Posted by: janvozenilek | February 20, 2010

February 16, 2010 – Vancouver Olympic Winter Games

Day 8 – Had the morning off again so we drove up to Cypress Mountain for the snow board cross womens race with one of the Czech commentators, Jiří Hölzel.

The weather was awful. Pouring rain and from about half way up Cypress, completely fogged in.

We parked near the tubing hill, where they have the media parking set up. Then we waiting for a shuttle to take us to the entrance. We then walked through security and walked the rest of the way. There was one more shuttle we could have taken but it wasn’t there at the time and we didn’t want to wait.  If I had that big camera, probably the wait for the shuttle would have been nicer.  It was a bit of a hike.

Couple of the volunteers.. trying to stay dry.

Lots of people were arriving for this event, all covered in rain gear.

Security tent.

Jiri took us up to see his commentator booth.  It is located right above the stands. The whole stand structure was unbelievably massive. All built on top of scaffolding. I can see now, being up here, why VANOC could just move this venue to another mountain due to the snow issues.  They must have been working on all the various buildings, stands, lighting etc, for a long time.

This venue has had lots of heat from the media over the past few days, due to 3 hour lineups for food, lack of enough toilet facilities, the cancellation of 28,000 tickets due to unsafe conditions and of course the lack of snow issue.  Apparently if you bring your own food, like a sandwich, during the security check, they will take it away.  It was reported that little kids with their water bottles and apples had those taken away also.  And then people are forced to stand in a giant lineup and pay for overprices fast food! Yikes!!

The commentator area has no bathroom, and it is quite the trek up to the top… almost 300 steps!  So there have been some funny stories from Jiri about getting around that problem. 🙂

The booth has two monitors, left one is touch screen and has all the race information. In real time, the race stats pop us so that the commentator can see what position the racer is in, not only in that heat, but in the overall competition. The right monitor provides the broadcast feed.  Out his window, he can only see the last turn and last two jumps, including the finish.  The headsets have a feed from the venue commentator as well as a direct link to the Prague Studio.

On the roof of this huge structure is all the lights and various camera positions. While there, there was a Swiss TV crew doing an interview. The special bands around their feet allow them access to the ‘mix zones’ where they can interview the athletes after the event.

I walked around a bit. It was amazing to see that despite the weather, where at that time, we couldn’t even see the huge TV screen that the audience watches for most of the race, people were all generally very happy, and in good spirits.

Commentator booth windows visible in the back above the seating area.

Yup.. 300 steps.. up and down. 🙂  Even my legs were shaking after climbing up there. It was a workout.

Slowly the fog lifted and we were able to see more of the mountain and the area.

We walked over to the moguls and freestyle run. Looks way steeper in real life than on tv.

Also got to see those famous hay bales and how high they had to build up that viewing area. They are definitely poking out of the snow!  I can’t believe that after all the planning and time, that the wouldn’t have thought that if the snow on top melts, people will start falling between the bales.  There is a lot of disappointed people out there!

A chopper parked up on the mountain side.. with really expensive snow melt coming down the mountain. 🙂

The amount of cables, running from the broadcast trucks up the mountain was amazing!

The old Cypress lodge with the moguls and freestyle runs in the background.

Our shuttle driver Darlene, was a hoot. Super funny and great personality.

We also drove past the giant orange Erickson Air Crane Helicopter (pre 1992 known as the Sikorsky S-64)  that’s been used in bringing all the snow up to the mountain. Apparently it costs  $10,000 / hr and it cost $60,000 just to get it here.

On our way back, we drove past dozens and dozens of buses, that were waiting on the side of the road, that then pick up all the fans from the hill and drive them back down.

The Lions Gate Bridge had a police car sitting there on standby. Usually it’s just a tow truck.

Back to the IBC and we did a quick interview. Then to the Czech House, where we had to rebuild our set, as the current setup was blocking the guests view out the big window.  This evening was sponsored by Alpine Pro. The company that made all the Czech Team jerseys and outfits, including our own. They brought in a dance team that entertained all the guests for about an our.

Then we filmed three interviews. After the last one, we drove really quick back to the  IBC. One of the guys from the office ran out onto the streets so we can hand him the disk, as we were cutting it really close to the HD transmission to Prague and we didn’t have time drive in through security and deliver it our selves.    It was quite funny handing the disk to him out the window and having him run off…  felt like some kind of shady business. 🙂  We then parked and went to check in.

Turns out 20 minutes of this ‘unilateral HD transmission’ to Europe costs about $1200.   And they do about 2-3 of these per day and they all have to be reserved and pre-booked ahead of time.  There are 6 of these streams that can run at the same time and have to be shared amongst all the European broadcasters.

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