From the Purple Bubble to the Bird’s Nest: Ephs work at the Beijing Olympic Games

For two solid weeks in August, the world seemed to stand still – glued to a television set. On a daily basis, we oscillated from frustration to elation, anticipation to grief, and loved every moment of it. While most viewers could only enjoy this sporting madness through their television sets, a few Ephs got to experience the Olympics first hand.

Kristen Layden ’10 worked for NBC in Eugene, Ore. at the Olympic track and field trials before traveling to Beijing in late July to intern on site. “In Beijing I was working at the National Stadium – the Birds Nest,” Layden said. “I was working with the producer who put together all the field events segments … I looked at the footage and suggested shots for her.”

Besides working with the track and field producers, Layden also fulfilled other typical intern tasks. “[Working for the producers] was my main job,” she said. “But since I was an intern, I did a lot of stuff when track and field wasn’t going on. I did a lot of odd jobs like bringing people and things back and forth from the different venues and the International Broadcast Center.”

Matt Roach ’08 also started his Olympics experience at the trials before traveling to Beijing to work as an assistant editor for the track and field division with NBC. “I worked in a room called ‘Quality Control,’ which only existed because not a single minute of track and field footage was broadcast live,” Roach said. “So basically the top producer, director and talent did the broadcast, then handed it over for editing to the three people in my room: me, a quality control producer and an editor. Generally speaking, the producer told the editor what he wanted to see, then editor told me what clips I should get, and then we all put it together and watched the show and looked for errors or things we could improve.”

Prior to arriving in Beijing, both Layden and Roach were aware of concerns raised against the Chinese government for poor air quality and humans rights abuses. “I tried to go in with as open of a mind as possible about it because you never really know what to expect in that kind if situation,” Layden said. “I had definitely heard about there being concerns with Tibet and other issues with the Chinese government, so I was sort of concerned about whether that would put a damper on the whole Olympic spirit.”

Roach had similar sentiments. “I was definitely worried about Beijing before going over,” he said. “I’d heard bad things about the air, the security and the human rights.”

However, Layden and Roach were quickly won over by the friendly attitudes of the Chinese people and the huge effort on the part of the Chinese government in putting on a successful Olympics. “As soon as I got there, we were treated like kings,” Roach said. “They literally shut down the airport for the NBC staff, and they had 1.6 million people working to make sure we had everything we needed. I can’t say enough good things about all of the Chinese people I encountered, or the spectacular facilities at the games.”

Jiajia Jin ’12, who lives in Haining, China, participated as an interpreter for the U.S. women’s basketball team during the preliminary games. At first, Jin was nervous about working with the basketball players, but she quickly adjusted to interpreting for the team. “I was a bit nervous and didn’t know what to expect when I went to the Shanghai airport to pick them [the basketball team] up,” Jin said. “Then I saw them and they were really friendly, so that was kind of surprise because they are celebrities and I thought they might be tough cookies.”

As an interpreter, Jin was integral to helping the team function in China. “I feel like I was taking care of a lot of their personal things, more like a nanny,” she said. “My responsibilities covered a lot of daily affairs. For example, lots of the players liked to drink Diet Coke, which wasn’t provided in the hotel, so I had to go to the supermarket and bring it to them. The coach also insisted on having dinner exactly four hours before the games, so when games started at seven I had to negotiate with the hotel to have dinner early.”

Like Layden and Roach, Jin came away from her Olympic experience with positive reflections. Jin was particularly impressed with the determination and dedication of the U.S. women’s basketball team. “Watching them training was a remarkable experience – They were obviously very talented as individuals, but they worked well as a team,” Jin said. “They cheered for each other when they scored points, comforted each other when they fouled – You could see their passion for the sport, love for the country and unison as a team.”

Though neither Layden, Roach nor Jin were natives of Beijing, they each found themselves welcomed into the locals’ spirit. “More than anything else the impression I came away was just the incredible spirit of the Chinese people, of all the Chinese fans,” Layden said. “When you’re over there the Chinese people’s spirit and support for their country and enthusiasm for the whole Olympics was unbelievable and just completely contagious. I think that that sentiment is what the Olympics are supposed to be about.”