We’re thrilled to have Olly Hogben, Olympic Broadcasting Service commentator, back on the show this week! We talk about his experiences commentating at Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022, and what makes the Olympics so special.
Since we’re talking broadcasting, Alison took a look at NBC’s coverage of Seoul 1998 for our history moment. It’s pretty horrifying–and Mary Carillo stories aren’t even a thing yet. Here’s an example of one evening, with Bryant Gumbel talking over the beginning of this swimming race (which features TKFLASTANI John Naber as a color commentator!):
Alison also talks about the aftermath of this boxing match:
In our visit to TKFLASTAN, we have news from:
- NGB CEO Phil Andrews
- The Magnificent Seven – find the soundtrack on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, and anywhere else you stream music
- Sailors Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea
- Boccia player Alison Levine
- Beach volleyball player Kelly Cheng
In Paris 2024 news, the Organizing Committee has amassed a giant flotilla for the Opening Ceremony on the Seine River, tickets for phase two of the ticket sale could be hard to come by, we now know when Paralympic tickets will go on sale, and how hard it could be to get an Airbnb. We’ve got the details!
Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!
Photo courtesy of Olly Hogben.
Note: This is an uncorrected machine-generated transcript. It contains errors. Please do not quote from the transcript; use the audio file as the record of note.
Olly Hogben Returns (Episode 284)
[00:00:00] Alison: The greatest festival of our contemporary society, the Olympic Games is about to begin. This is gonna be close. Oh, they’re all completely gas.
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. But that is an Olympic champion.
[00:00:26] Jill: Ready? Hello, and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast four fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. If you love the games, we are the show for you. Each week we share stories from the athletes and people behind the scenes to help you have more fun watching the games.
I am your host, Jill Jarris, joined as always by my lovely co-host, Alison Brown. Alison, hello. How are you? I don’t have to call you Ethel this week,
[00:00:50] Alison: right? You do not have to call me Ethel this week. Woo. But. The broadcasting gods got their revenge on me. I made fun of Bob Costas your imaginary boyfriend and his pinkeye moment back at 2014 at the Sochi Winter Olympics, and I promptly got a sinus eye connecting infection, which meant lots of interesting things were coming out of my eyes and swelling and discharge.
So, Bob Costas, I apologize. For making fun of you. Please make this stop.
[00:01:25] Jill: Well, I do hope it gets better and let that be. Listen, you can’t say anything bad about Mike Trico.
[00:01:31] Alison: Oh, never.
[00:01:34] Jill: Not my new boyfriend.
[00:01:35] Alison: My hair will fall out.
I actually adored the, and, and we talked about this both during Beijing and Tokyo. I was very impressed with Mike Tirico’s job. He
[00:01:46] Jill: did. He stepped into the role. I mean though Bob Con left really big shoes to fill here at N B C and Mike Terico really filled them well. He has done just an amazing job, just it’s been seamless, changing and host, and we all, and no matter what country you’re in, you have that announcer who’s been doing the Olympics for.
Decades, and that’s your person. And when they leave, it’s, it can be shocking. And Mike Terico, to his credit, did not make that a hard transition at all. So, Pass off to you, Mike.
Olly Hogben Interview
[00:02:18] Jill: Speaking of commentators, we are back today with O V S commentator Ali Homan. This time we are talking about his experiences covering the real Olympics, the Tokyo Olympics, and the Paralympics in Tokyo, as well as the Beijing Olympics.
Take a, listen.
[00:02:37] Alison: Now for Tokyo and Beijing. . Yes. . Very different situation. So what was your experience? Let’s start with Tokyo.
[00:02:46] Olly Hogben: Well, I’ve gotta take my hat off to Japan for how it did that games, because I think it was absolutely remarkable.
I just to experience it on a minute, day-to-day level, every tiny, I mean, just organizing and Olympic games is gotta be one of the single hardest things to do anyway. And then to do it with these unique circumstances. I think what struck me was the will to do it was the will to, to make it happen.
The local staff were unbelievable in Tokyo, the friendliness, the c I mean j Japan’s a a second home to me. It’s the first place I lived as an adult anyway after leaving school. So I very much think of it as a, the place I grew up. And Tokyo is a very special city to me, so I, I will have a naturally a, a, a bias towards it anyway.
But I remember arriving at the hotel and we all knew that we were going to be in this hotel for 14 days without being able to, to actually even just step outside other than to go in the bus. And it was clear that the hotel staff were going to do everything they possibly could to stop us going mad , you know, that they were so kind and, caring.
And that was. Overwhelming feeling. I got, I was there for 53 days for the Olympics and, and Paralympics. And I’ll never forget, I was one of the lucky people. I actually went to the opening ceremony. I was one of probably what felt like about half a dozen spectators because the International Gymnastics Federation had given me one of their literally one of their two tickets to, go and watch it.
And I remember arriving on the buses taking people, taking the media to the ceremony, and the streets were lined with people holding up banners saying, welcome to Japan. We’re so happy to see you. Things like that. It was, it was absolutely lovely. It was a totally different Olympics from the games I thought it was going to be, but I think it’s one of the greatest triumphs.
Of willpower and organization in the history of the Olympics to have made it happen? Yeah. Beijing was a different experience because I was mainly in the venue in one [00:05:00] venue. So it was, I very rarely went to the, the international Broadcast Center in the main Olympic Park. It was literally hotel venue, hotel venue, hotel venue.
