Monday, February 24, 2014

That's a Wrap!

Well, that's a wrap!  The Closing Ceremonies are over and the Olympic Torch has been extinguished.  We'll see it again in 2016 in Rio, and then in 2018 in Pyeong Chang (hopefully with Synchronized Skating).

Final scene from closing ceremonies...

The mood here is relaxed and happy!  There is lots of loud music coming from various rooms, and there is a party out in the lobby of the IBC.  If I can, I'll sneak out later to see if I can grab a beer. 

Earlier this evening, I picked up my "Participation Certificate" from the Organizing Committee.  (David, because my name is David Sean McKinnon, and they can never figure out that my name is Sean...)

Yup. David.

NBC will run their credits at the end of their afternoon show today (5:45pm EST) and you will see my name (David, instead of Sean, as usual) appear under Communication Systems Maintenance!

My credit... David again... sigh...

I am still working until 7am this morning, in case the production crews decide to come back to do some voice overs or corrections on the closing ceremonies.  NBC will go off the air for their Olympic coverage at 7:38am Sochi Time.

Whatever floats your boat...

Tomorrow morning, I'll go home and pack, and then have a nap midday.  We are planning to try and have a final COMMs dinner on Monday evening.  Then I'll check my bags and get my boarding pass at the hotel, get a good night's sleep, and catch the bus at 6:40am for the airport.

Loved that they made fun of the Opening Ceremony SNAFU...

It's a 10 hour flight, but it is an NBC Charter, so there will be lots of good food and drink, and I'll probably try and stay awake watching movies.  I'll transfer in Newark, and will arrive home in Toronto at around 5pm on Tuesday afternoon.

Russian ballet...

I was thinking about trying to get to NEXXICE practice on Tuesday evening, but I think I'll be too tired.  I am dying to see them, so that I can congratulate Caitie and the team for winning the Canadian National Synchronized Skating Championships this weekend in Burnaby, BC, for a record 8th time, and with a new Canadian record score!

Synchronized piano playing...

They skated two phenomenal programs in BC, and I was lucky that I was able to get the Skate Canada Live Stream here in Sochi!  Tweeting with Jan, and chatting with Susan on Facebook, made me feel like I was a part of it.  Thank you!  Very proud of this team!  Can't wait for Worlds in Italy!

Giant animatronic Olympic Mascots...

As I was watching the closing ceremonies, one of the last pieces of music played was Prokofiev's Cinderella Suite - Cinderella's Waltz, which is the music for NEXXICE's Short program this year!  We're taking that as a good omen!

Blowing out the Olympic flame...

As for Sochi, it's been a blast as always. These opportunities are really the best for me, as I am such a fan of the Olympics, and I always get a little sad when it is over, but at the same time, I am also ready to go home, and looking forward to seeing Susan, Connor, and Caitie again.

See you next time!

I want to thank everybody that read my blog, commented on Facebook, or followed me on Twitter.  It is really nice to feel connected to the people back home when you are so far away for so long!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Inside the IBC

The Closing Ceremonies are now underway, and Women's Bobsleigh gold medal winners, Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse have been named Canada's flag bearers. I hope you all enjoyed the Gold Medal Hockey game for Team Canada!  Canada finished with 25 medals (10 gold, 10 silver, and 5 bronze), in third place (ranked by gold/silver/bronze) behind Russian with 33 and Norway with 26.  The USA had 28 medals, but only 9 gold.

I wanted to give you a brief tour of the IBC where I am working for NBC.  NBC has about 3000 people working here in Sochi and many, many more working back in their Sports headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut and the News headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York.

