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Olympic Journal


SOCHI

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From: Jason Wald
Subject: Sochi Day #1
Date: February 1, 2014 at 3:57 PM EST
Greetings All,Consider this installment one of my Sochi Adventures …I left my house this morning at 940 am for my 23 hour journey to Sochi. I fly Orlando to JFK to Moscow to Sochi arrive at 540 pm Sochi time which is 840 am on the East coast. For those keeping time at home, Sochi is 9 hours ahead of Florida, 12 ahead of LosAngeles.

Once I arrive at to this unique corner of the world, clear customs and get accreditations lined up I have an hour car ride into the mountains East of Sochi where I will be staying until the morning of February 22 …

For those included in this email you are going to learn more about Ski Jumping and the Nordic Combine than you could have ever hoped.

Needless to say I am filled with hundreds of incredible emotions.

The Olympics have been and will always be the single greatest sporting event in the world, I am still honored to be a part of it.

I hope everyone enjoys the next few weeks as much as I do …

I will checkin with everyone when I get settled into the Marriott in the mountains.

Until than I send my love to all …

Jason


From: Jason Wald
Subject: Sochi Day #2
Date: February 2, 2014 at 10:39:49 AM EST

Well I made it … I slept and read the last 23 hours and arrived at my hotel, the Marriott in the Mountains around 7:oo pm … The Hotel is so nice, all the producers, directors, APs, ADs and Announcers are staying here … Once again NBC is taking extraordinary care of us …
The security was very easy to get through and even though we all missed our connection from MOSCOW to SOCHI because we we late leaving JFK, my bags made. Quite frankly the trip is off to a great start.
On the 45 minute drive up the mountain there was some military and police presence but for the most part it was a beautiful journey. I
Tomorrow we drive back down to Sochi for meetings with NBC’s Executive Producers to talk specifics about our venue … We also have a 3-hour production seminar at the IBC which is always cool because we get to see the produced open and many of the features that will run during NBCs coverage.
I said it in China and nothing has changed, this is the biggest honor in our career to be part of these games … You will see right along with me.
Well, I suppose I should unpack and get ready for sleep … The Super Bowl starts here at 3:00 am … Go Packers!!!!
Love to all …
Jason


From: Jason Wald
Subject: Sochi Day #3
Date: February 3, 2014 at 3:57 PM EST

Greetings All,

Today was the first day on site and the venue is SPECTACULAR, it is called RusSki Gorki Jumping center and it has two different jumps depending on wind and gender of the competitor(s) … It is a VERY nauseating view, yet absolutely gorgeous …

The best way to get to the top, was the ski lift, quite a cold ride (even with the sun out).

My producer Elyse and I are beyond ready to get this event started … Elyse is a staff producer for NBC making her debut as a director in the Olympics, she is a great person, so organized and a future star of the network. I am glad to be working with her.

The safety and courtesy presented by the Russian people is overwhelmingly positive and I truly feel safe in my work environment. In fact, the only scary part of my Russian sojourn so far was standing at the top of the higher jump and look down …

Tomorrow we rehearse with the World Feed and will start seeing the jumpers train and hit the jump.

Due to safety concerns and the fact that ALL of our Ski Jumping is scheduled to be at night (we finish at 1 or 2 am here most nights) … Because of that our Helicopter went away and we have added a cable sky camera which is an incredible shot.

All in all, this has all the making of an another amazing Winter Olympics …

I send my love to everyone …

Das Vidanya,
Jason


From: Jason Wald
Subject: Sochi Day #4
Date: February 4, 2014 at 6:31 AM EST

Today is the first day we had a meeting with all our talent, it’s quite an enlightening experience to be around people who live and breath a sport that we see so infrequently. We have NY Giants PXP Guy hosting in his 8th Olympics, Bob Papa. Next to him is former Olympian and the most knowledgeable American when it comes to Ski Jumping, Jeff Hastings (who owns 3 Yellow Labs including one named Kula, who would have thought that. Finally our sideline reporter, one of the most talented guys in the business who can cover anything from Chess to the Super Bowl, Randy Moss (not the Football Player).

