, and the PCR test site at our hotel doesn’t open until 6am. Breakfast also begins at 6am. So we’ve been going to the rink without breakfast and without coffee. There’s a small media lounge at the rink, where I can buy a latte or a flat white, and there are snacks available—mainly bananas, tangerines, and cups of instant noodles. But it’s not a lot to get through the day, so I’ll be glad when the schedule switches to evening events, and we can get breakfast again.

The draw for FOP positions is done about an hour and a half before the event, but you have to register before 6pm the day before, using a QR code found on a board in the rink. So there’s a bit of an advantage for the skating “regulars” who are in the rink often, as opposed to photographers that cover multiple sports and hop around between different venues. The draw is tiered, and I ended up in Tier 3 on Day 1, but in Tier 2 on Day 2. The venue manager draws all of Tier 1 first, then Tier 2, then Tier 3. He uses Easter Egg-type balls that open, and then have names in them. As names are called, each photographer lines up to choose a spot from whatever is still available. The largest photo agencies don’t have to draw at all; they have FOP positions reserved for them. This is similar to how things work at a major international event like Worlds or the Grand Prix Final, only I usually have even less of a chance of getting a rinkside spot there.

So when I managed to get a Field of Play spot on Day 2 of the Team Event, it was so very exciting to be ice level at the Olympics! I got a lot of texts and messages from family and friends with pictures of their TVs when they spotted me. It was heartwarming to hear from so many people. It means everything to me to be able to be here.

I skipped the FOP draw today (Monday) for the final day of the Team Event, because I prefer to shoot dance and pairs from the judges’ side. There’s virtually no chance that I would get a judges’ side spot in the FOP draw. Only about 10 spots exists on the judges’ side corners, and most of those are pre-reserved for the agencies. But I got the elevated spot that I wanted, so I was pretty happy! I had a great seat mate, too—the guy next to me bought me a water when I watched his stuff so he could go grab something to eat and drink, and he also explained to a broadcast staff member that he maybe shouldn’t stand directly in front of me.

There were a lot of feels in the Team Event, and some very memorable performances. I do wish that the team event was at the end of the Olympic schedule, and I wish that the scoring was a bit different, as each time, it seems that the event is over before it’s really over. But I love the idea of teams competing together, and it’s fun to see teammates and competitors supporting each other.

Tomorrow is another early day—third one in a row—so I’m hoping to sleep well so that I can wake up refreshed! We will definitely need to leave as early as possible, as the men’s event is the most popular one among the photographers.

~ Melanie