Interviews

The World-Wide Games

Zach and Flo at TARcon5<br />
(Photo by miri)
Zach and Flo at TARcon5
(Photo by miri)
TAR3 co-winner, Zach Behr, recently returned from working the 2004 Olympics in Athens. In this interview, he talks with us about his experience working on one of the largest TV productions around.

How did you get hooked up with the job?
I started working for NBC’s Olympic team in 2002 for the winter games in Salt Lake City. Originally, I got the job through a friend. The funny thing is that my boss at NBC is a huge fan of TAR and the fact that I won the race in between Olympics definitely didn’t hurt my chances of getting re-hired.

Can you give those of us outside the business a sense of what your job was like?
I was producing teasers and promos. This means that I would get a script that highlighted some part of the evening’s programming, on NBC or one of their sister stations, and gather tons of footage that I felt would match the script well. If we were teasing the men's 100m dash, I would grab footage (all on the computer, by the way, we hardly use tape anymore) from track and field trials and use the best stuff with the top contenders. The main promo I worked on was this thing for ATT called “ATT Highlight of the Games.” I’m sure some folks will remember those 30-second spots as they aired every night during primetime on NBC.
There are people working around the clock for a month straight to put out the massive quantity of programming that they do.
What was your typical working day like?
NBC’s Olympic operation is a beast. There are people working around the clock for a month straight to put out the massive quantity of programming that they do. I was working a 1AM-1PM shift, which almost always turned into 1AM-3PM. It was a ton of work, but well worth it in the end. Some of the hours I kept actually reminded me of my time on the race, but more on that later. Usually, I would come to work at around midnight and eat some breakfast. Then get to work for a while. Around 4 or 5am, when others started to trickle in, I would have lunch, and around noon, I would eat something else.

Did you focus on a specific sport or was the work more general?
I covered all sports, including the more obscure ones like team handball and archery.

Going into the start of the games, how much prep work did you have to do?
Hardly any. I just read up on the big stories and expected winners in each sport.

Did the fact that most events were not shown live make your job easier or more difficult?
It made it easier since everything was happening live for us in Greece and then delayed for the States. We had plenty of time to edit our pieces before people saw them back home.
I had a very small amount of free time. However, the time I did have I made sure to fill with activity.
How much free time did you have during the games, and how did you use it?
I had a very small amount of free time. However, the time I did have I made sure to fill with activity. I went to see three events: badminton, team handball, and the men's 100m dash. All of the events were great and full of excited fans from all over the world. I also managed to see the taping of the Today Show and I’m pretty sure I got myself back on the small screen again for a brief moment while Al Roker was doing his thing. I had already traveled to Greece before, so I didn’t feel the need to get out too much.

What is your favorite Olympic sport?
I’d have to say the track and field. All of the events are awesome, from the running to other events like shot put and hammer throw.

Did you get to live in Olympic Village with the athletes?
Nope. They put me up in a hotel in downtown Athens.

What was your favorite moment from the games?
Maybe Phelps outlasting Crocker in one of the swimming events. Or the closing ceremonies, which I watched from a rooftop in Athens. The fireworks were awesome and everyone was so happy that the games had ended successfully and safely.

What moment made the best TV?
Tough question…they were all good moments. The best may have been when Paul Hamm fell into the judging area during his routine and then came back to win the gold.

Was this similar to work you had done in the past?
Yes, but this time I had more authority to change things around – a good feeling.
So, 2006 in Turin, Italy just may be in the cards.
Do you think this will lead to more gigs with NBC or was this a one-time thing? What about the 2006 Olympics?
That is the great thing about this gig – you are usually invited back for more if you do well. So, 2006 in Turin, Italy just may be in the cards.

Did you buy any interesting or really tacky Olympic souvenirs?
I brought back a magnet and a few sea sponges. Not too much else, everything was extremely tacky.

Did anyone recognize you?
A few people did. In fact, one person met introduced herself and said she was a TWOPper or had met me at TARCON. I’d love to know who that person was.

Did you learn anything during your time on TAR that proved helpful for your Olympics job?
YES. The ability to disregard the hour on the clock and just live by your body clock. Working from 1am to 1pm was rough, but I think my experience on the race helped me push though. Also, the general confidence of operating in a foreign country.