There are so many nuances that go along with Ski Jumping … These athletes are similar to jockeys in stature (Height & Weight), some even battle eating disorders year round in order to be eligible to compete …

Tonight s the first time we will see the jumpers on the Small Hill, today is “training” day for the Small Hill and each jumper will get, at most, 4 practice jumps … This hill is unique because every other men’s competition on the Men’s World Cup Circuit is run off the “Large Hill” …

The Smaller Hill or “Normal Hill” as it is technically referred to, starts at an altitude of 2480 Feet vs 2569 feet on the “Large Hill.” The average speed is 54 mph vs 59 mph but the most blatant difference between the Hills are the Average Jump Distance of 348 Feet as opposed to 459 Feet on the Bill Hill.

ALL Ski Jumping Competitions are competed at night under the lights … Giving us the opportunity to have our initial coverage Live on NBC Sports Network, we will typically be at least an hour live over their 12 hours of Coverage. On weekends our live hours will be on NBC during its daytime coverage. Each day our live show will be condensed to smaller segments to be re-purposed on NBC Primetime Show.

It will be a series of epic competitions loaded with LONG JUMPS and some crazy falls … Stay tuned …

More to come!

Love to all,
Jason


From: Jason Wald
Subject: Sochi Day #5
Date: February 5, 2014 at 8:16 AM EST

To All,

Yesterday we had test jumpers fly off the hill and these “Crash Test Dummies” took some spills. Tonite from 830 pm to 11 pm the Men will have the option of 4 practice jumps on the Normal. It will not be covered so my team will be watching from inside the venue … Photos will be coming tomorrow …

Great news out of our venue for you true OIympics enthusiasts, Nordic combined veteran Todd Lodwick was named the US Flag Bearer for Friday’s Opening Ceremony. Lodwick, will become the first US athlete to compete in 6 Winter Games and will lead Team USA in the Parade of Nations. Lodwick competes in Sochi, 20 years after he debuted as a 17-year old at the 1994 Lillehammer Games. His best finish was in 2002 (Salt Lake City) a 5th place. It was not until Vancouver that US finally medaled in Nordic Combine as Bill DeMong Won Gold on the Large Hill and Silver in the Team. He is here this week and one of the favorites here in Sochi … Stay tuned, NBC’s Nordic Combined Coverage starts Wednesday, February 12 across NBC’s family of Networks and my team with be producing and directing …

A little fun trivia for any Breaking Bad Fans … The open, tease and many of NBCs Primetime and Daytime features are voiced by Giancarlo Esposito (AKA – Gustavo Fring) … There is no LOS POLLOS HERMANOS here in Sochi either.

Giancarlo Esposito (AKA – Gustavo Fring)

We are 1 day away from Opening Ceremonies and 2 days away from our first show, we will be showing the Women’s Training as they make their Ski Jumping debut in the Olympics … That coverage will be followed by the Men’s Normal Hill Qualifying as the field gets cut from 70 to 50 jumpers, all coming from our venue!

It’s absolutely gorgeous at our venue, my crew is awesome and I am ready to get started (so I can get home to my family).

Love to all,
Jason


From: Jason Wald
Subject: Sochi Day #6
Date: February 6, 2014 at 7:35 AM EST

Hello All,

The weather here is glorious, to glorious in fact, the nights are cold but never getting to freezing. The forecast sees temperatures getting warmer this weekend, with rain coming Monday and Tuesday … But we all know that you cannot rely on the weather forecast.

Last night, we saw the men hit the Normal Hill, it was our only chance to walk RusSki Gorky Park and be a fan of this unique sport. Our Associate Producer and a really talented guy, Scott Karpen and I watched from every vantage point possible … No matter where you stand in this venue, it is mesmerizing that someone is courageous enough to launch themselves off a ski jump and fly over 100 meters … If you think this sport is gnarly on TV, try standing behind them as they take off and disappear over the lip of the jump. I stood on the top edge of the Normal Hill to take a couple photos and was ready to fall over from Vertigo … Meanwhile these athletes are just cruising down the stairs in their Ski Boats to get to the starting post, there is no railing, the steps are metal, one slip and there is nothing between them and the bottom of the jump.

These athletes are fearless!