And that’s where your team of people becomes essential. Um I had a really great crew of people I was working with and we just, we got on fabulously. and there was just an awful lot of laughter and that’s, kind of the most important thing. And, and, and I’ll just say one last thing actually, which is I think this is really important to say as somebody who’s worked on these games, I was lucky, firstly because I was still alive and I’ve always taken that approach with anything to do with the pandemic.
Any restriction to my movement, any. Daily testing where you get the, the thing jabbed in your nose and you know, you, your eyes start watering. And you just stop and you think, yeah, but I’m alive. I’m alive and I’m still working and I’m at the Olympic Games and there is nothing you can do to me that is going to make me forget that I’m in a privileged position.
[00:06:03] Alison: So first time doing figure skating, not an easy sport to announce and commentate and follow lot of complications. So what was that like?
[00:06:11] Olly Hogben: Do you know? I absolutely adored it. I just loved it so much. It was obviously no accident that I was given it because nothing’s ever an accident with o B s.
you don’t give people sports if you don’t think they can handle them. And I was really flattered to be asked to do it. The people that make decisions about allocating commentary at o b s know, obviously me as an artistic sports person.
And they wanted to see how I would apply what I’ve done in other artistic sports to figure skating. I honestly feel that if you are paired with Belinda Newnan, you have gotta work really hard to mess it up, , because she’s unbelievably knowledgeable. Unbelievably knowledgeable, but she’s also really nice.
She’s a lovely, lovely woman. A great we have become absolute best buds. Belinda and I, we, we had such a lovely time working together. I remember, cause I, I’d met her briefly in Pyeongchang and then we we were sitting on the bus going into the I b C on the first day and I said something and she, she just started.
Ging with laughter and she said, oh, she, you are gonna make me laugh. We are gonna be great. We’re gonna get on well. and we’d had a lot of chats beforehand. We, you know, we, we’d been introduced to each other months before the games as via emails and we’d gonna be working together and we’d, we’d had some uh, zoom conversations about things.
And we’ve been in very much in, in constant contact. And, I grew in confidence during the games with my first figure skating broadcast. My aim was just to get in and get out with my reputation still intact because it matters. It’s a massive sport figure skating.
It’s massive. And, and the people that follow it follow it with their heart and their soul in, in the way that gymnastics people do. I felt very strongly that I did not want to go in there and be Ollie Homan, the gymnastics commentator, commentating figure skating. I thought I need, people to understand that I am approaching this as Ollie Ho Ben, the figure skating commentator, if you’ll allow me as fans to be regarded that way.
You know, being as you, you have got to respect the people who devote their lives to this sport. So I just did, masses and masses of preparation for it masses. We
[00:08:31] Alison: have a list of music we never want to hear again on skating , have you already developed a few pieces of music you can live without?
[00:08:40] Olly Hogben: I remember sending a message to my, hero. My commentary hero is now my very good friend, Barry Davis, I’m sure is a name that you have come across. He was the BBC’s gymnastics and figure skating commentator for many, many years. And I said I sent Barry a text message during the game saying I’ve just become a proper figure skating commentator.
I’ve called my first Valero. And, and he just wrote back, he said, well done. Like that. And then I sent him a message a little bit later. I said, I’ve commentated quite a lot of Valeros now, Barry . Um Cuz I’ve also, cuz I’ve done it in gymnastics as well. It’s not, it’s not uncommon there. But interestingly, I mean, I actually, I don’t care what the choice of music is if the athlete does something with that, that turns one’s head.
That, that you know, I I I’ve seen valeros where I’ve gone, you know, I think of actually in rhythmic gymnastics, the, the Ukrainian group some years ago where you go, Ooh, that’s just made me view this piece of music in a totally different way. However, the real issue is not figure skating music, it’s victory ceremony music.
Because when you are commentating at. An Olympics, the thing that gets into your head is the Victory ceremony music. That’s [00:10:00] the one, and, and some of them are absolutely worse than others. I still haven’t forgotten the victory ceremony Music from the 2015 European games is right now. It’s in my head, and that’s probably massively affected the rest of my day.
you know, so yeah, that, that’s the real issue. when you’re doing sports that have lots of ceremonies, figure skating, pool didn’t have lots of ceremonies. But if you’re doing something like what, what would be a good example? Wrestling has lots of victory ceremonies then that that thing gets stuck in your head.
[00:10:31] Alison: Before we get away from Valero. Yes. I wanna ask a little bit about Camilla Valk in Beijing. Yeah. And what that experience was like doing the ladies figure skating when, you know this whole issue is happening.
[00:10:45] Olly Hogben: Yeah. it would be absurd not to ask me about it. I think it’s probably the hardest 24 to 48 hours of my career actually because I was aware of an enormous storm brewing.
And something I was aware of was needing to perform what I believe are the sacred duties of a, of a commentator. And one of them is to state fact and not opinion when it comes to these sorts of issues. I think it’s really important that you tell people. What has happened, what is in progress, and that’s it.
And I have always believed there’s an important distinction to be made between the studio and the live broadcast of the sport itself. In the studio, if you’ve got a presenter and two or three guests, they can talk about what they like, they can speculate, they can analyze, because that is, that is not time permanent, it’s time temporary.
When you go back and watch the actual coverage of the action, all of that won’t be there. But everything I say as a commentator is tied directly to the movements of the athlete, the athlete in the picture in front of me. Everything I say about the athlete has got to be something that can stand the test of time.
