What It's Like to Cover the London 2012 Olympics for NBC - NBC Chicago
London 2012

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What It's Like to Cover the London 2012 Olympics for NBC



    What It's Like to Cover the London 2012 Olympics for NBC
    Phil Rogers is covering his third Olympic games for NBC.

    Phil Rogers is an award winning journalist from Chicago who is covering his third Olympic games. Below is a travelogue from the NBC 5 reporter.

    People ask me all the time about how terrific it is to cover the Olympic Games.  The quick answer is that it is very terrific.  The Olympics are one of those larger than life events, the biggest multi-nation show the world stages, every two years. 

    There is a true sense of harmony and friendship.  What comes across on your television is really true when you are here.  What's it really like?  It's exactly like what you see.  And it is thrilling to meet such incredibly talented athletes, who are the best at what they do.

    Oh, and by the way, it is a lot of work.

    Never mind the ongoing discussions about when events should be on television.  The fact of the matter is that the world has time zones.  As a matter of fact, they are measured from Greenwich, right outside of London.  And when the Olympics begin here every day, you are still asleep in Chicago.  We, however, are covering swimming, and track and field, and cycling, and a variety of other events.

    Then it's time to put them on television, and on line, and in print, on Chicago's time.  That means that Chicago's 5 o'clock news is on at 11pm in London.  The 10 o'clock news is at 4am.

    You get the idea.

    If you love sleep, you might not enjoy an assignment like this.  (The great disc jockey Larry Lujack once told me, "sleep is for lazy people.")

    We aren't here to sleep.  The fact of the matter is, we love this kind of work.  In fact, Olympic organizers have built a self-contained city, for those who have to serve the masters of the clock in London, and their own clocks back home.

    Some 25,000 journalists are accredited to cover the games (other unaccredited reporters are here too).  All of them are serving different versions of Father Time, some to Europe, some to the Americas, some to Asia and beyond. Thousands of those journalists are here working for NBC.

    The Main Press Center, or MPC, has provided anything reporters might need for their two week, 24-hour-a-day marathons.

    That means there is a bank, and a pharmacy, and a tourism center, just for us.  There's a private dry cleaner, and a massage store.  And a hair salon. 

    Reporters needing to ship things find their own UPS center.  The MPC has its own post office, and not one, but two bars.   There's a newsstand with newspapers from around the world.  And restaurants.  And even a music stage with live entertainment. 

    Not that it's all that practical.  I keep asking myself, who can or should drink when they already aren't sleeping and are constantly working?  Scratch off the two bars.  I haven't been there.  (In fact, in this wonderful nation where there is a pub on nearly every corner, I have been in exactly one pub, and it was before the Games began.)
    You see, in addition to servicing NBC5 in Chicago, I file reports for NBC stations across the United States.

    Monday night I did 28 live reports, finishing with the 7pm news in San Francisco, at 3am, London time.

    Did I mention that Olympics take place, for the most part, in the daytime in London?

    But I digress.

    The bank?  Haven't been there.  Don't need money.  Working all the time.  A massage?  Not in the cards either.

    Live music?  Are you kidding me?  Show me someone who can stop working long enough to listen to a cover band's rendition of "Paperback Writer", and I'll show you a reporter who should be listening to a chorus of "Money for Nothing."

    I have been to the pharmacy, looking for chapstick.  And the post office.  And thank goodness, the cleaners.

    Inside the International Broadcast Center, or IBC, NBC has a city of its own.  Next door to the newsroom where I work, is a huge cafeteria which is open 24 hours a day.  Free, and constantly operating.  It's like having an Old Country Buffet right in your TV station.

    We have our own Starbucks, which is open around the clock.  Totally free.  (After all, we need the caffeine!)

    You may be saying by now that this all sounds like quite a grind.  It is.  But ask anyone.  We love it.  We love the hugeness of the Games.  We love the stories, and there are a million of them.  We love the spirit of the athletes and coaches, which is very uplifting and very real.  We love being part of something important and somehow bigger-than-life, the positive stories which people love to watch and read every couple of years. 

    On Sunday I interviewed the American gold medal swimmer, Nathan Adrian.  He told me he liked the fact that there are kids who will see him now who are themselves being driven to pools by their moms.  And that they needed to know some day they could be standing on that medal platform too.  And I loved that.  The stories that seem uplifting to you?  They are to us, too.

    Reporters want to be where the news is.  And right now, a whole lot of news is in London. You love the stories.  We love telling them.

    We'll sleep on the airplane, on the way home.  And I should note that we all have great families who support us in our crazy desire to do this.  Memo to my wife:  that means you.  You are amazing.

    But this is my third Olympics.  And it is the greatest assignment in the world.  Ask anyone who is here. 

    We wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

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