One week into my Russian sojourn and we finally produced a show this morning … Though it will never air anywhere because it was only contingency programming in case we lose power at Opening Ceremonies, which will never happen …

Tomorrow we are finally on air for real. We are live on NBCSN from 6:00 am – 6:18 am on the East Coast for the Olympics debut of women’s ski jumping. Look for American, Sarah Hendrickson, an 18 year old superstar, to shine brightly … The reigning women’s world cup champion is a Gold Medal Favorite. The Women will always be jumping off the Normal Hill …

In the evening Men’s Normal Hill Individual qualifying will be on tape on NBC’s Daytime Show, we are slated for 4 segments for 24 minutes … This is an event that can be dominated by the Japanese, anyone cheering for the US, a top 30 finish would be a HUGE surprise, we are not expected to do much …

Due to a series of security issues our Helicopter Cameras have been eliminated from our venue but we were able to add the cable camera to our coverage, this is one of the most compelling looks to illustrate the extremeness of this sport.

One other technical note, I have named my history record machines MAX and SYDNEY … It’s nice to able to make such important decisions.

Today is the first day we finish early so I am going to see if I can catch up with the sleep …

Enjoy the Opening Ceremonies tonight and Let the Games begin … PLEASE!

Love to all,
Jason


From: Jason Wald
Subject: Sochi Day #7
Date: February 7, 2014 at 8:21 AM EST

Last night most of the Mountain Production Teams and Announcers watched the Opening Ceremonies in the Lobby Bar of the Marriott, Team USA received a huge roar but in typical classy fashion, that epitomizes NBC, EVERY ONE of my colleagues stood and cheered our hosts the Russian Ferderation …

Day #8 is air day #1 … This morning we kicked off our coverage with the Women’s Normal Hill Official Training … The first jumper ever is 18 year old Sarah Hendrickson the US Medal Favorite who suffered the same injury as Adrian Peterson did just over a year ago. It took AP almost a year to recover, Sarah is back competing for her sports greatest honor less than 6 months later … Just another reason to pull for her. She skipped here first practice run and was in the middle of the pack of Jumps #2 & #3 … No pun intended but she is going to have a serious uphill battle to contend for a medal.

Heavily favored Sarah Takanashi had the longest jump of the day at 98 Meters, she and her Japanese teammate Yuki Ito are quickly looking like they are podium contenders.

Tonight we have the men K-95 Men’s Qualifying where we whittle the field down from 70 to 50, we currently are slated for 4 segments in Saturday’s Daytime show .. Tomorrow we hand out our first medals in this discipline … Stay tuned.

On a weather note … It is Bluebird skies, crisp cool air and next to NO wind which suits me fine, my Florida bloom considers anything under 65 cold!

Love to all,
Jason


From: Jason Wald
Subject: Sochi Day #8
Date: February 8, 2014 at 7:08 AM EST

Greetings All,

Last night we had a GREAT start … Both shows ere fantastic and to our great delight three of the four US Men qualified … No American has finished in the top 10 since 1988, a trend that looks to continue here …

Today we hand out our first medals for the Men’s Normal Hill. We have two rounds of jumping as the field gets cut down to 30 after from 50 in the afternoon round with the evening competition for the medals. Our live coverage is on the NBC Sports Network EARLY Sunday morning East Coast Time and we re-air on tape on the NBC Daytime Show. Also there are some amazing features, stories and reports on NBCOlympics.com …

We even had a BIG BIFF, Slovenian Robert Kranjec, who had pre-qualified for the medal round because of World Cup Points, had tremendous distance but caught edge on his landing and rag dolled to the finish. He is fine but walked off a bit dazed and confused.

Four-time Gold Medalist, Simon Ammann qualified 5th and is trying to become the most decorated Ski Jumper of All Time … Noriaki Kasai of Japan os making his record 7th Olympics appearance at the Winter Games, at 41 Kasai qualified 3rd overall (70 jumpers) and is already talking about competing four years from now in South Korea.

In case you can’t tell, I am having the time of my life, my production team and crew are TREMENDOUS from top to bottom, the only way to make it better is to have my family here.