And that means as a commentator, you cannot say what you do not know. You can simply say what has happened. And I had wording very carefully chosen for what had happened, and that was all I could say. But there’s also a human side to you as well. Because naturally the whole thing took on a different dimension when everything went so horrifically for her in the free skate.
And I made a judgment, which is that I was going to remind people that this was a 15 year old and I said, at the end of her free program, whatever the circumstances, whatever the outcome, Camilla Val Ava is a human being and a very young one because I felt it was important to not engage in a pile on.
I don’t feel that’s my place as a sports commentator to do that. And I have, there’s a phrase I’ve always believed, which is to try to let a human being leave with their dignity as best as possible. But I knew, whatever I said, some people would agree with that and some people wouldn’t agree with that because it’s too emotive an issue to not divide people.
And I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or a wrong way to handle it. I felt very nervous going into that broadcast. I felt very relieved when it was over. and we had word from top down saying, well done. We had, you know, the, at the end of it, the more than just our producer came on and said, you know, in into our ears and said, you did that really well.
Both of you. Well done. Cuz they knew it was, it was difficult. Yeah, it was a tricky one. It was a very tricky one.
[00:13:42] Jill: Sort of along the same lines of kind of cataclysmic events for games. What did you know about the Simone Biles situation in Tokyo?
[00:13:52] Olly Hogben: Absolutely nothing. And I’ll tell you why, because this is an absolutely ridiculous story.
This so I was commentating the wrestling at the time. I, I wasn’t um working on, on the gymnastics and I had just finished a broadcast of the wrestling and was heading back from the, I was doing the wrestling in venue with the fantastic Neil Adams amazing co commentator. And I got on literally the only bus.
In the entire time I was at the Olympic Games that didn’t have any wifi, literally the only one. and it was a long journey and the traffic was bad. It was about the, the journey lasted almost literally the entire length of the women’s team, final . And I got off the bus, arrived at the uh the hotel and my phone went, boom,
there were just so many messages, so many messages, and most of them actually were from British people going. Oh my God, the British women’s team was just won of bronze medal. So to go back and take stock of it um you you can imagine what it was like scrolling through all of this, this sort of [00:15:00] information about what, what had happened in that team competition.
I knew nothing of it until after it had happened. it’s one of those funny things when you’re working on the Olympics. I will say this to people that, and you will know this from your extensive time at the games. You don’t know what’s happening at the Olympics cuz you’re too busy being at the Olympics.
you, you sort of get in the thing you are covering and then the rest of it you don’t notice. All of the, the Olympic gymnastics for me was, done, you know, in in, in September when I got back from the Paralympics and, and actually sat down and watched it all for the first.
But honestly, if ever there’s a day to a moment to not have wifi for the one time in 53 days, literally the only two and a half hour spell in 53 days where I didn’t have wifi. That that was not it.
[00:15:48] Jill: did any of what was going on with the mental health conversation trickle over into other sports at all?
[00:15:55] Olly Hogben: I’m trying to remember. I’m not sure. I mean, we, we, it was discussed naturally just, you know, a a among us as commentators and, you know, because you, you can’t not chat about all the big news from the games. But one of the things that’s quite important when you are commentating for O B s is that you.
Kind of keep to your own sport. One of the things that’s really and importantly impressed upon us when we we work for O B S is you never know what order people are showing things in, on their, their channels. So the, the thing you never want to do as an O Bs commentator is blow the outcome of something that hasn’t been shown yet.
So that’s why when you are listening, there’s a great thing for all, all of your listeners actually, when you are listening to the World Feed the MDs for, for O Bs, one of the ways you’ll know that you are listening to that is at the start of it, you will not hear a timestamped introduction. You will not hear Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening.
You are here. Hello. That’s your classic world feed indicator because obviously if I’m commentating for Eurosport in the UK and it’s going out at 7:00 PM I’ll say good evening and welcome to dot, dot dot. But I don’t know what time people are watching it in Vanuatu and what time they’re watching it in Nicaragua and consequently, , I cannot timestamp things.
And it’s the same with sport. And there’ve been instances where TV channels have chosen to show things in an odd order. And unfortunately, you know, you, you do it with the best will in the world. It’s like, you know, and, and um what a fascinating day it’s been in the football competition, especially after the three nil win earlier this morning for so-and-so, and that’s the next game on the channel.
And you’ve just ruined it for an entire country, who’re about to watch it, not realizing it had, it had already happened. So you, you tend to not find much bleed over from sport to sport because we are trying not to impinge on other sports coverage, if that makes sense. It
[00:17:50] Jill: does. Y you know, one of the other things we talked a lot about, especially during Tokyo, was who on the feed was commentating?
Because o b s, you don’t really say who you are either. You don’t do introductions. Why is that? And how can we figure out now? Now, yeah. How can we figure out who’s commentating? I e Do we have an inside line now?
[00:18:12] Olly Hogben: Well it certainly won’t be me because I’m struggle just to know what I’m commentating at the games I, I, I struggle with my own.
Just, just, I’m happy once I’ve got my own schedule sorted out. , you know, that’s actually, that’s the single first bit of preparation I do, you know, uh Jill for every multi-sport games is I just do a, a, a diary for myself and that’s a real nerve calming first moment to make my own little diary. We don’t identify ourselves.