Me on the set of NBC Studio 2!
The Host Broadcaster is OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Services) and they provide the video that is used by most international broadcasters, including NBC (although NBC also uses their own cameras at many high profile venues).  This is a panorama of the OBS distribution and transmission centre...
OBS Distribution Centre
In the NBC Broadcast Operation Centre (BOC, below), we have Inbound Transmission (left), in which transmissions from the venues are received, and Release (right) where our outgoing transmission to the US take place.  In the foreground is the BOC Supervisor area.  They manage all the traffic in the BOC.
Broadcast Operation Centre (BOC)
The studio show is produced from a Control Room (NBC has two, A and B).  The director, producer, and technical staff sit in the front row.  The director decides which cameras to take, while the producer controls the storyline.  Other AD's (assistant directors) control when commercial breaks occur, and the TD (technical director) controls the actual switching of cameras (and the effects being used: fade, dissolve, cut, etc...)
Control Room B
An A1 (audio mixer) sits in an adjacent room and mixes the audio from all the microphones and produces the sound that you hear on air from the studio.  At each venue, there may (or may not, depending on the size of the venue) be a director and/or an audio mixer in a broadcast truck.  The audio mixer at the venue mixes the natural sound with the local commentary to create the mix that you hear at home.
Audio B
The studio floor is populated with cameramen, stage managers, and A2's (audio assistants) who hook up the "talent" (on-air personalities, like Bob Costas) with an IFB (the little ear bud that lets them hear the director's instructions).
Camera position in Studio 2
The studio host sits at a desk (or on a couch for interviews) in the studio, and hosts the show you see on TV.  The set contains lots of local kitsch as well as giant screens that provide a changing backdrop for the set.
Studio 2 host position
In other parts of the NBC facility, we have Edit rooms (where highlights and production stories are cut and developed), Graphics (which creates the titles and overlays), Ingest (which records all video feeds for their library), New Media (which produces the online .COM content), and others.  In addition, there are production facility in New York and Stamford that also have the same functions and produce content for air from the US.
COMMs (my home!)
All of these people need to talk to each other, in real time, during the production, and playback of a show.  To do that, NBC uses a broadcast intercom made by my company, and for which I, and my colleague James Puttick, write all of the software.  Users throughout the facility talk to each other using keypanels like below (with key assignments and push-to-talk access to anybody in this facility, or even back in New York or Stamford).
A keypanel used for communications...
This is the COMM's crew, from left, Tony Kramer, John Herman, Jason Conway, Bob Gilmartin, John Pastore, Sean McKinnon, Rickey Hayes, and Patrick Martin.
The COMM's crew!
I have worked with Tony and Bob since Atlanta 1996, and with Rickey and John since Beijing.  John is the Director of Communications for NBC Sports, but couldn't be here for these games, and we miss him a lot.  We always do a COMMs photo and since John isn't here, we have the "virtual John" cut-out shown above (wish you were here buddy!).  Rickey Hayes is the Communications Manager for the Olympics and has done a great job filling John's shoes, in what has been a very challenging Olympics for COMMs (logistically, not operationally).
NBC Olympic Coverage, I have been here for 9 of them!
I am so fortunate to be here, and am entirely grateful to NBC, John, and Rickey for continuing to include me, and allowing me to take part in the Olympics, and to Bosch for allowing me to come!

Russian Arts annd Crafts

Russia has a rich cultural history, and not being able to explore, see, and learn about Russia in person has been the biggest disappointment of my trip here.  Sochi (actually, Adler) is so remote that there was no chance of (and safety issues with) travelling to anywhere "interesting".

Russian dolls in traditional costumes...
Instead, I've focused mostly on the Olympics this time, and it has been quite enjoyable, as I've been to a lot of events, and seen the inside of 4 different venues.  Still, would have been nice to be able to visit Moscow or St. Petersburg.

The lobby of the IBC has several art installations, but unfortunately none of the volunteers there speak any English, so it was impossible even to learn about what was on display.  Still, I liked the art, and the photos, and wanted to share them with you.

Roosters seem to be a common art image?
For some reason (and even Google didn't help me with this), I kept seeing images of roosters in many art images.  As far as I can tell, the Rooster has a long history in Russian fairy tales, and is deeply rooted in their culture.
Matryoshka dolls...

Of course, Matryoshka dolls are everywhere.  This is a nice set.  In shopping for a set of my own, I found that they ranged in price from $10 (toys) to over $750 (collectable art).   I found a nice set for about $60 (which I bought), but the ones I liked best started at about $150 and I just couldn't convince myself to buy one at that price).

Didn't know Einstein was Russian?

Birch bark art is very common, with intricate carvings and engravings.  In fact, birch bark was used as parchment, and there are Russian birch bark documents that have survived since the Middle Ages.

Birch bark art is common... and very cool!

Much of the Russian arts and crafts I've seen are marked by intricate and very detailed design patterns that are very beautiful.