With love from Russia,
Jason


From: Jason Wald
Subject: Sochi Day #9
Date: February 9, 2014 at 7:24 AM EST

Hello From Sochi,

To give you perspective of how beautiful it is here, it’s 430 pm and 57 degrees out, currently it’s 52 in Orlando …

Last night, 2013 World Champion in the Large Hill. Kamil Stoch captured the Normal Hill Men’s Gold medal, the first individual gold medal for Poland in 42 years. Yet when he won, he dedicated the medal to his family who he has spent 100s of hours away from training for this moment, another tremendous Olympics moment. Rounding out the medals podium, Peter Prevc (PRAY-oots) of Slovenia won Silver and Anders Bardal of Norway took the Bronze. Four-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Simon Ammann finished a disappointing 17th. No American qualified for the final round.

Tonight, the women get their final look at the Normal Hill before tomorrow’s medal rounds with three practice jumps. Earlier today the Men Hit the Nordic Combined cross country course which is slowly melting away due to this abnormal tropical weather …

We are live for 6 segments today on the NBC Sports Network and Live coverage from our venue (and any of the other venue) can be streamed live nbcolympics.com … There is so much great stuff to look at there.

For the first time we had a late call and some of us cruised up the hill to a little Alpine Village called Rosa Khoutur (K is silent) … We did some shopping, shot plenty of photos and took in a little of the beauty that surrounds these Caucaus Mountains … These moments break up these VERY long days and provide great opportunities for team bonding!

The ratings are through the roof … Keep watching and Enjoy the Games …

I send my love to all,

Jason


From: Jason Wald
Subject: Sochi Day #10
Date: February 10, 2014 at 10:08 AM EST

To All,

I have reached the half way mark …

NEWS FLASH FROM RUSSKI GORKI JUMPING CENTER … Saturday’s Men’s Ski Jumping, which aired in the 1P-2:23P window on NBCSN, now ranks as the most watched event ever in the network’s history. The network averaged a 3.2 US Households and 5.535 million viewers in the time period. THANKS TO EVERYONE for watching. NBCSN broke Saturday’s network viewership records with its second day of 2014 Winter Olympics coverage, posting its best ever performance in the 6A-2:23P day part with 2.887 million average viewers, +12% from Saturday’s 6A-2:30P window (2.585 million average viewers).

Last night we got what we expected from the US Women’s Ski Jumping Team during the training sessions, a lot of mediocrity. Our biggest hope for a Gold, Sara Hendrickson, is still a bit weak from her major surgery last August. She suffered the same exact injury that Adrian Peterson did 2 years ago, known as the triple threat, torn ACL, torn MCL and torn meniscus. Even though her doctors have cleared her, she claims to be a mentally not ready … But that may change, late last night she was surprised by her brother who flew in to Sochi from Park City, UT to cheer her on. Do you believe in Miracles …

Sarah and the other 28 competitors will all be chasing 17-year old Sara Takanashi of Japan, who finished 1st – 2nd – 1st in the three training jumps last night … Takanashi’s mayor and many of her neighbors from the small town of Kamikawa, Japan have made their way to Sochi to support her … Those who remained at home have painted the city pink in her honor and with HEAVY HOPES of Gold.

Either way, tonight we hand out the first medals ever in Women’s Ski Jumping … Watch LIVE on NBC Sports Network from around 12 noon to 1 pm/et in the US and we re-air on tape on NBC Primetime …

I keep getting emails about all the things you are reading at home about Sochi … All I can say, do not judge a nation of people through the eyes of our media … Remember the worst Olympics in the last 20 years (and many will say ever) per the athletes and us in TV was in Atlanta. There was traffic, horrible security, nasty venue/dirty venues and a bombing. Russia is a nation of prideful people who have been amazing hosts … No matter what happens do not believe all you read from those who are not part of this incredible experience …

Enjoy the games … I know I am …

Love to all,
Jason


From: Jason Wald
Subject: Sochi Day #11
Date: February 11, 2014 at 7:24 AM EST

Greetings All,

The term, “that’s why they play them” applies perfectly to the first ever Women’s Ski Jump Competition in women’s history. Everyone expected Sara Takanashi of Japan to run away with the competition, her town was painted pink in her honor yet she did not even Medal. It came down to the last jump of the competition, German Carina Vogt, who had NEVER won a World Cup Ski Jumping event pulled off a HUGE upset nailing her final jump and walking away with gold. Rounding out the Women’s medals last night, Austria’s Irina Iraschko-Stolz took the silver and Coline Mattel of France earned the Bronze.

