[If So, I’ve Got a Gold Medal Today]
Can you believe the Atlanta Olympic Games were held 20 years ago? I guess I can’t deny the length of time any longer. My previous agency won the bid to design and produce the daily newspaper for the athletes, called The Daily Olympian. As the art director, I was responsible for overseeing the design team, driving the layout and keeping us on schedule while photographers brought in amazing images from all over town. Meanwhile, the stable of writers worked feverishly with the editors to provide engaging stories of each day’s events. The pace was brutal, with little room for error; but it was fun, rewarding and unforgettable.
During those 35 straight 12 – 18 hour days, I learned a few things about myself… and life in general, that you may find entertaining. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. A Mac in a PC Box is still a Mac
The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) requested our order for the equipment we needed to publish the Daily Olympian every day. We would be producing it 100% on computers, which was relatively revolutionary at the time . When ACOG saw that we wanted Macintosh Computers to do the layout for the the Daily Olympian, they panicked a little — IBM was the sponsor for the Games. So, they directed us to accomplish our task on IBM PCs! Keep in mind, this was 1996, and Quark Xpress on a PC was just not a reliable option (although better than PageMaker!). So after some serious convincing, ACOG relented and said that we could use Macs, but put them in IBM PC “boxes” – to prevent a sponsor walking through the newsroom and seeing an Apple Computer logo anywhere. We considered that, and ended up determining that even just the screen view would give it away, and that it probably made the most sense to just keep the Macs out of sight. Whew… thank you, Lord! We got approval to use the Macs, but it felt like we were real “renegades.
2. I used to drive as fast as the Internet.My shift began around noon and ended roughly 12 hours later, as the last file was being transmitted via modem to the web printer in Stone Mountain. That process took about 45 minutes per spread. I lived in Lilburn at the time; so about 12:30 a.m., I would leave the Inforum building downtown, with a hard copy print out, and four SyQuest disks (remember those?). I would arrive at the print company 30 minutes later, and we would wait 15 – 20 minutes for everything to come through the internet! They output film, pulled proofs and plates and did a print run of 30,000 or so. As I drove in my convertible, I often imagined those files being transmitted through the cables above my head. Man, that was fast!
3. What happens when a truck hits a building?
Almost everyone has a story of the night that bomb went off at Centennial Olympic Park. The newsroom was on the top floor in the building across the street! I was handing my coworker Rich a marked-up copy of the Daily Olympian, and my arm was resting across the top of the cubicle wall. Suddenly the whole building shook. For a second I thought that a semi truck must have hit one of the building supports in the loading dock. Rich and I ran out into the atrium, and saw a couple of security guards running toward an exit. We went up on the roof, and heard sirens as we watched people running every direction like ants on the streets below. There were areas where large groups congregated; and it took a few moments to realize they were surrounding the injured, trying to help them as hordes ran past, exiting the park. We took a few pictures (we were, after all a newspaper), and then Rich and I were questioned, and the building was locked down until almost 5 a.m. The next day, the “authorities” confiscated our film, and went through the computer hard drives to make sure we had NO photos of the incident. It was pretty spooky. On to lighter stuff…
4. I can drink a lot of Coke when it’s free…
Coca-Cola was a sponsor, and throughout the ACOG headquarters there were soda fountains that only required a swipe of your badge to get a free Coke product. Enough said…
5. French is 20% longer than English.
French is the official language of the Olympic Games. So every article, cut line and date had to be written, proofed and laid out in both English and French. The trick was making sure the layout worked with French adding an extra column. Those outspoken French! Hmpfff!
6. The opening ceremonies are cool, even without the athletes attending.
One of my favorite memories was going to the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremonies. It gave the reporters and photographers a trial run to see where they would be able to observe and take pictures, as well as giving the performers an opportunity to experience the feeling of a full stadium before the actual ceremony. It was incredible. As the flag bearers walked in, each country’s name was announced. All that was missing were the athletes. Luckily, we enjoyed the pictures from the real ceremony the following night as they came through the newsroom for the inaugural edition of the Daily Olympian.
All in all, it was a tremendous experience — one of the most demanding and stressful projects I have ever worked on, as well as one of the most rewarding.
If you have Olympic memories, please share them!