The three weeks I’ve spent here in London have been amazing, and the experience of being a Gamesmaker is one I won’t soon forget.
My venue was at the photo workroom help desk in the Main Press Centre on the grounds of Olympic Park. Gamesmakers at this venue helped still photographers from the 80-plus global news organizations complete their jobs as quickly as possible. In the MPC, photographers edit the photos they just took of the various sporting events, write captions and send them electronically to their newspapers. In our digital world, it takes just minutes to get a photo from London to the front page of a paper, or out on a numerous news wire services.
It wasn’t a glamorous job, but fun and interesting nonetheless. My shifts were about 7-8 hours long. During the first few days, we primarily handed out multi-pocket vests to each accredited photographer, helped them secure lockers to store their gear, and catalog both. Other days, we directed photographers to the bus shuttles that took them to venues and managed their requests to cover a particular sporting venue and event. Many venues had a limited number of places for photographers, so these spaces were first come first served. Other events were considered “high demand”, which meant that in addition to their media credentials, the photographer had to receive a ticket from their country’s National Olympic Committee. In some cases, only media from the countries competing were allowed to cover a particular event, in addition who what were called ‘pool’ photographers, meaning photographers from outlets like the Associated Press, who have agreements with newspapers to provide content.
On our busiest day, more than 200 photographers were in the MPC right after a sporting event to edit and send their images. On our slowest, about 11 photographers were on our second floor post.
The photo workroom managers did a great job of trying to make sure volunteer Gamesmaker got a chance to see some of the sporting events. A few of the guys got to see beach volleyball, which I hear they thoroughly enjoyed.
Trying to get into a venue isn’t as easy as it sounds. Security was tight – no one was allowed into Olympic Park without either a ticket or credentials, and having credentials didn’t mean you could get into any venue. This led to one of my more memorable experiences as a Gamesmaker. At the start of one of my shifts, Neil, the night photo workroom manager asked me if I’d deliver some photographer vests to Earl’s Court, the venue for volleyball. It meant getting on a designated media bus with other journalists for the 55 minute trip. As my reward, I’d get to watch some of the volleyball competition. Not a problem, I said. The drive was great, looking at sites like Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. WIthout an upgrade pass, I couldn’t actually get into the venue to watch volleyball. I was a little bummed, and headed back to the meeting point to catch the media bus for my trip back to the MPC. That’s where my day got interesting! The driver (not the same one who drive to the venue) apparently wasn’t familiar with London. I could hear the GPS he was using blurt out directions, but it was obvious we weren’t going back to the MPC the same way we came. I was alone on the bus, and didn’t think much of it until I heard the driver calling his dispatcher for directions. After the driver pulled over two more times to figure out his way back, I asked him to call my managers at the MPC – who worked as photographers for some of London’s leading newspapers. If anyone knew their way around London, it would be them! So, two-and-a-half-hours later, and after a bus tour of some of London’s more seedier neighborhoods, I arrived back at the MPC!
I’ll admit, after that ordeal, I had a tension headache and was slightly annoyed. “Let me make it up to you,” Neil told me, asking if I’d like to stay to attend a press conference. Doing this wasn’t part of the duties for help desk Gamesmakers, but on occasion, we be loaned out to other departments within Press Op. The USA had just won Gold and Silver in the men’ individual medley, so I agreed to stay, hoping I’d get to see an athlete – any athlete – up close.
Nearly all of the press conferences were held in the building where I worked each day. When I arrived, I found out one of the participants was Ryan Lochte, who had just won a silver medal. I didn’t have to do much, just count the number of journalists in the room and make sure the videographers stayed on the platform created for them. And admire the view. In addition to being the envy of some of my female friends, now I can say Ryan Lochte made my night!
As the closing ceremonies came to an end, I was pleased at the high profile thank you given to Gamesmakers. And as I watched from a pub near London Bridge, I couldn’t help but smile at the wonderful experience I’ve had, the people I’ve met and feel sad that my time to London is coming to a close. It’s truly has been the trip of a lifetime.