It is very much The way of things with, with O B s, partly because you’ll find that O b s commentators really don’t think that they are important enough to identify themselves. We, we really like, we sort of take the view of, you know, we, it’s, it’s about the sport and not about us, but also because different channels have different perceptions of that.
So in, in, in some countries, it’s very standard to introduce yourself by name at the start. And in a lot of other countries it, it isn’t, they’ll do it through a graphic. So we are, we’re, we are sort of told that, you know, if the broadcaster wants to flash our name up, they’ll do so, but, but a avoid at the start saying who we are.
But equally, you know, if you’ve. They always say, now when you’ve got an expert, next, you please obviously say who that expert is. I’m obviously gonna say, joining me is Belinda Newnan or Neil Adams, two-time Olympic silver medalist or, or, or, or whatever. That’s, that’s a different matter entirely. But I, I suppose my view is who, who gives a damn, who Ollie Homan is, you know, that you are here to watch the Olympics.
And if there’s a, if there’s a real expert alongside me, let’s get that expert’s credibility in and, and I’ll just stay out the way in the corner.
[00:19:52] Jill: don’t underestimate our fans. , we do a lot of feed talk ,
[00:19:58] Alison: a lot of feed talk. A [00:20:00] lot of feed talk. So talk about getting your schedule in order.
I know it’s not official for 2024, but what are you excited for even just as a
[00:20:08] Olly Hogben: fan? Oh gosh. Well, I’m uh I can’t go into whether I’ll be there and what I’ll be doing. But, I’m looking forward very much to, to the games I am.
What am I excited? Well, look, Paris is one of the great sporting cities. As we all know, Persian fans are known for their calm, quiet way of watching sport . You know, it’s, the atmosphere is gonna be fabulous, absolutely fabulous. in the venues. I think that will be lovely actually. that is one of the main things I’m, I’m looking forward to.
[00:20:37] Jill: What’s the most challenging sport that you’ve had to commentate for you personally?
[00:20:43] Olly Hogben: Is this Jill specifically the Olympics or just country? No,
[00:20:46] Jill: no, in general. Cause you’ve done like some, sports that are very like tied to a country or to a region or something like that. Yes.
[00:20:53] Olly Hogben: And actually I think the one I will say is Penk, which is um an Indonesian martial art that I commentated at the Asian games in 2018.
And the Asian names were in Jakarta, Ang. So, uh it was on the program for that reason. The reason it was the hardest thing I’ve had to commentate is because you cannot find a rule book in the English language for Penk. So what you’ve got to do is go on lots of information that you find on people’s YouTube channels fan blogs and things, you gotta really delve into the fan created content.
And you know what? Let’s be honest. Often the fan created content’s better than the official content. We, we all know that, I know where I go to get a lot of my information for for a lot of the sports I commentate. And the first place I go is a fan created resource, not an official one because the fan created resource is created by somebody who’s not paid to do it, but has a love for doing it.
And I, I think love for doing it very often beats the end of the month paycheck for level of detail and attention to detail. So I, I had to piece it together, but normally when you commentate a martial art, like the first, I, I’ve done a lot of martial arts and the first thing I do whenever I commentate any martial art is I, I learn the referee signals.
And I, I get them and I take screenshots of all the referee signals and put ’em on a single sheet of paper so that I know straight away when the referee brings their arm down in a diagonal motion, that means whatever was outta or, or something. But you can’t do that for pen check select. So basically somebody kicks somebody and you, you just, you don’t know how many points are gonna be awarded.
So it’s a really tough thing to, to navigate through because it is the most I’ve ever felt like I’m really going unaware into a sport. Oh, that, and at those same games, I did six hours of tenpin bowling from a studio, and there were no score graphics. So I was manually scoring the tenpin, bowling myself on a piece of paper.
And it was a 23 team competition, . So, yes. But the funny thing is, you know, you earn your stripes doing that. That broadcast actually cemented my reputation with the company I was working on it with. I found out the following day that people had been in the bar that night and the, the main producer was going, you know, and, and Ollie actually got through it and he made it entertaining.
He made it watchable and, and you almost, in a weird way, you gain more of a reputation by handling the really tricky stuff than, than, than just sort of getting through the routine things. So
[00:23:22] Jill: now it’s just, well, we’ll just throw OIE in. He can commentate anything. .
[00:23:27] Olly Hogben: Well, there is an element of that.
Yeah. and I, I do get told that a lot. It’s why I get picked for so many multi-sport gamers cuz people know they can drop me in on anything and I will hopefully not purge in myself. Or, or, or say something disgraceful that, you know, I, I think it, you gotta respect every single sport. I, I say this to every commentator that I, new commentator I work with, treat every sport when you work on it, that’s the most important sport in the world.
It is never just a thing you are doing ever, because the people watching it, to a lot of those people, it is the most important thing in the world. They won’t expect you to be perfect, but they will expect you to treat their sport with respect. And that that’s the thing that matters. Most of all.
Problems arise when a commentator goes in thinking, oh, well, it, it’s kind of like dot, dot, dot, another thing I do. Or, well, you know, it’s only an hour. So whatever you, you’ve gotta not let yourself get into that mentality. As a, as a, as a broadcaster,
[00:24:22] Jill: how do you keep on top of rule changes or like significant developments in a sport if you commentated infrequently?
[00:24:31] Olly Hogben: This what is weird? Start to the answer. This will be Jill. The answer is you don’t. You wait until you next commentate it, and then you jump in for rule changes if you try to keep up there. There are some sports I commentate, you know, on an almost weekly basis, and there are some things I commentate once every two or three years.