Enameled pieces in black, red, orange, gold and copper are a common theme, and I was told by one shop keeper that they use actual gold in some of the gold paint.

Sadly, that's it!  My Russian cultural experience...
When I think of all the things that I would like to have learned more about, I get a little depressed. 
Here's a quick list of Russian historical figures worth reading about if you have the time:
Ivan "The Terrible" - First Tsar of Russia
Peter "The Great" - First Emperor of Russia, founder of St. Petersburg
Catherine "The Great" - First Empress of Russia, reigned during Russia's "Golden Age"
Rasputin - Mystic, healer, influence to Tsar Nicholas II (last Tsar of Russia)
There are dozens of others, I could spend weeks reading about Russia's history, and so could you.
But instead, you get some of my pretty pictures...  Enjoy!

Last trip to Adler

After the great night I had yesterday, I walked back into Adler with friends for one final shopping trip.  I picked up something for Caitie and a set of Matryoshka dolls for Susan (and me!) - no pictures - don't want to spoil the surprise!  Instead, I'll start with a nice photo of my hotel complex with the mountains in the background (taken from another nearby hotel).

My hotel complex w/mountains!

We walked back through the market, but took a different path, and I was delighted with all the texture and color in the fruits, nuts, vegetables, and flowers. It was Saturday morning in Adler, so the market was much busier than the last time we were there.  I had been up since 4pm on Friday, so was very tired, but really needed to finish off my shopping, as I wasn't sure if the stores would be open on Sunday, and thought I might not make it back to town again.

Dried fruit and nuts!

I am finishing my second last shift tonight, and when I get off this morning at 9am, I am going home to get a full 8 or 9 hours sleep, and then come in early to watch the closing ceremonies (and the gold medal hockey game)!


On Monday morning, I'll go home and back, get some sleep, and then hopefully have dinner with the Comms team (and finally have a chance to drink some beer at a "normal" hour).  Monday night between 9 and 11:30pm, we actually have a "remote check-in" with United Airlines!


We will be able to check our bags, and get our boarding passes at the hotel!  This is super convenient.  Then I can get a nice sleep (or go drinking with the guys), and get picked up to go to the airport at 6:40am (for my 9:40am flight).  I am on the NBC Charter again, and this time I have an aisle seat!

BBQ Pork! (Already half done, and we split this 3 ways!)

As we were walking along the beach heading back to the IBC, all three of us were stopped in our tracks by a delicious smell.  We found the restaurant that was grilling this amazing BBQ pork and decided we needed to stop for lunch.  We bought one serving and split it 3 ways, it was so big (and so good!).

I ended up getting back to the hotel room at 1:30pm (up for 21.5 hours) and only got 5 hours sleep before coming back in today.  I've got a few things left that I want to post about, but we are running out of time here, things have gone by so quickly, and tomorrow is Closing Ceremonies!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Double Double

Wow!  Another double gold day for Canada! And we'll play for gold in Men's Hockey!

Gold and silver in Women's Ski Cross!

Marielle Thompson and Kelsey Serwa took gold and silver in the Women's Ski Cross, the third time Canada has finished 1-2 in a Freestyle event in Sochi, and bringing our medal count to 9 in Freestyle events!

Charlie Cournoyer slipped in for a bronze in the Men's 500m Short Track event.  This is his first Olympic medal, and in an event that Charles Hamelin was considered the gold medal challenger.  Unfortunately, Hamelin has had a string of bad luck in Sochi, falling in the 1000m and 500m, after taking gold in the 1500m early in the games.

Brad Jacob's rink easily defeated Great Britain for the Men's Curling gold, in a match that the Brits conceded after the 8th end and trailing 9-3.  Jacob's got off to a slow start in Sochi, with a 1-2 record, but then never lost a match after that.

I was at the Ice Cube tonight to see the curling final, and bumped into legendary Canadian figure skater, and 4-time World Champion, Kurt Browning.  We stood together watching the match and chatted for almost an hour. He is such a nice guy, and I was very comfortable talking with him.  We talked about curling, hockey, skating, Battle of the Blades, and even synchro!

Kurt Browning at Curling!

On leaving curling, I got a phone call offering me a way to get into the Men's Hockey game tonight with Canada vs. USA!  I called Rickey to see if it was OK for me to come in late, and then I headed over to the Bolshoy Ice Dome!

