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2008 Olympic Games

August 8-24, 2008 - Beijing, China

reports, photos and more from our friends here and in Beijing

Walt Murphy in Beijing

Veteran Track Journalist and "Friend of DyeStat" shares his insights
with select members of the online track community

Walt Murphy's News and Results Service - contact Walt at [email protected]

August 7 - Getting Settled

Well, it took two days to get here, but all's well that end's well. Had a slight hitch when I got to O'Hare Airport on Tuesday. The United agent had assured me on Monday that my bags would be put on the same flight the following day, but I thought it would be a good idea to confirm that. Good thing I did--they were about to be sent to Tokyo! Thankfully, there was enough time to get them on the right flight. Discovered that I wasn't the only one who missed the connection on Monday--lots of NBC folks were in the same boat(or plane).

I never sleep much on planes, even on trips that take more than 12 hours, like this one did. But I was able to get a lot of work done and also had a pleasant conversation with my row-mate, Sean Conroy, who is a member of the committee trying to get the 2016 Olympics for Chicago. He's feeling pretty good about the Windy City's chances of getting the Games.

When we landed at the Beijing airport (which is HUGE!), NBC staff members were there to greet us and make the process of getting our bags, going through customs, getting our credentials validated, and getting to our hotel a painless as possible. It didn't affect us, but there was quite a mob scene at the airport, with local TV stations, reporters, and just fans waiting to catch a glimpse of any athletes who might be arriving.

I shared a ride to the Crowne Plaza Hotel with Matt Devlin, who will be announcing wrestling for NBC, and Shaun Robinson, who is here to do reports for Access Hollywood. We sailed past traffic in the special lane devoted to Olympic vehicles and got our first glimpse of the unique Olympic Stadium, otherwise known as the "Bird's Nest", as we neared the hotel. Check-in went smoothly and up to my room I went. Turned on the TV as I started to unpack and was surprised to see how many English-language stations were available, including CNN International and ESPN-Asia. I also watched a little bit of MTV-China, which is a lot more sedate than any MTV station I've ever seen.

They always say the best way to adjust after a long trip is not to take a nap and to stay up late, so that your body gets into a normal routine as soon as possible. That sounds great, but I just had to close my eyes for about 30 minutes. That seemed to work, so I got up and decided to take a walk. I headed towards the brightly-lit "Bird's Nest", and was amazed at how many Chinese people were in the streets, just trying to get a glimpse of it and taking family photos with the stadium in the background.

China has come in for a lot of criticism over some of its policies, but the people are taking great pride in these Olympics and they want to share in the excitement, even if they don't get to see any of the events. As I walked among them, it suddenly hit me--"I'm in China!". The plane delay, the long trip, the lack of sleep--all meant nothing as I took a moment to appreciate how lucky I am and have been for many years. I've gotten to see a good part of the world and enjoy many wonderful experiences, all because of my involvement in our great sport.

When I got back to the hotel, I met some old friends from past NBC events and then headed out the back door to the Beer Garden. This will be a favorite late-night gathering spot for the NBC people after a long day at their assignments. This is no 9-5 position--three weeks of 12-15 hour days (and longer in some cases) are not uncommon for some people, so they deserve a chance to relax a little when they get "home" for the night. A couple of cold pints of Carlsberg beer was the perfect way for me to end my first day in Beijing (despite the bats flying overhead!) and I headed up to my room and called it a night.

I had originally hoped to get some sightseeing done this morning (Thursday), but got off to a slow start and decided to head to the Main Press Center and the IBC(Int'l Broadcasting Center), where I had to attend a 2pm Opening Ceremony "spotters" meeting. I'll be in the stadium tomorrow helping one of the NBC cameramen pick out key athletes as they march in(one of the nice "perks" of my job). Don't forget to watch NBC's taped coverage, which is scheduled to begin at 7:30pm, a 1/2-hour earlier than originally planned.

