The games have begun! I guess now is a good time to explain why I’m here. You may know that I spend a lot of time as a freelancer producing/directing videoboard shows or teaching others how to producer/direct them. I mostly deal with live videoboard shows at sports venues.

Over the past several years, I’ve occasionally worked alongside a company who produces most of the big events out there–Super Bowls, NCAA Tournaments, etc. So this year when they were looking for people to help direct the videoboard shows in Sochi, I got a spot. We have directors at nearly every facility in both the Mountain and Coastal Clusters directing and technical directing the videoboard shows for the spectators at those venues.

I am in the Coastal Cluster at the Iceberg Skating Palace, directing all the Figure Skating and Short Track Speed Skating events. We had our first event last Thursday–a day before opening ceremonies–and I won’t have a day off until after closing ceremonies. Aside from that, the schedule isn’t too bad. Most days I get to the venue around noon and begin the 30 minute walk home around midnight.

OlgaStanOur producer is a former figure skater who has worked numerous Olympic games and has been great. My crew consists of a camera operator and a playback computer operator, both Russian. The playback (Click Effects) operator spent several years in both the States and England, so she knows English as well as I do, thankfully.

For the events themselves, most of what we do is produce the videoboard show for the hour between the doors opening and the first skaters. Once skating begins, we generally default to the clean OBS world feed (clean=no graphics, OBS=Olympic Broadcasting Service). We then cut back in during intermissions and ice remakes to play some videos and interact with the crowd via an on-camera host.

The only real difference between what you see at home and what I’m watching is that our World feed has no commentators talking on it. All we hear is the venue PA Announcer, a Canadian lady named PJ. More than once I’ve called home to have my parents tell me more about the event I worked than what I gathered from being here.

Sunday night the Russian President was in the house to watch Russia take the Gold in the Figure Skating Team Event. We’d been warned a few hours in advance that he’d be here and were told to expect all the wireless signals in the building to be jammed. Thankfully this never materialized.

Security-wise, I didn’t notice much of a difference and might not have known he was even here had we not seen him on camera a few times. I did, however, almost get trampled in the hallway by a sniper leaving his perch after the event.

I can’t remember if I told you, but on Day 3 I was walking to the Olympic Park for the first time by myself and was confronted by 6 military soldiers on the street. They said something in Russian which I took to mean “Show me your papers” so I pulled out my credential and showed the leader. He didn’t seem satisfied & said something else in Russian, so I pulled out my passport. After looking them both over, he handed them back to me and said the magic “Ok.” and they walked off.

This was a common story among the guys in our group for the week before games began, but I haven’t heard of anyone who has been questioned since. Security is still very much ever-present–it isn’t unusual to see military vehicles or large buses filled with soldiers–but they seem to have calmed down a little. I’ve yet to get into a situation where I felt very unsafe.

Hotel life is going well. We finally figured out the laundry situation, which was going to become an issue. I’d worn most everything I brought a few times, although I could be probably be accused of that in the States. We did learn a few days ago that a bag of dirty laundry left downstairs in the morning appears freshly laundered–scented like ivory soap and mostly dry–at the bottom of the stairs by evening with a post-it indicating the fee. My last load clocked in at $10.

KabobsFood prices here aren’t much unlike prices back home, but we’re hearing from people who have been here for a few months that most of the prices doubled about two weeks ago. To be expected, I guess. Ordering food has gotten easier, however, as most places now have menus in the form of pictures or some variation of English.

Tonight begins our Mixed Pairs competition, so off to work I must go. Give me a shout if you have any questions or comments!

Bo is currently based in Orange Beach, Alabama working towards checking #31 off his bucket list. If you’d like to be a part of the adventure, consider sponsoring a mile. To get more info on the curriculum, sign up here.