Bolshoy Ice Dome with score and flags!

Since this was a "high demand" event, my accreditation would not be enough to get into the venue, but with the "Broadcast Crew" ticket, I was able to get in (even if I didn't have an assigned seat).  I ended up in the standing-room-only area, with about a 100 other people. 

Canada vs USA Men's Hockey!

It was great to get in and see the venue, and to watch the 1st period, but it was almost impossible to get good sightlines with so many people, so I headed back to the IBC to watch the end of the game.

Panorama Inside the Adler Arena (Oval)!

Prior to the curling match, I had actually stopped in at the Adler Arena (Oval) with John to catch some of the Team Pursuit speed skating quarterfinals.  We saw the Canadian men beat the US to advance to the semi-final, but the ladies team had a surprising loss to Russia and will not compete for a medal.

Women's Team Pursuit!

All in all, it was a pretty fantastic day!  Canada's medal count now sits at 24 (9 Gold, 10, Silver, and 5 Bronze).  Whether you count by total medals (like NBC does), or by Golds, then Silvers, then Bronzes (like the IOC does), Canada now sits in 3rd spot, with another Gold or Silver guaranteed in hockey!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Figure Skating - Ladies

I know everybody is anxious for my thoughts on the Ladies Figure Skating event (or maybe you're not, but I'm going to spout off anyway...)

Gold medalist - Adelina Sotnikova of Russia!

Neither Katelyn Osmond (who finished 13th) or Gabby Daleman (who finished 17th) were likely to be medal contenders in this event, so I had no vested interest in the outcome.

In the Short program, there were a few surprises. Yuna Kim laid down a great program, but the marks weren't astronomical, perhaps reflecting what I saw, in that she looked bored to death both before and after the program.  It was almost as if she didn't want to be there (which I think might be true).

Then Carolina Kostner unleashed a beautiful Ave Maria and came in only 0.8 behind Yuna, and everyone started to get excited.  Carolina is so graceful, and has beautiful lines.  I've seen her in training with Lori Nichol at RTC (Richmond Training Centre) in Richmond Hill and am a fan.

All eyes were on Julia Lipnitskaia (or Yulia Lipnitskaya, take your pick...), as the sweetheart from the team event.  Unfortunately, she didn't have a great skate, but her compatriot, Adelina Sotnikova, surprised everyone (despite the fact that Adelina is the 4-time Russian national champion), ending up in second place.

She had a good skate, but I don't think she deserved to be ahead of Kostner and that close to Yuna.  The rest of the field filled out mostly as expected, except that Mao Asada, sadly, did not have a good skate and ended up in 16th after the short program. 

I was also a little surprised that the German, Nathalie Weinzierl, finished in 10th ahead of Katelyn Osmond, which was unfortunate for Katelyn as it pushed her into the earlier group for the Free Skate, where she drew the first spot in that group, while Nathalie drew the last spot in her group (putting her right before the last two groups).

The highlight of the Free program (for me) was Mao Asada, who (according to the judges) had the 3rd best program of the night, and jumped all the way from 16th up to 6th overall.  She landed the triple axel (and everything else), and (likely) finished her career on a great performance.

Most of the top 10 had pretty good performances.  Julia/Yulia did not have a good skate, and fell (literally) to 6th.  Ashley Wagener had yet another performance where she though she did great, with no falls, but two-footed and under-rotated her way to a 7th place finish. 

Polina Edmunds looked like a 15 year old, and skated reasonably well, but fell to 9th, while Gracie Gold looked sharp except for one fall, and hung onto 4th overall.  The US had all three skaters in the top 10, which is fabulous for them.  There is a bright future for the US (and Canadian) programs, with all these great young skaters.

Once again, I thought Carolina Kostner was stunning, this time to Bolero (two classic pieces of music for her in this event), and probably deserved better.  She remained in 3rd to claim the bronze.

Adelina Sotnikova skated a technically outstanding program, but without much in the way of choreography (what was with all that "popping and locking"?) or transitions, and there was a lot of simple crosscut skating between jumps.  Her score was 18 points higher than her previous personal best...

Yuna Kim, again looking a little disinterested, skated a flawless program, but one that was technically less challenging than the one that Adelina performed, and didn't even look all that upset when she scored more than 5 points less than Adelina in claiming the silver medal.