The NBC compound at the IBC is like a small city, with maps needed to find your way around. I found the research room and met Shawn Price and Jim Estes, who will each work 12-hour shifts as the "point people" for any track and field-related information/questions. We exchanged cell-phone numbers and then I went to the spotters meeting, where we were each given a large book that contained photos of significant athletes from every sport who might be marching in the Opening Ceremony. Then David Monti, of Race Results Weekly, and I went to the T&F compound, which will be our home away from home beginning on August 15, the first day of competition. David showed me how to get to our announce position in the stadium, which is the best I've ever been involved with! We are right on the finish line and only about 50-meters away from the track. And we're right behind the BBC's position, which will make it easy to exchange information(which we've often done in the past).

That's all for this report--now heading out to dinner.

Walt Murphy

P.S. If you see this in time, the Today Show on NBC begins broadcasting live from Beijing today at 7am back in the States.


August 6 - Lopez Lomong to Carry US Flag!

USATF news link

(Walt's notes on Lopez ...)
  • On July 6, 2008, one year to the day after he was sworn in as a U.S. citizen, the former member of a group known as the “Lost Boys of Sudan”  qualified for Beijing  in the 1500m…
  • As he stood on the awards stand at U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, he shouted out, “Thank you, America! While competing for Northern Arizona, he beat Olympic teammate Leo Manzano to win the 2007 NCAA Outdoor title at 1500-meters...
  • Back training with Air Force coach John Hayes, who was his coach at Northern Arizona. Working as  a volunteer assistant coach at the Academy (Gave up his remaining collegiate eligibility after the 2007 season to pursue a professional career)
  • After being brought to the U.S. in 2001 as part of a program to relocate some of the “Lost Boys of Sudan”, he developed into one of the top prep milers in the U.S. while at NY’s Tully H.S.
  • Foster parents Robert and Barbara Rogers, who have also taken in five other “Lost Boys”,  patiently helped him adapt to the American way of life.
  • Spent one year at Norfolk State with his H.S. teammate and fellow “Lost Boy”  Dominic Luka, but  transferred to Northern Arizona after his freshman year. Had been told of the advantage of training in the 7,000’ altitude of Flagstaff, where the school is located. Has trained with the likes of Bernard Lagat, one of many elite runners who spend part of the year training in Flagstaff.
  • John Hayes, his college coach for two years, switched to the Air Force Academy last summer, but still works with Lomong
  • In 2007, Mary Carrillo of Bryant Gumbel’s RealSports TV show took Lomong to the refugee camp in Kenya to have an emotional reunion with his mother, whom he hadn’t seen in years--his father (one earlier report said the father was dead) came from Sudan to visit him. He had been communicating with his mother over the phone the last few years. Also met two younger brothers--hopes to bring them to the U.S. some day.  Returned to Kenya earlier this year and ran into some difficulty  during the violence that took place there.
  • Plans to return to Sudan once his running career is over--hope to use his hotel managament education  to help promote tourism in his country


August 4 - Best Laid Plans ...

Started losing that Olympic spirit this morning when bad weather in Chicago delayed my flight from New York, leading to a miss of my connection to Beijing! United was kind enough to put me up in a hotel near O'Hare Airport, but they also checked my bags straight through to tomorrow's flight. Now I'll be wearing the same clothes for two straight days--hope I don't offend anyone on the 13+ hour trip to Beijing!


August 4 - Off to Beijing!

I'm off this morning to Beijing to work with NBC on the network's coverage of the Olympic T&F events. Just as I wrote four years ago before leaving for Athens, it's taken me awhile to catch "Olympic fever".

Between working the last few weeks on the 2008 x-country schedule and reading all of the drug-related stories, from the banned Russian women to the U.S. men's 4x400 team losing their gold medals from the 2000 Olympics, it was hard getting excited about the impending trip. It seemed like I was just getting ready for another TV assignment, no different than working on, say, the Pre Classic or the Millrose Games.

But then I watched NBC's coverage on Sunday of the USOC Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the Class of 2008. Watching old clips and hearing athletes from many sports talk about what the Olympic
experience meant to them brought the "fever" back and I trust it won't go away for the next three weeks. And I can't wait for Friday's Opening Ceremony, which promises to be one of the most spectacular in history.  (It is so good, based on the dress rehearsals, that NBC is starting its coverage 30 minutes earlier, beginning at 7:30pm ET)

I hope to send periodic reports from Beijing, but, knowing what my work schedule looks like, I can't make any promises.

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