Today, we hand out medals for the Individual Gunderson Nordic Combine 10K. This discipline combines the thrill and speed of Ski Jumping with the power and endurance of Cross Country Skiing … They start today off the normal hill and jump for distance. The competitors get re-seeded for the Cross Country 10K by distance. The longest jump goes first off and our followed in order … For each meter (or % of a meter) a competitor is behind the longest jumper is equal to (:04) … So if a competitor jumps 10 meters less than the leader he starts :40 after the leader hits the Cross Country Track …

In Vancouver, the US won 4 medals in Nordic Combined, its first medals ever in the sport. No American is expected to contend individually in these games … Rumor has it that, US Flag Bearer, Todd Lodwick, who is competing in his 6th Olympics is a scratch today.

It should be an exciting event … The Ski Jumping portion is on live from 4:35 am for an hour on NBC Sports Network and re-airing in the Daytime Show. The Cross Country will be Live to Tape, also on the NBC Daytime Show. Remember everything can be seen LIVE on NBColympics.com a great source for everything Sochi.

Tomorrow is my first “dark day” … A bunch of us are going down to Adler to watch … Curling (USA vs GBR); Men’s Hockey (USA vs Slovenia), along with short and long track speed skating. It’s nice to be a fan for a day.

Just as important as anything going on in these games … My Windy Ridge Silver Hawks play the oversized giants of Carver Middle School. Good Luck boys, your biggest fan is pulling for you 5000 miles away … Take it to the hole Max!!!! I Love my Silver Hawks.

Love to all,
Jason


From: Jason Wald
Subject: Sochi Day #12
Date: February 12, 2014 at 7:24 AM EST

Greetings from Sunny Sochi,

Today is truly Lucky Day #13 for myself and my crew, our venue is dark and we are off to the Coastal Cluster of venues on the Black Sea to watch Curling (USA vs GBR, Men’s Hockey (USA vs Slovokia – USA Starting Goalie is Jonathan Quick from the LA Kings), Speed Skating (long and Short Track) and some medals ceremonies … We are also heading over to the main IBC to visit many of our colleagues who take all of our venue feeds and assimilate them into the various network shows.

Yesterday was my first glimpse at the Nordic Combine event and it was quite exciting … It was also my first time working with the great Al Trautwig who is absolutely one of the best I have ever been around, he has a great sense for TV excitement and uses few words to paint a vivid story.

As for the event itself, Six-time Olympian Todd Lodwick pulled out of the event prior to the cross-country portion in order to rest his shoulder before the remaining two events, particularly the team event on Thursday, Feb.20, which will be the Americans’ best chance at a nordic combined medal. By competing in the ski jump portion of the individual normal hill, Lodwick officially became the first American athlete to compete at six Winter Games. Lodwick could not complete the event but he left us with our best TV moment yet. He “Video Bombed” our reporter Randy Moss in what is turning out to be one of the best Viral Moments of this Olympics or any thus far … To see it go to nbcolympics.com, it’s halfway down the home page, look for this photo:
In case you are wondering, here are the Normal Hill Nordic Combine Final Results:

Gold – Eric Frenzel (FREN-zell) (GER)
Silver – Akito Watabe (ah-key-toe wah-tah-bee) (JPN)
Bronze – Magnus Krog (NOR)

U.S. finishes:
24th – Bill Demong
26th – Bryan Fletcher
33rd – Taylor Fletcher
DNF: Todd Lodwick
This is the Nordic Combine Track

Keep watching the games NBC Sports Network and the website are doing fantastic.

Love to all,
Jason


From: Jason Wald
Subject: Sochi Day #13
Date: February 13, 2014 at 7:36 AM EST

Greetings from Sochi and the Warm Winter Games, where the whether in the mountains is a balmy 61 and nearly 70 at the black sea venues.

Most of us have earned the right to be a part of these games due to our experience in the Sports TV Production industry. Along with that experience comes an inherent love for sports and competition, the apex of which is the Olympics. Yesterday, nine of us from Ski Jumping, aptly named “Team Griswald,” were all out sports fans and treated to what many would consider the perfect day.

It started with a bus ride that brought us to the main IBC and our first Starbucks Coffee in weeks … After a good breakfast we headed into Olympic Park to see the torch and make our way to Curling … After 8 minutes of watching we were off to short track speed sk