Giant on the move
To bring you the stunning choreography of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, Reuters photographers and photo editors do a complex dance of their own — and then a brutal Darwinian whittling down to select just the best and most iconic images to send to subscribers.The team shot a staggering 18,000 frames during the four hours of the ceremony. Only about 850 shots made it to the “wire” — our file of photos to customers. That’s just five percent. Less than a 10th of those were selected for our web slideshow and a typical newspaper subscriber might only print one two or three shots from the selection.
In a brutally competitive world like this, nothing can be left to chance.
One of our most experienced Olympic photographers and editors, Gary Hershorn, attended rehearsals of the opening ceremony in order to plot out key moments that simply had to be captured.
That advanced planning helped the team of 12 photographers in the stadium, nine immediately outside and six in Tiananmen Square and on the Great Wall get ready to tell the story in images through a mixture of bread-and-butter set-up shots and imaginative compositions that matched the dreamy romance of the show itself.
The 12 in the stadium had set positions from the roof catwalk down to the stage and scattered all around the Bird’s Nest. Four were directly cabled into the editors’ computer system (and, in fact, we had two senior editors, including the global head Tom Szlukovenyi, in the stadium itself to do on-the-scene selection of the key shots); the rest sent their computer disks to the editors via runners.The gargantuan task of editing the file was split between the editors in the venue, six editors and 15 processors in the main press centre and a further specialist desk in Paris that selected photographs of VIPs for magazine use.
I’ve been deafened by the drums, astounded by the aerial acrobatics and blinded by the cornea-carving light show. The torch is lit in its giant cauldron hanging from the lip of the Bird’s Nest stadium and the 2008 Olympic Games have begun.
But what is it I’ve sat through for hours on a steamy Beijing evening? Was it mass-participation theatre, a pseudo-religious sanctification of sport, a kitsch ‘son et lumiere’ mangling of traditional Chinese art forms? A pyrotechnics-fuelled rock ballet? A modernised courtly pageant or a magnified pantomime of over-produced gimcrackery? The best of Cirque du Soleil-style wizardry or high camp showbiz?
I hesitated before posting this as for a variety of reasons we had very little time and a very dodgy mic to record our first Reuters podcast from the Beijing Games.
Still, in the spirit of blogging (and full disclosure) I thought I’d give you a chance to hear our first stab it it. I’m joined by my fellow reporters Simon Evans, Ossian Shine and Julian Linden for a chat abut opening ceremonies, the first medal events and the Michael Phelps.
If there was an Olympic gold medal for whingeing then Dunga, coach of the Brazilian soccer team, would be among the early contenders.
The 1994 World Cup winning captain, who as a player was an example of resilience and dedication to the cause, is not a happy camper.
I’m at the Olympics in my role as Editor-in-Chief — that means I’m doing some journalism and some “representational” work as the senior person from Reuters News and Thomson Reuters in Beijing for the Games.
In the representational role, I was invited to Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state banquet along with a score of other media leaders — among them News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch, the BBC’s Mark Thompson, AP’s Tom Curley, Russia’s Rianovosti’s Chief Editor Svetlana Mironyuk and Dr. Dinh The Huynh, member of Vietnam’s Communist Party Central Committee and Editor-in-Chief of the Nhan Dan newspaper.
18 – number of days of competition – Aug. 6-7 and 9-24.
302 – medal events
10,708 – athletes taking part
21,600 – media accredited to the Games
2,924 – judges and referees
70,000 – Olympic Games volunteers
91,000 – seats in the “Bird’s Nest” stadium
31 – venues in Beijing
6 – venues outside Beijing (Hong Kong, Qingdao, Tianjin, Shenyang, Shanghai, Qinhuangdao)
7,000,000 – tickets sold
5,000 yuan – ticket for opening ceremony ($661.4)
30 yuan – ticket for softball preliminaries ($3.97)
137,000 km – distance covered by pre-Games torch relay
24.9 Celsius – average temperature in Beijing in August
159.7 mm – average rainfall in Beijing in August
Reuters is putting out a ton of stats and factbox material as well as scores of stories per day. If you haven’t already, please check out our Olympics Website here.
NOTE: This post was updated with new information at 0837 GMT on August 8.
The big day has finally arrived. Seven years on from the decision to award Beijing the 2008 Summer Olympics the Games are set to begin with a “big bang” at the opening ceremony at the Bird’s Nest.
I’ve only been in Beijing a week so I thought I’d ask a couple of colleagues who live here in the Chinese capital to tell us how they feel now the waiting is (almost) over.
They walked for hundreds of miles, many dying on the way of starvation and illness. Others were eaten by lions. But many survived, ending up in refugee camps in the near-desert plains of northern Kenya.
Most blogs and reporter diaries from the Olympics start the same way. Your correspondent arrives in Beijing, jet-lagged but wide-eyed nonetheless, and waxes grateful about the helpful volunteers at the airport, the comfy shuttle bus to the media village and the smiling welcome from just about everyone, everywhere. And hey – even the smog isn’t as bad as everyone makes out.
Disillusion sets in a few days later, as they find access to athletes is incredibly hard to come by, you still can’t sleep properly and walking 400 metres in the city is enough to leave you with stinging eyes, a soaking shirt and an irritating cough. Damn that smog!