The judges here seemed not to recognize the artistic superiority of Kostner and Kim, and gave large GOE to Adelina on her elements, propelling her into the Gold medal position.  Hurray for Russia!

Despite how anyone feels about the judging and Adelina's Gold medal, what happened next is pretty uncalled for.  Her personal Facebook page has been flooded with hate (mostly from angry Koreans).  Sad. She's only 17, and a 4-time national champion.  Whatever happened with the judging was not her fault.  None of this is good for the sport...

Even with the Olympics in South Korea in 2018, I think there's no way that we will see Yuna Kim performing there (unless South Korea wants to pay her a tonne more money to convince her).  The fact that she's only competed internationally 5 times since Vancouver says it all.  She's too famous, too popular, and too busy selling things in Korea to concentrate on being the best skater in the world.  Also sad...

Another Golden Day!

Today was a double Gold day for Canada!

Curling Gold - I was there!

First, the Women's Curling team beat Sweden at the Ice Cube, an event that I was there to see!  It was an exciting match with both teams trading singles, and the a deuce each early in the match.  Then, after a couple of blank ends, Canada was forced to take a single in the 8th, giving Sweden the hammer for the 9th, down by one.

Some bad luck, and some bad shots, by Sweden allowed Canada to crowd the house, and Sweden needed a to take back the button to salvage a point, but racked on one of her own to allow Canada a steal of two.

In the 10th, and up three points, all Team Jones needed to do was keep clearing out the Swedish rock until they ran them out of stones.  This is what winning a Gold medal looks like:

Running Sweden out of rocks...

So, then I walked back to the IBC and EVERYBODY was watching the Women's Hockey game between Canada and the USA (except me, since I was watching the Ladies Free Program... more on that later).

Thrilling end to Canada/USA Women's Hockey Game!
Fortunately, the Figure Skating ended in time for me to see much of the third period, including Canada's two goals in the last 3.5 minutes to force overtime.  Down by one, and with the goalie pulled, the Americans cleared the puck from their zone after a linesman interfered with the Canadian defenseman.  The puck slid all the way down the ice, and banged off the goal post.  That would have been the end for Canada if it had gone in. 

Sochi Goal Post has it's own Twitter account...

There is now a Twitter campaign to have the goal post named as Canada's flag bearer for the Closing Ceremonies!  Seconds later Marie-Philip Poulin scored to tie the game, and then scored again in overtime to give Canada the Gold medal.  What a fantastic game!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Shout Outs!

Non-Olympic post!

I just wanted to give a Shout Out to all the Canadian Synchronized Skating teams converging on Burnaby, BC this week for the Canadian National Synchronized Skating Championships.

NEXXICE Senior arrives in Vancouver!

I have friends on many teams at all levels, including Momentum (Newmarket/Unionville), Shiver (East Gwillimbury), Synergy (Leaside), Gold Ice (Brampton), Synchronicity (London), Les Supremes (Montreal) as well as, of course, NEXXICE (Burlington).

NEXXICE Senior 2013-2014

This is the first time that I've missed Nationals in years, and I just want to wish every team a great skate!  Hopefully, we will see Synchro in the Olympics in 2018 in South Korea (OK, this is an Olympic post!).

Caitie with NEXXICE at Winterfest!

This is Caitie's first year with NEXXICE Senior, and I am very proud of her, and wish her and the team all the best in Burnaby, and can't wait to go to Worlds in Italy this April!

My amazing wife, Susan!
My amazing and lovely wife Susan is heading out tomorrow to join the team in Burnaby, and my son Connor, on reading week from Bio-Med Engineering at U of Guelph, is already out there visiting a friend, and will be coming to watch.  I hope they find him another appropriate outfit to support the team!

Connor at Synchro Nationals last year!

I'm sure you'll all have a blast in Vancouver!  Take lots of pictures!

Finally, I also wanted to give a Shout Out to the Jones family in Waterloo, who are great friends, Olympic nuts, and avid readers of my blog.  Suzanne's mother, Gretta Jackson, turns 88 tomorrow!

Also, a Shout Out to the Legacy family in Brighton, Michigan. Susan's sister and her family, are also hugely supportive of my blog, and are a figure skating crazy family too!  My niece, Hannah's birthday is today!

So I'll end by wishing these two lovely ladies a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY!