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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2004-08-24

Athens 2004: A Photographer's Blog. Part 2
San Jose Mercury News staff photographer Nhat V. Meyer is in Athens, Greece covering his first Olympic Games

By Nhat V. Meyer, San Jose Mercury News

Photo by Nhat V. Meyer / San Jose Mercury News

Photo by Nhat V. Meyer / San Jose Mercury News

USA's Vicente Escobedo, right, fights Columbia's Jose David Mosquera Mosquera (cq), left, in round 1 for the Light 60 kg division at Peristeri Olympic Boxing Hall for the 2004 Olympics in Athens on Monday, August 16, 2004.
Editors note: SportsShooter.com member and San Jose Mercury News staff photographer Nhat V. Meyer is in Athens, Greece covering his first Olympic Games for KRT (Knight Ridder Tribune) and the Mercury News. KRT is a wire service - there are seven others there from KRT papers: The Charlotte Observer, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Kansas City Star, Miami Herald, Philadelphia Enquirer, Contra Costa Times, and the Detroit Free Press.

Following are some excerpts from his blog that he is updating daily for family and friends about his experiences in Athens.

Part Two:


Day 3
August 16, 2004

Got the wrath of two NBC folks for stepping about a foot into their territory at boxing. I wasn't standing in front a TV camera or blocking anyone's view or anything like that I just happened to be less than a foot beyond an imaginary line that sparked their ire. Two broadcast people came and told me to move and when I moved 12 inches to my right (to non TV land) they then proceed to tell me to move from that area even though I was allowed to stand there. One guy even tried one of those hands in the lens "stop shooting" poses. Ridiculous!

Today was a lot like MXC (most extreme challenge) on Spike TV (if you haven't seen it you should check it out it's hilarious); I climbed up ladders like Mario in Donkey Kong, navigated a narrow catwalk that looked like a Ms. PacMan board, hurdled the dreaded television snake-like cords strewn-about like the dude from Pitfall, and argued with the evil empire that is network television (I can't think of any retro game that applies to this one).

Branco (the photo manager at boxing) helped me get into the catwalk and even helped me focus the camera by running down to the center of the boxing ring so I could get a correct focus! My remote actually worked too so I was happy about that, they can be very temperamental, like a Ms. PacMan joystick.

It was awesome, at one point he went up to a TV dude and told him that he was surprised at how cheap the equipment they are using looks. He said, in his thick Eastern European accent, "look, you are my friend, but your equipment looks like it comes from Albania." The guy stormed off all pissed off while Branco just cracked himself up laughing.

I'm starting to get used to all the techno/dance music they seem to blast, every where at every time. There so hip here. DJ Tiesto, he's like Moby but more swanky, was the DJ for the opening ceremonies, he is quite a bit of a celebrity as many athletes stopped by his booth to have their picture taken in front of him.

I only worked 12 hours today. I actually got 8 hours of sleep! Maybe I'm not being a go-getter enough and should have woken up early and done something... but oh well.

Shooting archery tomorrow in the old stadium should be neat followed by some badminton. I'll get plenty of sleep tonight - probably 5 hours.




Day 4
August 17, 2004

Photo by Nhat V. Meyer / San Jose Mercury News

Photo by Nhat V. Meyer / San Jose Mercury News

Fans of Greece's Evangelia Psarra react after she scored a 10 on her final arrow to beat Turkey's Zekiye Keskin Satir by two points during the 1/16 round for Women's archery at Panathinaiko Stadium for the 2004 Olympics in Athens on August 17, 2004.
Spent the morning at archery at Panathinaiko Stadium, its the site where the modern Olympic games were reborn, lots of history. We visited it briefly when on our family trip four years ago. Back then we only walked on the grounds so today I was able to venture up in the stands and just hang out, it was nice.

Covering archery is interesting, their bows are so gigantic that if you try and include the bow and the person the picture just becomes way to loose. so you have to shoot pretty tight. I was shooting with a 400mm f2.8 with a 2x and a 1.4x - yes that's right I piggy-backed the 1.4x onto the 2x. Some technical talk: when you do that you have to really give yourself some extra depth of field and it has be really bright because to get anything even somewhat in focus you gotta be shooting at bare minimum f8.

This is the first time I shot it, but it's exactly like baseball - ok not really - but there is a similarity. In baseball when shooting the batter, for example, when shooting Barry Bonds going for a home run, one tries to get a picture of BoB - Ball on Bat - to get this you have to have good timing, a fast motor drive and a lot of luck - just think about how long a ball stays in the frame - it's traveling at 80 to 90 mph and the bat speed is super fast too.

In baseball there are some clues - some players have characteristic twitches right before swinging the bat so you can sort of time your self off of those. Well in archery it seems that you're supposed to get AiF - Arrow in Flight - but to do this is about 10x as difficult as baseball. For one they try and stand as still as possible (obviously) so there is no clue as to when they are going to actually let the arrow fly. So you gotta guess and just start to let the motor-drive go, this burns a ton of digital card space and there are two archers alternating so there isn't really any time to delete. I got one AiF. And let me tell you I tried for about a solid hour to get it.

Later I headed back to the MPC because I had to pick up tickets to the shot put event. Talk about pressure, only two photo passes were made available for US media and they were given out in a lottery because it is going to be in Olympia. Apparently KRT and the LA Times were the only two to receive them. And I happened to be chosen as the KRT person to go... so I leave Wednesday morning at 2:30 a.m. for the 4 hour trip up there. Prelims for the Women are at 8:30 a.m. and the Men at 10 a.m. Then the finals start up at about 3:00 for Women and 5:30 for the Men. It should be hot but cool to be there and hopefully we'll have good access to move around.

I heard a rumor that they are going to try to get everyone to wear white robes... that'll be interesting! Gotta try and sleep for an hour or two...




Day 5
August 18, 2004


Photo by Nhat V. Meyer / San Jose Mercury News

Photo by Nhat V. Meyer / San Jose Mercury News

Spectators watch the Men's Shot Put at Ancient Stadium in Olympia on Tuesday, August 18, 2004.
I'm pretty sure that maps are an illegal item here. At the very least they are frowned upon. You'd think that if you were driving a large busload of people four plus hours you'd figure out where you were going once you got there. No such luck as we drove around in circles when we arrived at Olympia. The driver ended up dropping us off where all the spectators entered. So then the ushers had us change lanes three different times in an attempt to get us through security. It was a bit frustrating to say the least and that frustration didn't really change once we got into the venue. On the plus side we did stop at McDonalds twice on the way up there (can you hear my sarcasm?), I was trying to sleep so I didn't get off the bus.

Well the rumors of athletes wearing togas and maybe even making us wear togas were greatly exaggerated; I wonder where those rumors even started. And the claim that we were getting an "exclusive" was also greatly exaggerated, what we really got was an exclusive bus ride to Olympia, but anyone could attend and photograph the event as long as they made their way up there. Supposedly only the LA Times and KRT were the only extra US papers invited, but I saw that the Chicago Tribune and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune made the 200 mile journey West of Athens. They had to drive themselves up, they didn't have a pass to get in, but once they purchased a ticket and were inside the venue they were treated like the rest of us.

We were constantly being yelled at because no one told us where we could go. At many of the venues the photo team members only know where we can't go, what we can't do, but can't offer any help or suggestions as where the appropriate place is. Of course that isn't always the case, but that was certainly the case today.

Having said all that, it was really cool to be there and there were a ton of people there sitting festival style on the grass. The first Olympics were held on that very field in 776 B.C.! Dust was everywhere, I felt really grimy. It was brutally hot in the sun too. Photographically it was tough because they really wanted to see "the ruins and athletes" in the same picture. The field is basically just a dirt field surrounded on all four sides by small grassy hills, all the ruins are on the other side of the North hill (I think it was north). A small arch marks the entrance in-between the stadium and ruins.

Women's Shot Put was first followed by Men's Shot Put. Both female US athletes failed to qualify while two of the three men did qualify for the finals. There was about a five hour "break" - and I use the word break loosely - between the qualifying and the finals. There was another shuttle to get to the small media center during the break so that I could scan and transmit. I'm sure if you heard about the Men's final about how Adam Nelson missed getting a gold medal. It was really a shame, he basically only made one valid throw, his first one, and the last five were fouls. Most of the crowd was voting against him and when he came out for this last throw there were quite a few boos. I hear his last throw would have won the competition if he hadn't stepped out.

I'm not even going to tell you what I had for dinner cause my Mom would be most displeased. Let's just say it consisted of a caffeinated drink and some bbq potatoes (chips). They didn't give us any options really, it was quite annoying. Lunch was a plate with two pieces of bread, two pieces of ham, two pieces of cheese, two small dogs (hot dogs) and some weird white stuff which I'm theorizing was some sort of potato salad. That was 5 Euro - or about $6.50.

After scanning I had to wait for two hours for the bus to leave. Once that bus left I was gone. Woke up as we were pulling into the MPC (main press center), unfortunately I woke up too quickly and left my Dreamworks hat on the bus, I had been using it as a pillow. :( I realized right after I got off but the driver had already taken off.

Today was brutal. I worked a solid 26 hours which included 9 hours on a bus. Left my room at 1:30 a.m. and got back about 3:30 a.m. I'm still grateful for the experience though.




Day 6
August 19, 2004

Photo by Nhat V. Meyer / San Jose Mercury News

Photo by Nhat V. Meyer / San Jose Mercury News

"Me with really bad hat hair at the Ancient Stadium in Olympia during the latter half of my 26 hour work day." - Nhat V. Meyer on August 18, 2004.
Break? I don't need no stinking break!

They let me sleep in, I got a solid 7 hours of sleep last night before having to get up to go to the athletes village to find a diver for a portrait. I think I nearly got bowled over by Venus Williams. I wasn't allowed on the actual grounds of the athletes village because one has to call a day in advance and get on a list. I was to meet Justin Dumais, a diver who competes in synchro diving with his younger brother. They won NCAA nationals in while at Univ. of Texas. Unfortunately his brother's leg buckled during their competition and they ended up in sixth place. USA, China and Russia were favored to medal and none of them did. Greece won gold.

He seemed a bit bitter. On one hand he looks at the Olympics as just another meet, while on the other he said it was cool to be able to call himself an Olympian. The backgrounds near the athletes village sucked so he was nice enough to spend a couple hours and head over to the diving area with me. He got me on the floor (just practice today). I got off five frames of him before I got kicked off. The picture was pretty average, but I'm using the excuse that I was still a bit groggy from yesterday.

The hook about him is that he applied to the South Carolina Air National Guard as an elite fighter pilot. He says he hopes to never have a "real job" - Amen to that! He seemed to be a cool guy, about my height, blond dude. For some reason I thought pilots had to be tall? He'll be trained to fly an F-16.

After the portrait I walked back to Selete (I had left my laptop and long lens in my room so I wouldn't have to carry it around), it was only a 15 minute walk. I was able to transmit and then catch the three buses in order to get to the Tennis venue. I ended up covering five different matches! And stayed there until about 1:30 a.m.

Ever since I've been in Athens I've been smoking up a storm, even though I haven't lit up a cigarette. Everyone seems to smoke here, I mean everyone, if they aren't smoking then there's the stench of stale smoke on them.

I'm getting used to not getting used to anything. Everything is different day-to-day even though logic would dictate that it would be the same. Keeps you on your toes though.




Day 7
August 20, 2004

Photo by Nhat V. Meyer / San Jose Mercury News

Photo by Nhat V. Meyer / San Jose Mercury News

USA's Adam Nelson reacts towards the crowd after his first and what would be his silver medal throw for the Men's Shot Put finals at the Ancient Stadium in Olympia on Wednesday, August 18, 2004.
We're at just about our halfway mark and I'm seeing that this next week is going to be the tough one.

So far most of us have been covering preliminary events and qualifying events, they are meaningful but no where near as important as covering medal events. So everything is going to be notched up a bit in the next couple of days. Should be interesting.

The Track & Field beast has reared it's ugly head. I like covering Track and Field, but not when I'm restricted to the outer skirts of the track. We can't shoot the hammer throw or the discus at all, it's just not possible, it's too far away. I heard some of the Japanese media had the 1200mm f5.6 lens out there with a converter and they were still too far away!

It's actually really depressing to cover track because we just can't go anywhere. As with all the venues the "pool" photographer has free reign. If it's a spot you want to go to, most likely it's a pool spot. If that's the safest angle - pool spot. Clear view, pool spot. Good background, pool spot. You get the point. Us normal folks get the scraps, holding our breath that one of those pool photographers doesn't stand in front of you or a TV guy or a sound guy or a referee, etc...

Pool spots typically go to the larger organizations - AP, Getty, Reuters, etc. That's the way the ball bounces in the big city. But I just have to overcome those things and hope the PhotoGods treat me well. :)

I had a huge lunch today two entrees, I guess to make up for the last couple of days. I had a bbq chicken breast filet and beef in tomato sauce and rice plus a coke and a poweraid. It was good. We have a nice grill/cafe here at the media village that serves food late.

Yesterday was the first time I repeated an event, tennis. Tennis is fun to cover cause there are plenty of photo spots and some of the matches, depending on the time, have great light. There are something like 36 different events, I think the most going on at one time is in the mid-20s, so with just eight of us we could easily do a different event every day.

They gave me the morning/afternoon off (my one and only 1/2 day) so I did laundry in the free machines downstairs, relaxed and cleaned my room which had become quite out of control.

Tomorrow I gotta get up early, probably 6:30 and head to the rowing center about an hour bus ride away... then in the evening I have Track & Field again. Probably be an 18-20 hour day... oh boy...

Stay tuned for part 3...

Related Links:
Nhat V. Meyer's member page
Athens 2004: A Photographer's Blog. Part 1
Athens 2004: A Photographer's Blog. Part 3
Athens 2004: A Photographer's Blog. Part 4

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