After early glitches, broadcast stage is set

Switzerland's Nadja Jnglin-Kamer comes to a halt at the end of a women's downhill training run Keystone

Things came down to the wire for the Swiss television crew tasked with bringing Sochi’s alpine ski events to the world. The crew arrived to find broken and missing fiber optic cables.

This content was published on February 7, 2014 - 17:14
swissinfo.ch

“The cables weren’t prepared because (the authorities) didn’t build in enough time and because the weather and landslides made the conditions difficult,” Karin Nussbaumer told swissinfo.ch. Nussbaumer is responsible for producing those broadcasts.

“It was very chaotic and stressful.”

Otherwise, Nussbaumer said they have had no problems with infrastructure and security has been “hassle free”.

The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) – swissinfo.ch’s parent company – got the rights from the Swiss-based International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Broadcasting System to provide the exclusive broadcast of all of Sochi’s alpine ski events to global networks. Nussbaumer says her team of 104 people left Switzerland around January 24 and expected to find the fiber optic infrastructure ready and waiting for them. But that didn’t happen.

“The cables were pulled over the snow and then of course it snowed a lot, and they were buried under the snow piles,” she explained. “They couldn’t find them anymore, and some of them even ripped.”

High temps and tempers

Temperatures in Sochi have been well above freezing, and photos of athletes training outside in shirtsleeves made many question why a resort in what’s considered a subtropical climate was chosen for the Winter Games.

Nussbaumer says that although no ski races could have taken place when she first arrived because of the high temperatures, conditions have greatly improved ahead of this weekend’s headline event: the men’s downhill. Former Swiss ski champion Bernhard Russi designed the course.  

Security has also been a major concern because of terrorist groups active in the region, and Swiss ski racer Lara Gut caused controversy a few weeks ago when she told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper that “there are enough places in the world with good slopes, security and spectators…I would have felt much more at ease going to Vancouver or Torino.”

Many other athletes expressed their concerns as well.

Later, Reekie also tweeted “Swiss Ice Hockey team also said they were happy with security measures on the ground. And that they couldn't wait for first match.”

Nussbaumer agrees that security measures have been satisfactory – in fact, previous Winter Games proved more challenging.

“We want to be safe, so security checks are a part of it,” she says. “It seems more comfortable than, for example, in Vancouver. There, it was more of a burden.”

Acceptable accommodations

As journalists began arriving in Sochi a few days ago, reports of infrastructure failings – from stray dogs in hotel rooms to contaminated water and missing walls – flooded social media. However, Nussbaumer says the SBC crew has not been confronted with any of these problems.

“We are all positively surprised, and we are also surprised at the negative media reports about conditions here that have been circulating in Switzerland and elsewhere. We are well taken care of and the people are very nice, and we really can’t complain.”

As Russian workers scrambled to prepare for the opening ceremonies, athletes also noticed a few glitches and omissions, including a lack of dressing rooms at the practice rink which means hockey players must walk outside to get to the ice. That particular problem resulted in a creative solution from the Swiss team.

Delegation too large?

In all, SBC sent 340 journalists and technicians to the Sochi Games, a number which raised some eyebrows in Switzerland with the media and many citizens asking whether such a large delegation was needed. One person commenting on a Tages-Anzeiger newspaper article on the subject wrote, “Now I know where my TV and radio fees go. Complete insanity. Does anybody watch this stuff?”

However, in the Blick newspaper, SBC director-general Roger De Weck defended the decision, arguing that it is a great honour for Switzerland to be chosen to broadcast the alpine ski races to the world and the country should be proud.

“Austria would have loved to be awarded the contract but we got it instead,”  he added.

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