If you try to to follow all rule changes, you’ll just go down a, a, a rabbit warren of despair with just too much information. The best thing to.[00:25:00] absolutely is wait until your next commentator and then start with what’s changed. And usually you will be taken to a fan run site that has a summary of changes or a YouTube video or your email.
You, you, you get to know people in international federations and government balls and you message them. You just say, listen, just really quickly have any rules changed since 2021? Or, or, or whatever. It, it really is one of those things you have to handle it on a need to know basis.
[00:25:31] Alison: I think my new favorite phrase is gonna be the Rabbit Warren of despair.
[00:25:35] Olly Hogben: yes. I, I, I believe I’ve just coined that actually . That should be my autobiography title. Actually, I think it, it’s uh the, the, the, the previous one that I’ve gone with for a long time is, who The Hell is O hok? And the reason I think that should be my more that, that comes to my first Olympics and it comes from We were talking about the, the weird thing about being world feeded commentators is that you pop up all over the place.
You just, I very seldom ever know who, and you’ll, you’ll know this as, as, as experts on the Olympics. You’ll know that you just, you’ll suddenly hear, oh yeah, it’s them again. Still don’t know their name, but I know them. And uh I was reflecting on the fact that I, my first ever o b s tennis commentary was the ladies semi-final at Rio.
In, in the, the, yeah, exactly. Angelique Keber versus Madison Keys. And it went out live on BBC one. And obviously, you know, this was just after Wimbledon. So the B BBC wasn’t using any of its established tennis commentators, cuz they’d all just been, cer block going into Wimbledon and coming out of Wimbledon.
So it went out with my commentary. And I just, we were, I was laughing about it that night in, in the bar with some of my colleagues and I just imagined all these people on BBC one. as you know, Claire Balding says, and now uh uh we’re gonna join your commentator for this match OIE Hobe, and just this ho an entire nation going.
Who the hell is Oie Hobe? And I just thought that that’s the autobiography title. Maybe it should now be the Rabbit Warren of Despair. So there we go. .
[00:27:04] Jill: you know, as, as we have read many an Olympic book. You need the, it’s the Rabbit Warren of Despair. Colon. Who? The Hella song. Leo
[00:27:14] Olly Hogben: Hogfish.
Yes. Oh, we’ve got it now. That’s it. . I’m gonna go and trademark that straight away.
[00:27:20] Jill: what sports have surprised you as you’ve commentated them or picked them up along the way?
[00:27:25] Olly Hogben: I I’ll give you a proper answer in a second, but my simple answer is actually every sport, because there’s always something, there’s always something that grabs you in, in, in every sport.
Ah, yes. Now, like, it’s not an Olympic sport, but the, the most recent one that comes to mind is indoor rowing. I commentated indoor rowing at the Invictus Games. Oh, what an event the Invictus Games was to work on last year. I’m thrilled. I’ve been invited to do it again this year. And it was one of the most moving sporting events I’ve ever, ever encountered.
The culture of a fair play of you. We talk about the the Great Olympic ethos of, you know, it’s not, not the the winning, but the, the taking part. You see it at the Invictus game. It’s fantastic the, the way that just national Barriers and boundaries are torn down as competitors take care of each other, respect each other.
Oh, it’s, it’s wonderful. And I did indoor rowing there. And indoor rowing is basically just lots of rowing machines all lined up. And people start rowing and there’s a, on the top left graphic in, in the corner of the screen. You just have a constantly updating leaderboard of who’s in the lead and by how much it is mesmerizing because all the broadcast is, is lots of people with extremely sweaty agonized, painful faces, straining hard with a veins in their forage, just they, they go up or down on a leaderboard and the clock counts down.
He’s brilliant. And all you have to do is just get really excited, tell people what’s happening, and shout at the end. It was amazing. And at the end of it, we all said, the whole production team, we all just went, oh my God, that was incredible to work on, you know? And I know straightaway the next Invictus games, I’m gonna say, please, please, can you put me on the indoor rowing?
Because it was, it, it was just so spellbinding that really came out of nowhere for me as a, as a wonderful sport to work on. I felt a similar way about short track speed skating. You know, although I’d watched that quite a lot, so I, I think indoor rowing is probably the one that stays with me because I’d never watched it before.
Prepping for it for, for the Invictus Games.
[00:29:35] Jill: Do you have any other inside tips for listeners or watchers of sport when they’re thinking about the commentators?
[00:29:44] Olly Hogben: It not so much a tip, but I would say remember the Olympic ring syndrome is a very real thing. the co commentator I’ve spoken about earlier, Neil Adams, he talks about Olympic tunnel syndrome.
Where the moment you are about to actually walk out as an [00:30:00] athlete onto the field of play, something hits you about the fact that this is different. It doesn’t matter that you know how to win. This is different. And every commentator to some degree, at some point in their life has been hit by Olympic ring syndrome, where you know how to commentate, you know what you’re doing.
But this is different. It’s those blasted rings. They have weird effects on people. They they really do. And all of us. When we’re out there doing it we carry with us the self-imposed pressure of trying to get it right because we all know that this is our biggest audience and we all know how much the Olympics means to everybody.
And we, we I’m so conscious whenever I commentate that everything I say, this is what the athlete will show to their children, to their grandchildren, to their loved ones. It’s this, right now, this, whatever I’m saying now is going to be what accompanies that moment that they show they’re nearest and dearest and it matters so much to us to get it right.
And usually when we don’t, we’ve started kicking ourselves long before. Anyone else starts kicking us because there’s no feeling that, that gets to you more than feeling you’ve messed up something at the Olympic games that, that you, you’ve, you’ve got, you’ve misplaced a word, you’ve got a fact wrong, you know, something like that.
you really, you get so annoyed with yourself when you do it. Yeah. And, and I think I would just say to everyone that we um we know, we know when we get it wrong and in advance we are Sorry, . So, so there, there we go. I’ll, I’ll just apologize now for everything I do wrong in Paris and beyond. I’ll get my preemptive apologies in.
But, but actually also, we love having your friendship. We love having, we love having the company of, Absolutely passionate sports fans. It’s just the best thing in the world. And you know, those kind messages that we get every now and then when people contact me through my website and, and say, oh, they’ve been listening to you in, in Canada and and loved your commentary.
Or they, they message on Twitter. It means the world. Like when you get that and you are, you are on the media bus back at 11 o’clock and you know you’ve gotta be up at 4:00 AM to get the media bus back again. You get that message, it, it lifts you enormously. So, so thank you for, for all of those lovely comments.
[00:32:26] Alison: Well, I can tell you from our listeners, when we realized it was you on a feed, we always felt so much better. We knew we were in good hands.
[00:32:35] Olly Hogben: Thank you. That, that means an enormous amount actually because the thing I want most of all is I just want people to be able to watch the sport and not worry. I don’t want to ever get in the way of it.
You know, I, I just as a good commentator, you should aim to just let people have fun and help them have fun more easily, rather than be a distraction to their enjoyment. The Olympics is too precious a thing to ruin for people. No, I’m gonna cry.
[00:33:06] Jill: Oh. Well, Ali, thank you so much for spending time with us and pulling back the curtain on what goes on behind the scenes in the feeds. We really
[00:33:15] Olly Hogben: appreciate it. Absolute pleasure. And and thank you so much for your, your Splendid podcast because um you know, we, the, there there are a few things that are as worth getting incredibly excited about as the Olympic Games.
It it’s it must always feel special. And the, the great thing about the Olympics, of course is that it’s always, it’s always an evolving thing, isn’t it? Commentators come and go, sports come and go. Host cities come and go. But at the heart of it, it’s still that, that wonderful thing every four years that, that gives us so much pleasure.
[00:33:47] Jill: Thank you so much Ollie. Follow OIE on social. He is on Twitter and Instagram at Ollie homan and his website is ollie homan.com and we will have links to all of those in the show notes.
Seoul 1988 History Moment
[00:33:59] Jill: That sound means it is time for our history moment all year long. We are looking at the soul, 1988 games as it is the 35th anniversary of those games. Alison, is your turn for a story. What do you got for us?
[00:34:17] Alison: I’ve talking N B C coverage. We have all kinds of segues here. So N B C broadcast the Olympics in Seoul for the first time since Sapporo 1972.
Wow. In the summer games for the first time since 1964. Wow.
[00:34:33] Jill: Cuz then we had, it was a, B, C the whole time. Right, because that was the Jim McKay era, correct?
[00:34:39] Alison: Correct. And before that was mostly c b s. So 88 begins the stranglehold that N B C has on the Olympic broadcasting still to this day in the United States. So Bryant Gumball was the primetime host, Jane Polly manned the desk in the early morning, and for the first time for the late night coverage, [00:35:00] Bob Costas was at the desk.
[00:35:02] Jill: Oh.
Doing like the junior job, right? Exactly,
[00:35:07] Alison: exactly. While reviews at the time called the coverage solid, it was not seen as a particularly Successful broadcast ratings were low attributed both to the time difference. So there’s not a lot of live events and the lack of success of the US team, not one of America’s better outings at a summer games.
So many critics also said that the games themselves lacked glamor. That the Koreans had kept it a little too low key and not flashy enough. Really? You know what? It didn’t lack controversy. Tell me more. Many Koreans were insulted by the coverage that N B C produced because all those package stories focused on things like sweatshops, prostitution, urban poverty.
Overseas adoptions, which were huge in the seventies and eighties, and relations with North Korea. But things really got bad when Korean Boxer bian Jon, ill lost a match, and his team and security guards rushed into the ring and beat the New Zealand referee. Oh my gosh. N B C covered this event extensively, but ignored other incidents involving theft and pranks by American athletes.
[00:36:29] Jill: Oh, kind of like the uh, Ryan Lochte. Affair from 2016.
[00:36:33] Alison: Exactly. NBC staffers also insulted their hosts when they had shirts made depicting two boxers super imposed on the Korean flag with the Caption Chaos Tour. 88. Oh my gosh. And Koreans perceived this as a deep insult to their flag. Things got so bad that South Korean president, rote w, visited the main press center and met with N B C staff.
Whoa. So that calmed the immediate furor. But many activists used this anti-American sentiment generated by all these perceived slights by N B C to push for reducing American influence on the Korean peninsula, especially limiting military personnel. And throughout the nineties, we see a reduction in American personnel allowed in Korea.
So thanks. N B C. Whoa. I mean,
[00:37:31] Jill: this is this how the Merry Carillo stories got started.
[00:37:35] Alison: I wonder it would’ve been the correct era. I would’ve loved to have seen her peace on prostitution and sweat shops. I cannot believe
[00:37:46] Jill: that that. What they chose to go with in highlighting the culture of the country.
[00:37:52] Alison: Whoa.
So I think a lot of those were airing as part of N B C nightly news rather than on the Olympic broadcast themselves. However, the Koreans were not splitting hairs. N B C was doing this, and this is how it was broadcasting their country to the United States. Wow. So, and then whenever you bring in, how are things with your northern neighbors?
Things get hairy. Wow. Just, wow.
[00:38:21] Jill: Interesting. Oh, I, I just, I’m kind of flabbergasted by the whole thing. And it’s amazing that N B C still keeps going today.
[00:38:29] Alison: Welcome to Shk fk.
[00:38:39] Jill: It is the time of the show where we check in with our team, Keith, the Flame Alive. These are past guests of the show and listeners, uh, who make up our citizenship of Shk fk, our very own country. First off, Congratulations to Phil Andrews, who is the C E O of U S A fencing, who was also elected to the sports e t a
[00:39:00] Alison: board of directors.
And last week we mentioned he had done that fundraiser with fence with Phil. That’s right. Over 200 people came out to touch him. Wow. So it was a huge success and he came, I do way not poked to death, so. Well that’s good. And one more piece of Magnificent Seven News. They’ve released the cast album and it’s available on Spotify, apple Music, YouTube music, Amazon music, and basically anywhere you can get some music streamed.
[00:39:30] Jill: Competing. This weekend, Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea will be sailing in the French Olympic Week regatta
[00:39:36] Alison: In ccia player Alison Levine is competing in the Montreal World Cup in the individual and pairs competitions, and she has been posting her schedule on her Instagram account. Oh, excellent.
[00:39:49] Jill: So we’ll look for that and be cheering for you. And beach volleyball player Kelly Chang and her partner Sarah Hughes, are competing in at the Elite 16 Beach volleyball event in [00:40:00] Uber, Landia Bra, Brazil.
Paris 2024 Update
[00:40:02] Jill: We have some news from Paris 2024.
[00:40:11] Alison: Do we know what boat is in French yet? I haven’t come up to that in Dua lingo, neither have
[00:40:16] Jill: I, and I am behind you, although I’m starting to get to words that I could use, so that is
[00:40:23] Alison: helpful.
[00:40:24] Jill: No, I’ve, I’ve learned to say in sheen to you, in my mind, in Paris, there’s a dog.
[00:40:36] Alison: That’s all I need. That’s all I need. But speaking of water and river and boats,
[00:40:42] Jill: yes. So So Paris 2024 has revealed that they’re going to be using a total of 116 boats to carry athletes along the six kilometer stretch of Theen next year for the opening ceremony, which they are pulling in boats from all over the region, not, not just Paris.
It’s pretty amazing when, when they talk about how many boat owners have offered to let them use their boats, so,
[00:41:10] Alison: This
[00:41:11] Jill: opening ceremony the magnitude of it is still something that will, I think, amaze us. I’m trying to figure out where the ceremony elements are going to be cuz there are a lot of people talking about that.
[00:41:25] Alison: Yeah. A lot of people have mentioned in Ken Hans come’s Facebook group about should I get tickets for the opening ceremony because where are they gonna light the cauldron? Where are we going to have the flags and all the oaths and those pieces, and is it gonna be worth it to buy the tickets for that?
But of course they’re not going to announce that because that’s part of the surprise.
[00:41:48] Jill: Right. And you still I still expect that there would be some element of production and. Story, this parade of nations that will just happen along the sand is going to happen kind of independently. I think of the ceremonies themselves.
Will the athletes get to go into the stadium as well, or wherever they land? Or is it just like you, you wave all along the river and then when you’re done, you’re not.
[00:42:23] Alison: Right. And I have to look at the map again to see where the stadium is in relation to where the six kilometer route is. Or will they be transporting them and what part are they seeing?
And this is logistics on the level that they have not done for an opening ceremony before. No. So this’ll be interesting to see how they pulled this off and it
[00:42:45] Jill: will be, wow. We did it. That was amazing. It all worked. It was Very cool. Or, Or, okay. Wow, that was interesting. Let’s never
[00:42:55] Alison: do that again.
But I do love the idea that they have that parade along the sand and people don’t have to buy tickets. You know, you can just pop a squat on a square of grass, and I’m very interested to see how that pans out with security and crowd control and getting people around. Will that actually be that fun camping out on a Sunday atmosphere, or will it just be chaos?
[00:43:28] Jill: Right. And if they set up maybe bleachers along the way, will you be buying a spot to sit in the bleachers or are there going to be free spots that you just come and get? And is it going to be people camp out for a week? In order to get these spots. Who knows? It’ll, it’s just, we’ve never seen this before.
It’s gonna be kind of amazing. Also amazing is the fact that 4 million people have signed up for tickets for the second phase of the ticket lottery. This starts uh, relatively soon. in May there are only 1.5 million tickets. for sale in phase two of this ticket lottery. So do a little basic math.
Not everybody is gonna get
[00:44:14] Alison: tickets in this round and it will be also interesting in this, we wanna hear from people because we can’t even see what’s available until you get chosen is what’s available. What sports are you not seeing? You know, cuz this round does have opening and closing ceremonies. But as we heard in the first round, some sports weren’t even there or they were there for a very short period of time, or there was only one class of ticket.
So it’ll be interesting to see how they’re dribbling these out
[00:44:45] Jill: E. Exactly. And this is not the end of the ticket sale, so will be phase three. That will be at the end of 2023 and that will have 3.25 million tickets. And I also wonder if. You know, sponsors get a ton of tickets. [00:45:00] Will sponsors use all of those tickets?
Don’t know. when do they get put on the market or if they do get put on the market, is that something that goes into the resale area? Who knows? it’s all wait and see, but as 10 as Ken Hanscomb has told us time and time again, marathon, not a sprint. And you can show up and still buy tickets.
[00:45:20] Alison: will be people who literally couldn’t get the day off, who will then sell their ticket. And that’s the one nice thing how Paris is doing it. Without that country coding where only the Americans got these tickets and Europeans got those tickets, it’s much, the resale I think is gonna be a much smoother process and people are gonna be able to do that more easily.
[00:45:44] Jill: I agree with you. I think the online resale hub, along with the fact that you cannot sell them for higher than face value, that will be just so much nicer than dealing with people selling them on the streets or what have you, because. Hopefully that keeps it everything fair. So that’s good. Tickets for the Paralympics are due to go on sale October 4th.
There will be 3 million tickets available in that sale. Very excited about
[00:46:15] Alison: that.
[00:46:16] Jill: Also hotel-wise, you know, this is another issue. LA Parisian reported and inside the games noted that Airbnb demand is planning to
[00:46:27] Alison: be up for Paris.
You know, we do a lot of reading and reporting and reading of studies, and this is definitely one of those things where you say to yourself, somebody felt the need to write that article. Right? Of course, demand is gonna be up. And the other thing the article noted is that the cost for Airbnb is going to be much higher than in the summer of 2023, to which I also say, Really.
[00:47:00] Jill: So we’ll see. I mean, there are a lot of people also on the, uh, the Ken Hanscomb Facebook planning group who said, oh, we waited for our hotel for London 2012. This one pops out in my head waited for the hotel until just before we went, and the demand that the hotels. Anticipated. So they’ve raised, their rates never occurred, so they had to drop their rates again and people were able to snap up reasonable hotel rooms.
And then we heard about Tokyo before that got canceled, where people booked Airbnbs way in advance and then all of a sudden the hosts went, oh, that’s the Olympics. We’re gonna make a fortune, so we’re gonna cancel your reservation, and then we’re gonna jack up the price. So, Don’t know. I mean, we are trying to plan our own accommodations and the scary thing for us about trying to get an Airbnb, which we would love to have our very own apartment, is the fact that some hosts could do this.
It’s not guaranteed. Right.
[00:48:02] Alison: And people have already mentioned that they tried to book, contacted the hosts, reminded them that it was the Olympics. Booked and then a week later the host canceled. So given that Airbnb is actually an Olympic sponsor, which made the hotel chains so happy, it will be interesting, and I say interesting because I don’t wanna use the actual word cuz we’re a G-rated show.
You know, these hosts are going to cancel and keep jacking up. Mm-hmm. The prices. Until they max out. So I think you’re gonna end up on the one hand with a lot of tickets in resale because people couldn’t get hotel rooms, that
[00:48:48] Jill: could very well be
[00:48:48] Alison: the thing. But on the other hand, I think we’re gonna end up with a lot of empty hotel rooms at the last minute, or a lot of empty Airbnbs because the host got greedy.
And then, so I think depending on your level of risk tolerance, You’ll end up finding someplace to stay, whether you book very far or book very close, depending on how much energy you wanna put into it, right?
[00:49:14] Jill: So if you need the confidence that you will have a place to stay, also know that comes with the risk of.
Possibly paying a high price. If you want to wait and maybe the prices will go down, maybe the prices will go down or maybe there are no rooms. So it’s really it’s a toss up
[00:49:33] Alison: anyway. And as we are discovering, as we’re trying to do our press reservations, the rooms are very small. Make sure you work out all your issues before you go, cuz you will be in close quarters.
Jill and I will be going to couple’s therapy ahead of time.
[00:49:49] Jill: I just think we got our segment for Paris. It’s close quarters with Jill and Alison today.
[00:49:57] Alison: Where did you put the soap? Yeah, it’s,[00:50:00]
it’ll be interesting. I think we’ll have some interesting stories coming up. I mean, the rooms are tiny. I am not, I have not done, you’ve done much more traveling in Europe than I have. I have done. Almost no traveling in Europe and what traveling in Europe I did was paid for by somebody else. So I got to go on a better dime.
So this is going to be a, a unique experience for me. Well,
[00:50:22] Jill: it’ll be fun. Something to look forward to. Right. Listeners. So that will do it for this week. Let us know your favorite moments in commentary, or if you remember what NBC broadcast in 1988.
We wanna hear
[00:50:37] Alison: that too. You can email us at flame alive pod gmail.com. Call or text us at (208) 352-6348. That’s 2 0 8. Flame it. Our social handle is at Flame Alive Pod. Be sure to join the Keep the Flame Alive podcast group on Facebook. And don’t forget to get our weekly newsletter filled with other fun stories about this week’s episode.
You can sign up for email@example.com. Next
[00:51:06] Jill: week. No, this is exciting because we are taking something off of the list. We are talking sitting volleyball and our guest will be five time Paralympian Laura Webster. We’ll be talking about how the game works and also what it was like to compete while pregnant, so be sure to join us for that.
Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive.